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Analysis of Foster Wallace’s Argument in Consider The Lobster

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Analysis of Foster Wallace’s Argument in Consider The Lobster Essay

The majority of people don’t think about the process that some animals go through prior to becoming their meals. The purpose of “Consider the Lobster” was to shine a light of unethical practices being done to animals, more specifically, the treatment of lobsters at said festival. In 2003, Foster Wallace attended the Maine Lobster Festival and wrote this piece for a magazine called Gourmet that published his work the following year. The intended audience is people who enjoy food, those who are interested in topics like this, and arguably chefs who use live ingredients in their dishes. Foster Wallace gets the audience thinking about other aspects of the Main Lobster Festival rather than being one dimensional with the consumers’ pleasure only in mind. His writing was successful in displaying the controversial practices through the use of rhetoric and sharing information from his extensive research.

As Foster Wallace begins his article, he describes the festivities and its attraction for tourists. At the beginning, it seemed like a very standard review of what goes on at the festival stating, “Tourism and lobster are the midcoast region’s two main industries and the Maine Lobster Festival represents less an intersection of the industries than a deliberate collision, joyful and lucrative and loud”. As it progresses, Foster Wallace speaks for the lobsters, presenting another frame of reference. Then switches gears to express how these lobsters are treated during their final moments. He pointed out what many of us would have turned a blind eye towards and it is something that should be more recognized even if it is an uncomfortable topic to discuss. No one wants to consider the well-being of these animals since they are just going to be food at the end of it and would rather enjoy what they are consuming without that thought in the back of their minds. Foster Wallace doesn’t insist that people should stop eating the foods they love just because the lobsters, and animals in general, would be in immense pain. He informs that there are other methods of cooking that would be less painful and to just be more aware of their perspective.

The tone of the article helps Foster Wallace to project his feelings and thoughts about the topic of his writing. He asks questions about comparing future generations of how we choose to consume our foods just as how we negatively view Aztec sacrifices in early history. Which to his response “My own immediate reaction is that such a comparison is hysterical, extreme- and yet the reason it seems extreme to me appears to be that I believe that animals are less morally important than human beings”. His attitude towards this topic is bothersome and feels the need to be brutally honest with his audience. The tone is achieved by Foster Wallace adding his own opinion where it is deemed necessary to further his argument. Whether people want to hear about the unethical practices being done on animals or not, it is important to at least acknowledge this element.

Reading throughout his piece, Foster Wallace presents a rhetorical appeal, ethos by a great deal of research that was done previously before the actual writing began. Everyone is knowledgeable of the basics of a lobster but Wallace takes it one step further goes into great depth of how lobsters are classified among the other species in the world and where its name originated from. Not many people would have this kind of knowledge of something so simple as a lobster. For Wallace to spend his time researching this information shows his intelligence and that the content of his piece is reliable. This shows that Foster Wallace is personally interested in the unethical practices being done at certain events and wants the audience to be able to see things from a different angle. He has a lot to say about the Maine Lobster Festival but also provides actual facts to back up his claims throughout the article.

By sharing intricate details of lobsters that are otherwise difficult to understand by ordinary people, it provides knowledge that the audience would need to make their own conclusions as well as using logos by giving factual information to further prove his credibility. There are also facts on the number of ways a lobster can be cooked along with the research done that help strengthen Foster Wallace’s believeableness. He addresses the different cook times that will bring different pain levels to the lobsters. For example, baking would be more painful since it would require the lobster to be under heat for a longer period of time. While microwaving is a shorter amount of cook time but the pain that the lobsters would feel decreases drastically. He describes the matter in simplistic terms so the reader can easily follow his findings, which leads to an understanding of Foster Wallace’s argument. Stating specific details about lobsters gives more insight into how they operate but also help strengthen Foster Wallace’s point that they have the ability to feel pain. By building background information on lobsters, it displays his trustworthiness of explaining precise information.

He gives these lobsters human-like characteristics that many people are able to comprehend and apply it to themselves. Wallace shares how the lobsters are being boiled alive but gives them feelings that people are able to relate with stating that “it is difficult not to sense that they’re unhappy, or frightened, even if it’s some rudimentary version of these feelings”. Of the lobsters physical suffering allowed Foster Wallace to use pathos to persuade the audience to better understand what they feel moments before death while still strengthening his credibility. Pain is something people can relate to easily and makes the audience think about how the lobsters are being treated in certain types of situations like festivals. Emotion is involved, which is the use of pathos, that allows the readers to possibly feel the same discomfort and vulnerability that these lobsters were experiencing. When the readers start to realize this different point of view and start asking questions like is it okay to treat lobsters in this manner?

In Foster Wallace’s argument, it is not okay to treat these animals as if they are any lesser than humans. Every detail that was written is meant to leave the audience with this thought that will hopefully linger in the minds of people as they enjoy their next meal. With that being said, he doesn’t discourage the consumption of these animals just that people should gain awareness of these practices. By providing a considerable amount of research and the use of ethos, pathos, and logos hat established his credibility, Foster Wallace presents a convincing argument that there needs to be some compassion for these animals before eating them.

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Analysis Of Foster Wallace’s Argument In Consider The Lobster. (2021, May 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 26, 2023, from
“Analysis Of Foster Wallace’s Argument In Consider The Lobster.” GradesFixer, 14 May 2021,
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