Is There Compassion in the Air

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Is There Compassion in the Air?
Compassion. Hidden agenda. The difference. City dweller Barbara Lazear Ascher, in her essay “On Compassion,” recalls in her own words, “a couple of brief encounters with homeless people”. While maintaining a critical tone, Ascher utilizes an anecdote, a personal experience, and appeals to her audience’s ethical values as strategies to fulfill her purpose. Ascher effectively achieves her purpose to convince her audience, people inhabiting cities, there is a lack of compassion when concerning the homeless.

Ascher initiates her article by taking the readers on a journey through her use of an anecdote. Starting with a description of a homeless man, “His button less shirt, with one sleeve missing, hangs outside the waist of his baggy trousers… As he crosses Manhattan’s Seventy-Ninth Street, his gait is the shuffle of the forgotten ones held in place by gravity rather than plans.” (1) Ascher begins to give her audience a feel for what the typical homeless person is viewed as; someone shaggy and different from sophisticated city people. She instigates her argument by using this statement to indicate to her audience that the homeless are being forgotten; therefore, is receiving a lack of compassion. “The others on the corner, five men and women waiting for the crosstown bus, look away,” (2) By stating that the men and women looked away, Ascher is revealing to her audience that not only are the homeless being forgotten, but they are also being overlooked. Ending her anecdote about the homeless man, Ascher begins to give her audience a taste of her critical tone: “The mother grows impatient and pushes the stroller before her, bearing the dollar like a cross.” (5) The simile, “bearing the dollar like a cross,” suggests that Ascher is purposefully being judgmental of the mother. This reveals that the mother’s goal is to simply get rid of the homeless man, rather than showing him a little bit of compassion.

Moving on from the anecdote,...
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