Morris and Wallace both persuade the reader through definition. In Morris’s piece, he journeys to the Crimea in order to settle a dispute about which of the two photographs in Fenton’s The Valley of the Shadow of Death came first. In Morris’s research, he discovers an argument of particular interest by Ulrich Keller which states (emphasis by Morris):
A slight but significant difference between Fenton’s two pictures of the site seems to have escaped the attention of photographic historians. The first variant obviously represents the road to the trenches in the state in which the photographer found it, with the cannonballs lining the side of the road. In a second version we discover a new feature. Some round-shot is now demonstratively distributed all over the road surface – as if the balls had just been hurled there, exposing the photographer to a hail of fire. Not content with the peaceful state of things recorded in the first picture, Fenton obviously rearranged the evidence in order to create a sense of drama and danger that had originally been absent from the scene (11).
What bothers Morris in this excerpt is the use of the word “obvious.” “As I’ve said elsewhere: Nothing is so obvious that it’s obvious,” Morris states (13). “The use of the word ‘obvious’ indicates the absence of a logical argument – an attempt to convince the reader by asserting the truth of something by saying it a little louder” (Morris 13). Through his definition of what is obvious, Morris successfully persuades the reader that nothing is “obvious” and when faced with the argument of obviousness, the reader should seek truth on their own accord.
Wallace does something similar in his piece Consider the Lobster. In this essay, Wallace explores the ethics of eating animals. In particular, he details the painful and horrific guide to cooking lobsters live in the pot. Wallace states:
Before we go any further, let’s acknowledge that the questions of whether and how different kind of animals feel pain, and of whether and why it might be justifiable to inflict pain on them in order to eat them, turn out to be extremely complex and difficult.
In defining what the issue is (along with many previous definitions about the nervous system of lobsters, their constituent parts of anatomy, as well as other details about the Maine Lobster Festival), Wallace instills the same exigence in his readers as Morris. Readers who previously may not have given this argument a second thought are now challenged to acknowledge the issue and its importance. Just as Morris asks his readers to challenge what is obvious, Wallace urges his readers to question what is ethical.
While the two authors are able to successfully persuade their readers to care about their issue, each has a different way of presenting the problem. For instance, in Morris’s blog series he simply lays out the evidence in the form of verbatim dialogue conversations; excerpts from books from which he gained his research; and photographs. This compliments his argument about what should be considered obvious because he works to present his research comprehensively to his reader, leaving them to decide what the facts are for themselves. In contrast, Wallace presents his research in ways that are amusing and conversational to the reader. His footnotes, while seemingly interruptive, add a colloquial element to the writing making the reader feel engaged as if they were being spoken to by Wallace himself. This allows the reader to feel more comfortable and willing to accept his argument. And, of course, his blatant cynicism and dark humor certainly don’t detract from the reader’s experience (“Nor do they give you near enough napkins considering how messy lobster is to eat, especially when you’re squeezed onto benches alongside children of various ages and vastly different levels of fine-motor development” (239)).
Wallace and Morris are both able to successfully persuade their readers into caring about a particular issue. By explicitly defining words or problems to readers, they are able to get their readers to challenge truth. While each author achieves this, they have different ways in presenting their information so that readers will continue to care. Morris does this by presenting his evidence in the form of detailed accounts of his journey; word-for-word dialogue; and photographs. On the other hand, Wallace uses humor and footnotes to work to his advantage in maintaining a conversational tone with the reader. Both pieces are effective and creative in their technique, leaving the reader feeling well-informed and ready to seek the truth.
Morris, Errol. "What Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?." Opinionator. New York Times, 25 Sep 2007. Web. 2 Feb. 2014. <http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/09/25/which-came-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg-part-one/?_php=true&_&_r=0>.
Wallace, David Foster. Consider the Lobster. 1st . New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2005. Print.