Louis Owens's The American Indian Wilderness: Effective Use of Persona

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The American Indian Wilderness

In the essay, “The American Indian Wilderness”, Louis Owens presents a personal story to show a dramatic change in his point of view. His story revolves around a mind-altering experience in which he uses himself as the straw figure, allowing us to effectively see how he came to choose his new view and why it is better than the European view he once had. He successfully gains our trust and persuades his audience with three different personas: the unthinking, cocky businessman, the thoughtful and ashamed persona, and, at the end, the lecturing teacher.

In the beginning, Owens uses the persona of the unthinking, cocky businessman. He is in the mountains to support and carry out “a plan of which [he] heartily approves.” (para.2) He is at the extreme end of his way of thinking, believing that the Forest Service is right in their idea about wilderness. “At the end of those five days, not a trace of the shelter remained, and I felt good, very smug in fact, about returning the White Pass meadow to it’s “original” state.” (para.3) He shows us that he has no doubts and completely agrees that in order to restore the wilderness, he must carry out the plan. As he heads back down the trail, he says that his, “mind was on the winter [he] was going to spend in sunny Arizona,” (para.3) showing that there was no internal struggle over the burning of the shelter and that he truly felt that he had done his job to better the wilderness.

This persona is effective because right off the bat, Owens draws us in by showing us that he has a story to tell. He doesn’t begin his story with a lecture about what the point of his essay is, as that would cause some of us to reject his theory right away. He successfully draws us into the story and slowly makes his point known while we’re all listening. By using himself as the straw figure, we are able to see how he arrived at his conclusion and we find ourselves more willing to listen to what he has to...
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