Analysis of "The Wreck of Time" by Annie Dillard

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Will M.

Annie Dillard’s “The Wreck of Time”

Annie Dillard's "The Wreck of Time" is a unique piece of writing. The essay has no clear thesis statement, lacks transitions between paragraphs and provides no obvious connection between its various subsections. Upon first reading Dillard's piece, one might think that it's little more than a series of unrelated statistics and a series of unanswered questions. But by using this unique style, Dillard puts the focus and thinking in the hands of the reader. The reader is left to make sense of the statistics, fill in the gaps, and draw his or her own conclusions. There is a very important message Dillard tries to get across this way in “The Wreck of Time”. Through her use of rhetorical devices, Dillard exemplifies our view that the numbers are just numbers, and nothing more. However, after a few reads it becomes clear through constant questioning in the piece that these numbers should mean more to us than they do. Dillard is trying to show us that we do not have enough compassion for our fellow human beings. She shows us this through marked use of statistics, questions, comparisons, contrasts, and quotations from many sources. Statistics make up a large part of Dillard’s rhetorical evidence. “Two million children die a year from diarrhea, and 800,000 from measles. Do we blink? Stalin starved 7 million Ukrainians in one year, Pol Pot killed 1 million Cambodians, the flu epidemic of 1918 killed 21 or 22 million people… shall this go on?” Dillard bombards us with overwhelming numbers to get an emotional pull out of the reader, and instill a feeling of shame that comes from realizing that we simply do not feel like putting in the effort to be compassionate to others. “Do we blink?” Her questions are meant to think about how we isolate ourselves and simply disregard the suffering of others. After giving us overwhelming numbers and statistics, Dillard then questions us often. This statistic-reflective question syntax is one...
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