Writing an argument essay was the most challenging assignment in this course. In a way, it’s similar to writing the analysis essay but you also need to express your own voice and argue against someone who has the opposite opinion. It’s like the combination of personal response and analysis paper. The first thing is picking an argument. It wasn’t too hard to do based on the prompt you were given. You just needed to pick a stand, yes or no. However, the most onerous and time-consuming thing is to find evidence that supports your argument. It took me a few days to do so. I read the four articles many times and highlighted everything I thought that would be helpful to enhance my argument. However, the problem was I highlighted too much that I was overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I wanted to talk about in a five-page paper. My professor really helped me narrowing down my highlights and navigated me through the process. I’m glad I was able to finish the paper in the end.
Living in the United States had always been my dream as a child. I loved to watch Disney Movies and TV series because they were much more fun and entertaining than shows for kids in China back then. And they gave me ideas of what was going on with the kids on the other side of the world. I had seen kids taking adventures in summer camps and kids living in a big house with siblings and tons of modern and fun toys. I would always fantasize me being part of them because I felt that that was the life I wanted to have. So to achieve my American Dream, I had decided that I would apply to colleges in the US because that was the easiest and the only way to live my life in America. However for me personally, I was fortunate enough to live my America Dream way earlier than I had planned because of my mother’s promotion. However, the real American Dream is not just to be able to cross the border but for most people, citizens or immigrants, it means to prosper and to succeed in this land, through hard work, given the freedom and opportunities in America. From different movies I have seen, and books I have read, it is definitely not easy to achieve the American Dream because there are both internal and external forces that interrupt and complicate the process. However, hard work will eventually get paid off and consequently the American Dream is achieved.
In the article “On Being a Cripple” by Nancy Mairs, the American Dream is interrupted by the fact that Mairs’s suffering from multiple sclerosis.
Although the disease can complicate her ability to achieve the American dream, she with a strong and hopeful mind will in fact conquer the difficulties without a doubt. Mairs starts the essay by giving an example of her losing balance and falling backwards in the bathroom after a series of movements which include flushing the toilet and unlatching the door. She struggles to stand up and gain her balance back. A seemingly easy daily routine for normal people gives Mairs a great deal of difficulty because she has multiple sclerosis (MS), a chronic degenerative disease that messes up with her nervous system limiting her abilities to live her life. Despite the unfortunate, Mairs tries to face the reality with a positive attitude. She laughs about her chagrins and uses “cripple” to describe herself rather than words like “handicapped” or “disabled” because in her opinion, “cripple” is more straightforward and precise and she is indeed a cripple and she cannot hide it. Mairs says, “I want them [people] to see me as a tough customer, one to whom the fates/gods/viruses have not been kind, but who can face the brutal truth of her existence squarely. As a cripple, I swagger” (482). She shows her strong heart in dealing with her malicious disease that she is not cringing from it. Moreover, she has overcome the mental struggle of being a cripple and accepted of who she is proudly. This belief makes it easier for her to live her life and her dream like a normal person because she believes that she can and she is tough indeed.
However, no matter how strong Mairs is, MS always gets in her way to achieve her American Dream and she can not alter or do anything about it. MS steals away many of her basic abilities, “I no longer have much use of my left hand. Now my right side is weakening as well. I still have the blurred spot in my right eye” (484). With only a weak right hand and blurry vision, there are a lot of things that Mairs is impossibly able to accomplish by herself. Besides, fatigue strikes as other symptom from MS. She describes “I wake up in the morning feeling the way most people do at the end of a bad day” (484-485). Mairs shares that she was perfectly normal as a kid and had enjoyed playing sports and other things that she liked. However, she was diagnosed with MS at her 20s. She did not expect that. Therefore all these symptoms and side effects are indicating that Mairs currently is not living her American dream which is to have a dream job and lead a normal American life like everyone else. But without too much of pessimism, she uses her limited amount of time and limited ability wisely and efficiently to work every single day making a living just like normal people. The cost of that is she has to miss picnics, dinner parties, poetry readings and all the other relaxing and fun stuff to do in her spare time. She as a result is successful versatilely as a writer, teacher and parent although she admits that “my life often seems a series of small failures to do as I ought” (485). Just like the bathroom incidence, in reality MS causes her not to be able to control her body and gives her embarrassments unexpectedly while she struggles to live her American dream.
