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Stylistic Analysis of Annie Dillard's Essay

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Babies Are Not Always a Good Thing

Throughout human history, people have always looked forward to and celebrated the births of people, so much so that they have dedicated an entire branch of medicine that deals with it. While usually a nurse in the hospital is dealing with death and disease everyday, OB-gyn and maternity nurses get to help bring in new life everyday, multiple times a day. Though most people would love to work as a maternity nurse, and would be happy and excited to work with those miracles, it does start to become just a job sooner or later, where the joy just wears off, as is the case in Annie Dillard’s essay where she describes the routines that the nurses go through everyday. In the piece, she uses rhetorical devices to demonstrate a critical and cold attitude toward the treatment of babies by the nurses.

When Dillard describes the first scene in her essay, she uses a lot of imagery. In the first through third paragraphs, she describes the baby-washing station like one would expect a factory line to look and sound like. She says that they wash the newborns like dishes, with the nurses changing throughout eight hour shifts. This is one of the times when the author uses imagery in order to set the tone for the essay. By Dillard painting the image of a factory line as a baby-washing station, the reader can start to see that the tone for this essay is not a positive one; the babies are treated like objects. With this example of imagery, it is evident that the tone is cold and critical. Another example of imagery that supports the tone can be found on the second page. Lines 35-37 say that the nurse bundles him up and just sends him down the line, like one would in an assembly line. With these example of imagery, it is clear to the reader that the tone is cold and critical because normally, in the presence of a baby, a person would be happy and excited, here, the nurses are bored and do not even care about them anymore, they refer to them as objects, not even worthy of names.

Aside from imagery, Dillard also uses analogies to demonstrate her tone. One of the first examples of analogies can be found on the first page of the essay. On the first page, the nurse describes the baby’s head using an analogy, she compares his head with a cone-head/ dunce cap. Not only is this an analogy, but this is also satire because this is mean and judgemental, the nurse is drawing a mean comparison for the purpose of making fun of him. This mean and judgemental analogy really demonstrates that at this point, the nurses really do not care about the babies, and it shows that the tone in this essay is cold and critical. Another example of the use of analogies to set the tone can be found on the first page also. In the sixth paragraph, the narrator compares a clot to the baby. She compares the creation myth from the Quran, where Allah created life with a blood clot, with a newborn! An object that can disappear/ dissolve with TPA (a medicine/ solution that can dissolve blood clots non-invasively) is being compared to a baby, which can only disappear with the use of another human, which is murder. This analogy shows that at this point, the nurses really consider the babies as objects, which goes to show that the tone in this essay is cold and critical.

In summation, Annie Dillard’s tone and attitude in her essay is cold and critical. In order to set the tone, she uses two major rhetorical devices, and another mixed in among the two. She uses imagery and analogies, with some satire mixed in. She uses these devices in order to tell the readers that babies are not for everyone, and that people do get tired of them.

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Stylistic Analysis Of Annie Dillard’s Essay. (2019, September 13). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 20, 2021, from
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