50 Essays Discussion Questions

Topics: American women writers, Maxine Hong Kingston, African American Pages: 6 (2115 words) Published: September 18, 2013
1. “Why Don’t We Complain” Question 2
Employing simple anecdotes, William F. Buckley argues in his essay “Why Don’t We Complain”, that as people continue to ignore rudimentary issues, their passivity is transferring into political indifference. Buckley begins with a simple story of how “train temperatures in the dead of the winter… climb up to 85 degrees without complaint” and how “For generations, Americans who were too hot, or too cold, got up and did something about it”. Although there were many passengers on the train, all visibly uncomfortable, no one said a word to the conductor about the issue. Buckley implies that the recent disinclination of Americans to speak up about a problem with a simple solution is only the beginning of a mute American population, muteness already visible in politics. Buckley blatantly states “the observable reluctance of the majority of Americans to assert themselves in minor matters is related to our increased sense of helplessness in an age of… centralized political and economic power”. Less and less people step up to fix minor matters, such as the heat on train. Buckley equates this hesitance in simple issues to be the mirror of the lack of voice in politics from the general population. As minor incidents are simply brushed aside, political opinions will continue to progressively be suppressed. 2. “Serving in Florida” Question 2

In the essay “Serving in Florida”, Barbara Ehrenreich describes individuals she works with through direct comparisons of how they adapt to survive in poverty. Ehrenreich speaks with her co-worker Gail, who is “thinking of escaping from her roommate by moving into the Days Inn” which is 40 to 60 dollars a day, forcing Ehrenreich to reflect on her own living situation, only “made possible by the $1,300 [she] had allotted [herself]… when [she] began [her] low-wage life”. Obviously the living conditions for Gail and Ehrenreich are deplorable, but through the direct comparison of their situations, Ehrenreich depicts the constant struggle for necessities continually endured by people such as Gail. Ehrenreich portrays the healthcare, describing how “If you have no money for health insurance you go without routine care…. And end up paying the price”, such as Gail, who “spends $9 a pop” on unnecessary medication only needed due to her lack of coverage, as well as Marianne, whose “boyfriend lost his job as a roofer… after getting a cut on his foot for which he couldn’t afford the prescribed antibiotic”. Ehrenreich reflects on the fact that if this were actually her life she wouldn’t be doing much better, expressing the intimate details of poverty through her co-worker’s trials and triumphs compared to her own. The examples of the individuals she encounters while experiencing this life are effective standing on their own, but wrapped into the story of Ehrenreich’s experiences allows the general population to grasp the harsh reality of poverty.

3. “How It Feels To Be Colored Me” Question 3
Zora Hurston’s use of details in “How It Feels To Be Colored Me” summarizes her thoughts, allowing her to expound on great imagery and make her message easily comprehendible and relatable, strengthening her points. Hurston begins with pointing out the “contrast” between single white and colored people in the crowd of opposite pigment, depicting a scene at a jazz club where “the great blobs of purple and red emotion have not touched [the white man]. He has only heard what I felt… He is so pale with his whiteness then and I am so colored”. Hurston not only hears the soul music, but also feels it, allowing herself to travel with the music through her imagination; something the white man was seemingly incapable of doing. The single detail of sharp contrast when different pigmented skin colors stand alone among a crowd allowed Hurston to take flight into the anecdote from the jazz club, allowing her to emphasize her point that there are some cultural difference among whites and...
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