On the other hand, Mairs does not hide her hatred towards MS. She sometimes feels uncomfortable with her own body image and criticizes the way she walks with her pelvis thrusting forward to balance, shoulders unevenly displayed and left arm being bent in front of her. She cannot make money as easy or as much as some people, for example, models who have prettier body images and are beautiful in every single way. She expresses her disappointment saying, “when I think about how my body must look to others, especially to men, to whom I have been trained to display myself, I feel ludicrous, even loathsome” (490). Social media play a huge role in America often displaying sexual relationship between men and pretty and posh women. It is understandable how Mairs gets that feeling from. However, Mairs has reached the realization that her dream is to be normal and she in fact needs a rich and fulfilling life so that she will have less time to feel sorry for herself for suffering the disease. She says “the richer my life became, the funnier it seemed, as though there were some connection between largesse and laughter, and so my tragic stance began to waver…” (491). After all the obstacles in her way leaving her life with difficulties to conquer, Mairs maintains a positive attitude and strong faith for her dream and her goal in life. She is living in her American Dream. And just like Mairs, there are many other disabled people living in America who struggle to adjust the lives that they are given. With extraordinary work, they end up living in America just like everybody else.
Unlike Nancy Mairs, for physically healthy people like Barbara Ehrenreich, achieving the American Dream is not as easy as it seems. In Ehrenreich’s essay “Serving in Florida”, she decides to live the life of a low-wage worker in America. This is a project for her although she has no idea what it will be like for those people in reality to survive in America. Just like average Americans, to start a new life by herself she has a few tasks to overcome. From throwing money carelessly into grocery and gas to keeping track of every penny she spends, Ehrenreich finds this life is not easy. First of all, it is hard to find a place to live due to the amount of money she makes. She has to manipulate her money really precisely and wisely. Also she needs to make sure that the place she finds a home is affordable and convenient for work every day. “The big problem with this place, though, is the rent, which at $675 a month is well beyond my reach. All right, Key West is expensive. But so is New York City, or the Bay Area, or Jackson, Wyoming, or Telluride, or Boston, or any other place where tourists and the wealthy compete for living space with the people who clean their toilets and fry their hash browns” (348). She points out that the rent in many popular cities where the pay for workers is higher is high too. In addition, the popularity of these cities attracts rich people or rather people with high income consequently. As a result, low-wage workers find it hard to find an affordable living place but on the other hand, they do not want to miss the opportunities working in big cities to make more money. So what they end up doing is they commute from a far suburb of the city where housing is less expensive. Like these low-wage workers, in the end Ehrenreich chooses a $500 per month place that’s thirty miles aways from her work, that is forty-five minutes drive without road construction.
Next Ehrenreich needs to find a job and maintain a rather stable salary. There are jobs that require a lot of physically strength and onerous work with very low pay. And for the low-wage jobs, the applications concern most about whether the person is honest and is a legal residence of the United States. What catches Ehrenreich’s attention is the posters hanging in the interview room where computer becomes the interviewer, “I am conducted to a large room decorated with posters illustrating how to look ‘professional‘ (it helps to be white and, if female, permed) and warning of the slick promises that union organizers might try to tempt me with” (349). What is on the poster might seem like a joke to Ehrenreich. However, it does show that these small firms try to help their employees look “professional”. This will more or less help immigrants or Americans with less education who have not idea what to expect or what to wear for an interview. It after all helps them achieve their American Dream.
Living as a low-wage working makes Ehrenreich feel invisible and exhausted. She feels unrecognized for the work she has done but she also shows that that is how low-wage workers live their American Dream. They do not expect to be recognized and all they want is to do whatever they can in their power to make more money in order to support their families. Ehrenreich says “something I had forgotten in the years since I was eighteen: about a third of a server’s job is ‘side work‘ invisible to customers-sweeping, scrubbing, slicing, refilling, and restocking” (351). All the work she has done is very repetitive and onerous. It does not require any intellectual skills but it requires plenty of physical strength and tons of energy. By sharing her own experience, Ehrenreich illustrates low-wage workers’ way to live their American Dream which is to be able to make enough money to support their families. They cannot care less about what they do; all they need is that $6 hourly pay check to run their families after a tiring day of work.
