Wednesday, February 20, 2008

comments on Russell Baker's essay - On Becoming a Writer

1. Baker’s piece begins without any introduction: he just starts right in. This opening is effective because it lets the reader know on the onset what to expect. Since Baker’s piece is entitled “On Becoming a Writer”, he starts with his own experience on how he wanted to be a writer. This helps build the reader’s expectation of more anecdotes he was going to share in later paragraphs.

2. Baker’s tone had been critical throughout the whole passage. He had found English grammar dull and baffling. He described the classics thrust on him to read as deadening as chloroform. He portrayed his teacher Mr. Fleagle as someone prim to a fault. The word “prim” was repeated many times to emphasize that Mr. Fleagle was too proper. Baker anticipated a listless, unfruitful year with Mr. Fleagle and for a long time was not disappointed. All these criticisms show how critical Baker’s tone was.

3. Baker thought Mr. Fleagle was going to fail his composition because he violated all the rules of formal composition. However, he was surprised to find that Mr. Fleagle read his essay out to the class because it was special. Moreover, the class was listening attentively with enjoyment and laughter. Mr. Fleagle praised Baker’s essay was the very essence of essays, instead of criticizing it, which Baker had expected. This reversal surprises me as it depicts the unexpected. Moreover, this new unexpected situation the writer was in pleases me, because the writer had changed from someone who hated English to someone who saw the possibility of becoming a writer. It has a happy ending.

4. The words “dawdled”, “sprawled”, “grim” and “scanned” emphasize how much the writer hated writing formal essays. The way he “dawdled, sprawled and scanned” shows that he found the task unimportant and useless, and he just was delaying doing it. In paragraph 2, Baker describes writing compositions as heavy labor, turning out leaden, lackluster paragraphs, and also the classics thrust on him to read as deadening as chloroform. Baker repeats the word prim many times in his illustration of Mr. Fleagle.

5. Baker is mentioning an important event which was his turning point. This event concludes his narration on how he became a writer.

6. In the last sentence Baker honours Mr. Fleagle as being among the finest teachers in school because of the inspiration he gave to Baker to be a writer, which is the main point of the essay.

7. Baker’s essay is endearing because he uses descriptions that are humorous. For example, he described how the students laughed at the way Mr. Fleagle read the Macbeth passage. This is a type of incident that will happen in the typical life of a student, so students can identify with it. The way he describes the time with his uncle and aunt and how they laughed over family arguments is also very endearing because in every family there bounds to be some form of argument. He uses a first person point of view, so it seems like he is speaking to the reader directly.

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