A Picture of Conflict
Conflict is the driving force of a narrative. It shows and structures the flow of events. In James Alexander Thom’s essay, “The Perfect Pictures” he is torn between two thoughts ‘to take the picture’ or ‘to not take the picture’. He is sharing a personal experience about how the media has made “human sufferings ... a spectator sport” (Thom 460). Thom has an opportunity to take “the perfect picture” that would have gained him a prize winning photograph, but he decides not to because he chooses to make the right decision by giving the family their rightful space to heal. He narrates a tragic scene where he as a young reporter witnesses an emotional event in which a grandfather accidentally runs over his baby granddaughter with his pickup truck. The purpose of Thom’s narration is to make his audience empathize with him. This analysis discusses the various writing techniques Thom uses to make his essay a successful and effective essay. Narrative essays recreate the events that have occurred and are told from a specific point of view in the first person or third person. Thom uses a first person narrative by the use of the pronoun ‘I’ in the opening paragraph by stating: “I was a young police reporter, driving to a scene I didn’t want to see” (Thom 459). Writing in the first person allows Thom to add more personal details which gives life to the story and convinces the reader of his message. Another aspect of a narrative is the effective use of verbs and nouns. The nouns make the reader ‘see’ and the verbs which are vivid and precise make the reader ‘feel’. Thom’s expressions such as “backlight by a frilly curtained window”, “swaddled corpse”, “tiny body” (Thom 460), makes the reader picture the scene and has a deep emotional impact on the event. A narrative becomes even more powerful when it has a dialogue stating a real conversation in the narrators own words. It heightens the interest and drives the reader in to the story. Thom uses dialogue in his narrative which depicts the grandfather’s speech to the narrator. He states: “I was just backing up there to spread that good dirt”; “I didn’t even know she was outdoors” (Thom 460). The dialogue brings the story to life and takes the reader closer to the character making the scene feel real. In addition to this, Thom’s uses scene and emphasis changes in each paragraph. This technique creates drama and allows him to jump from one situation to another without having to connect them together, but maintaining a structured flow of thoughts. In a well written narrative the key events are selected carefully to explain and support the story. Thom’s key events are deep, insightful and full of sensory details. One of the key events in his essay is described like this: “On a Formica-topped table, back lighted by a frilly curtained window, lay the tiny body, wrapped in a clean white cloth. Somehow the grandfather had managed to stay away from the crowd. He was sitting on a chair beside the table, in profile to me and unaware of my presence, looking uncomprehendingly at the swaddled corpse” (Thom 460). This is effective because it shows the reader the location of the event, the state of the deceased, and the grandfather’s emotional feeling at that moment. Through this vivid description, it makes the reader feel the grandfather’s pain and feel the remorse that he felt. By doing this, it draws the reader closer and makes them empathize with his effort to do the right thing. Thom’s decision to not take the picture and walk away is admirable. The main goal of Thom’s essay is to convince the reader that the media makes human sufferings vulnerable. He wants us to learn a lesson from his personal experience and convince us that misusing peoples suffering just to entertain others is not the right thing to do. Thom has definitely succeeded in getting his message across and I truly believe that he did the right thing.
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