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The writer’ s duty is the author’s responsibility to connect and convey their message, through the expression of human nature, to the audience in their craft. William Faulkner, 1949 Nobel Prize winner, exhibits the significance of the responsibility within his acceptance speech. Essay composers including Sedaris, in “Me Talk Pretty One Day”, embodies the writer’s duty Faulkner described, by utilizing personal anecdote and a satiric attitude to convey the need of persistence when approaching a challenge.
William Faulkner believed that writers must incorporate “love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice” into their texts. That authors must express emotions of the human heart, and to not be afraid of writing about fear and truth. By doing so, their voice is “not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help endure and prevail”; their voice becomes a beacon of support and guidance. He emphasizes the necessity of emotions to connect with the audience and to convey an individual’s purpose- only then, can a writer’s duty be accomplished. Sedaris employs Faulkner’s stated attributes of the writer’s duty within “Me Talk Pretty One Day.”
In the essay, the narrator is Sedaris himself, a forty-year old adult who transfers to France to embark on a journey to learn the French language. Through the essay, he conveys the learning process of a new language- particularly French in the context- as a quagmire. Sedaris illustrates the need for persistence when tackling a challenge such as learning French, ultimately establishing the writer’s duty. Through the use of personal anecdote, he creates a first-hand account of his experience as a nervous French student to connect with the reader. Ethos is primarily present within the anecdote due it being based on Sedaris’ actual encounters with learning French. Use of personal pronouns,“… (a) I hadn’t been asked that question in a while and (b) I realized, while laughing, that I myself did not know the alphabet”, and specific details of his learning experience in the anecdote, sparks the connection between the author and audience with credibility. Readers can trust the content of the essay due to the personal account and relive Sedaris’ struggle in learning French. Furthermore, due to the established connection, he can motivate the audience as he portrays himself as a symbol of persistence for individuals who share similar situations with him amidst tackling a challenge.
The connection between he and the audience is further enforced with vivid imagery and metaphoric language leading to the pathos present in his anecdotes. He correlates his environment to distinct visuals associated with his emotions, “Her rabbity mouth huffed for breath, and she stared down at her lap as though the appropriate comeback were stitched..”, exhibiting the condescending figure his teacher emitted by comparing her to a predator looking down upon their prey. Sedaris communicated to the audience that he was not only intimidated by his teacher’s antics but by the French language itself, “My fear and discomfort crept beyond the borders of the classroom and accompanied me out onto the wide boulevards.” The language had an impact on his social life outside of class- he turned away from opportunities involving him speaking in the dialect. Despite the negativity of his teacher and the frightening impression of French, he strived to comprehend the class material, “ spending four hours a night on my homework,” evidently portraying his persistence. Ultimately, the use of ethos creates a bond of trust, allowing the author to motivate and encourage, while pathos gives opportunity for the audience to envision the environment through his eyes.
A satirical tone is also implemented in the essay to help establish the writer’s duty. Within the passage, the use of hyperbole helps contribute to the tone, “I thought that everyone loved the mosquito, but here, in front of all the world, you claim to detest him”, the teacher is a prominent obstacle to the learning process with her sarcastic remarks. She degrades all of her students including Sebaris relentlessly. The tone allows the audience to realize the mockery Sebaris’ teacher placed on him and fellow colleagues. Additionally, the inclusion of antithesis exhibits the hardships he was subjected to and adds to the tone. Contrasting ideas such as beauty and curse in,“The teacher continued her diatribe and I settled back, bathing in the subtle beauty of each new curse and insult”, further conveys the denigrating statements of the professor towards the narrator. By displaying the intimidating figure of his teacher in a lighthearted and humorous fashion, he appeals to the audience. Evidently, the use of satirical tone empathizes with the audience and conveys that individuals may encounter enervating situations with a challenge or learning process.
Every writer has a duty to fulfill when they pick up a pen or start jamming away at their keyboard. Faulkner describes the duty as the role of the author to express human nature and to convey their message to the audience as well as connect with them. Sebraris embodies the writer’s duty in his essay, “Me Talk Pretty One Day”, with personal anecdote and a satirical attitude.
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