Mairs with her extraordinary hard work and unshakable goal in life is living her American Dream as a normal person who has a job, or multiple jobs, and is able to support her and her family. And Ehrenreich with her own experience living as a low-wage worker shows the hardship low-wage workers face in their lives and their determined dream to be able to live in American. Although not making too much money, Ehrenreich does make just enough money to live her life independently as an American. Despite that their paths to achieving the American Dream are not easy, they somehow stumble through to make it work. And that is exactly what the American Dream is all about; it’s about believing yourselves and through hard work and determined minds, being successful in America.
For writing this analysis paper, I had to read and reread the article many times and every time I read it, I highlighted something new or jotted down a new idea that I wanted to talk about in my analysis in the margin. I think for the analysis paper, I just need to really develop and elaborate on my ideas. The hardest thing for me about analysis paper is picking a good thesis that you want to write about. I had about three theses and in the beginning I couldn’t narrow them down to the one that I had a strong evidence to support. However, after reading the article a thousand times and consulting my professor, I finally picked my favorite thesis. After that, I thought it made my essay much easier to write.
As civil rights movement strikes the nation, Black Americans are the victims of racial injustice and racial discrimination. They have practiced several demonstrations and have used many strategies to gain their equal rights but none of them has worked. As a matter of fact, one of its leaders, Martin Luther King, Jr., was arrested for leading demonstrations in Alabama. While in jail, King wrote “Letter From Birmingham Jail” as a way to justify the public demonstrations and explain to the eight clergymen who objected to his actions his goal and hopes for the future. King uses nonviolent peace talk as his primary strategy to achieve the goal of gaining equality. And throughout the letter, King defines nonviolence as he imagines the future without violence. And to amplify the power of nonviolence and his strong belief in nonviolence, King uses pathos and touching personal stories as outlets to evoke readers’ sympathies and empathies towards their struggles as they fight to gain their equal rights and justice.
First of all, King describes nonviolence as his main strategy to combat the existing social injustice for black Americans. It basically consists of four steps, “collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action” (431). The idea behind this strategy is that it creates a rational working instruction for him and his fellow protestors to follow along in the process of gaining racial equality. It smartly prevents his fellow protestors from doing something irrational or provocative individually and thus endanger their lives as well as their status quo in southern states as a whole.
In this letter, King primarily focuses on direct action among all four steps because the previous three steps unfortunately have failed and left him and his fellow protestors with no alternatives. First, injustices have been found existed because black people are treated poorly and brutally in the southern cities, especially in Birmingham. He says “Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation” (431). Thorough segregation and unsolved bombings are the examples that justifies how unfairly white people treat black people in Birmingham. Their annoyance, ignorance and most importantly discrimination towards black people are clearly shown in their behaviors. Therefore justice does not exist whatsoever. Then when the black people try to seek peaceful negotiation with the “city fathers” (431) regarding the unjustified respondence and treatment from white people in general, they are refused to be engaged in the negotiation by the “city fathers”. With slight hopes in them, they keep seeking negotiations. Although one time they are promised by merchants to remove demeaning racial signs, weeks and months after all they get is a broken promise. With all these difficulties they have encountered, they still hide their anger and hatred by having a series of workshops on nonviolence and endurance. Despite all their efforts, they do not see any progress. As a result, they decide to begin direct-action as a more effective way to change the social status quo.
Although practicing direct action, King still wants to keep it nonviolent. He writes, “nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue” (432). Here King makes a clarification that the name “direct action” is in theory a more intensive and effective way to negotiate because of the unbearable situation he and his fellow black Americans are currently in. Therefore, it should only magnify and dramatize the problem without provoking any violent behavior. Later he says “I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth” (432). He emphasizes the nonviolence that he believes in and hopes to achieve along the way, and direct action which he eagerly wants to implement. Like he has said, there needs a change for loving and just relationship between white Americans and black Americans to grow. In addition, to keep making the point of the importance of nonviolent direct action during this special period for black Americans, he continues his thought: “so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise form the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood” (432). Here by choosing more sensitive words like “majestic,” “understanding” and “brotherhood,” King uses pathos to provoke empathy from other people. He connects nonviolence with the rise of men in order to promote a higher and more divine level of human spirit where there will be free of prejudice and discrimination. He also magnify the importance of nonviolent direct action as a way to negotiate. King explains his rationale on the need for direct action and emphasize the role of nonviolence as to detangle misconceptions that direct action seems to bring.
