Debra Marquart

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The Horizontal World, Debra Marquart

In her essay, Marquart characterizes the upper Midwest. She uses both positive and negative strategies to do so. She describes the landscape itself as a negative place while its people as good, positive people – she switches back and forward between the two.

She starts out her essay by describing a road in the Midwest, a road that according to her is “lonely, treeless, and devoid of rises.” She then says that the road “curves in places that it [feels] like one long-held pedal steel guitar” This gives the effect that the Midwest is a rather dull and boring place to be in. Marquart than labels the Midwest as “the square states” and uses humor to describes those states as “a region that spawns both tornados and Republicans.” This makes the Midwest seem like a rather negative place for she equates tornados (which are destructive) with Republicans, and uses the word “spawned” which has a negative connotation.

She then switches to describing the Midwest from a negative place to a positive one. For she describes its people as “fresh faces”, blond, innocent, strong, good-looking, basically above average. Says that Presidents come here, networks want their actresses to look like they’re actresses, that characters in movies are based off of them. Goes on to say that it’s bad idea to leave the Midwest. She alludes to the media like the poet Sylvia Griffith Wheeler, Coen Brothers’ movie Fargo, and Garrison Keillor’s radio show, uses them to characterize the Midwest and its people as good.

Marquart goes back to talking about the landscape, describing it as “dreary” “uninhabitable”, “unfit [to live in]”, “indignity”, and as a “monotonous” place. She uses references from history and politics like Edwin James, Major Stephen Long, and the Land Ordinance of 1785 to characterize the Midwest as a place where people can’t live or don’t want to in.

She uses a personal connection – a story of her grandparents immigrating to the...
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