There are two opposing sides among black people. One side is complacency toward the status quo and the other is complete hatred towards it. King expresses his idea: “I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the ‘do-nothingism’ of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle” (437). Here King claims that there are better ways to protest, not just by using anger and violence. His way of protest is to show his love and his concern towards the nation and the people of all races rather than either being silent about the unbearable situation or being full of hatred demanding and crying for equal rights. And as he later says, the black Americans’ destiny is tied up with the nation’s destiny. He connects with all black Americans across the nation to express the love and disappointment he has living in this unjust place. In addition, he says that “nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle,” implying that his belief in nonviolence keeps him sane and helps him endure the difficulties he is experiencing right now. He respects nonviolence and he again uses pathos to evoke sympathy and empathy from other people, in this case the white people.
Due to resultless protests over long time span, King expresses his understanding towards it while justifying the potential aggressive behaviors of his fellow protestors. More importantly, King presents his strong faith in nonviolence to his frustrated fellow protestors: “If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: ‘Get rid of your discontent.’ Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action” (440). Despite the frustration and exhaustion he has had from demonstrations and protests, King holds his anger back and makes it an outlet for more determined nonviolent direct action. He does not advocate for his people to express their anger randomly and individually, but rather he asks the people to express their true feelings together as a group and make other people hear them.
Throughout this letter, King expresses his belief in nonviolence and promotes nonviolent direct actions. Many times, Kings uses his personal stories and stories that has happened in his people’s lives as pathos to evoke readers’ sympathies and empathies. He makes this letter more heartfelt and more real because of his nonviolent strategy under all the pressure he and his fellow black Americans have during that tough period. Despite all the hardships they have encountered, King always holds his belief in nonviolence strong and constantly reminds his people to be rational and stay rational.
It’s important to know how to craft a personal response because after reading an essay, or an article, you must have a certain feeling towards it, whether you like it or not. By crafting a personal response to the essay, you are sharing your own personal feelings towards the essay and letting other people know what you think after reading the essay.
This excerpt “Saplings in the Storm” by Mary Pipher, a clinical psychologist in private practice, talks about the difficulties adolescent girls face in their lives, including the mental changes as that their bodies change during puberty. It is very mysterious for adults to understand adolescent girls because their minds are swinging constantly, and they become hard to read. They also get moody easily and want to be satisfied or to have their way all the time. Their mindsets change from doing things for the sake of being their true selves to doing things in a certain way in order to please other people. In addition, Pipher gives a lot of comparisons between the behaviors of preteen girls and the behaviors of teenage girls under the same circumstances. She also discusses the common problems adolescent girls have with their parents. She makes examples from her clients who are primarily adolescent girls with eating disorders, STDs or suicidal thoughts seeking help through therapies. She describes how young girls get self-conscious about their bodies and spend too much time focusing on their looks. From these young problematic adolescent girls, Pipher generalizes that the problem does not occur only to adolescent girls who just enter puberty, but also to grownup women before menopause. In the end, Pipher concludes that the problem that is shared between adolescent girls and grownup women is the result of the cultural changes and influences as well as societal pressures and expectations on women as a whole.
As a girl in my late teens, I could not agree with Pipher more. I remember when I was little, I used to be carefree and fearless. I loved pink and glitters, and had to wear dresses and ballet flats all the time. However, dressing up did not restrain me from hanging on the monkey bars or playing in the sandbox with other kids. I was never shy. I raised my hands to answer questions in every single class whether or not I had the right answer. I was also curious and interested in doing almost anything.
I played many different sports, took piano lessons and attended dance classes. I was driven and had the energy that adults crave. I talked as much as I moved; coloring, reading, practicing piano, visiting a museum, going to an ice cream shop, building Legos and playing house all in one day. I did not have a dull moment or ever feel exhausted. I was just like Polly, the girl Pipher referred to as Tom Sawyer before junior high.
However, I could feel the drastic change in the behaviors of my childhood friends starting in junior high. Girls, even some of my friends who took adventures with me in elementary school, began to have affections for boys. They threw aways their old clothes, claiming they were too small to fit, and pursued a “different” style which resembles young Hollywood stars or Abercrombie models. They started to use their allowance originally for vending machine snacks to buy fashion magazines and read the “forbidden” fictions about teen romances. Flirting, kissing and making out scenes secretly occurred in the corner of the classroom. Their grades went down and they became anxious and self-conscious about their physical looks.
They were not happy all the time and all they wanted and waited for was someone’s compliments on their looks or outfits. This was junior high where things changed and relationships among boys and girls were awkward. I thought I was not part of the league but by the time I graduated, I realized that I had changed. My wardrobe was completely new and I became sensitive to how I behaved in front of boys and was paranoid sometimes about what people would say behind my back.
I think that this change in adolescent girls is caused by societal and peer pressure. In the society nowadays, social media lead rather a negative effect on teenage girls. Television shows like Gossip Girls,
or Hannah Montana portray the fictional glamorous lives of rich and popular teenage girls. By watching the show, girls get jealous and daydream about the lives of fictional characters. As a result, they begin to ask their parents for expensive and luxurious designer clothes or handbags to gear up and form a pursuit for everything stylish and over the top. Besides, there’s invisible and indefinite competition among girls or even grownup women. As of many fictions or movies have been showing us that rich and good-looking girls are always popular and usually get the best of all. They are portrayed as flawless and most of all skinny. Therefore average girls start to diet at a young age when their bodies are not fully developed. Illnesses such as eating disorders or anorexia thrive because young girls think that being skinny will make them look good in photos or televisions.
And just like Pipher has stated “girls stop being and start seeming” (286). As a result, unhappiness, or even depression, occurs because adolescent girls are still young and driven by their own believes that they do not understand that there is a gap between fiction and reality, imperfection and flawlessness.
Besides I find it interesting that Pipher says “Girls become fragmented, their selves split into mysterious contradictions. They are sensitive and tenderhearted, mean and competitive, superficial and idealistic. They are confident in the morning and overwhelmed with anxiety by nightfall. They rush through their days with wild energy and then collapse into lethargy. They try on new roles every week-this week the good student, next week the delinquent and the next, the artist. And they expect their families to keep up with these changes” (284). Adolescent girls do not know themselves yet. Their body images have changed. They feel like a new person. They have their periods and become curvy like women. It’s reasonable that they get shy and insecure about their bodies because they are new and not fully developed. So on one hand, they are curious about their bodies and eager to explore themselves more. And they feel like they are fully grown women finally and want to express their sexualities to boys and to flirt, kiss and have sex with them, which unfortunately can get them pregnant by accident and STDs. On the other hand, adolescent girls are stressed about their new responsibilities in the world. They lose themselves as kids and try to find who they really are as young adults. Many times, they are confused and overwhelmed by all these things that society hits upon them. They are pressured and scared. As a result, they get moody or have mental breakdowns because they have high expectations so when things around them or things they do do not meet their expectations, they collapse.
Overall, I like this article. It really gives good points on the physical and mental changes in adolescent girls as they step into adulthood. However, I am a little surprised at the fact that Pipher is surprised and sometimes confused by the behavioral changes in adolescent girls although she does show her understandings and her sympathies towards them. And I’m glad that in the end she says that “by late high school most girls are stronger and the winds are dying down” (288). Yes! After struggling to understand their new responsibilities and goals in life, adolescent girls no longer fumble for answer. They are indeed well-adjusted to the new lives that they are about to have. They’ve learned more both in school and from their mistakes. They become less moody but more confident in their own body images.
Well I wrote about my three favorite resources at U of M. Obviously they were and still are important to me but over the course of a year, I have found more good resources, such as Sweetland Center for Writing.
The peer tutoring program is quite awesome. The staff, mainly students in U of M who love to write, is very friendly and helpful. They are not judgmental at all. They will read your paper and give you helpful comments. Sometimes, if you are struggling with your paper, you can just come and talk to them. They will discuss your paper with you to open up your mind, give you their thoughts and help you develop ideas. It’s one-to-one so you get to have all the attention you need to make your paper better. It’s free of charge too.
This is how it looks like! I personally really like to go there (btw, they have multiple locations on campus so it’s quite convenient for students) just to have other students read my paper and check if I have any grammar problems or typos.