Definition Essay: The Right Stuff
In attempting to define “the right stuff”, I came up with several characteristics and traits that may qualify one as having “the right stuff”. There was, however, no single, broad and sweeping definition that truly seemed to encompass “the right stuff”. For the intent of this essay, I will define “the right stuff” as the unspoken qualities a person possesses that motivate them to attempt/accomplish feats not ordinarily attempted as well as continue to challenge themselves to the point that few can relate and the masses are viewed as inferior beings. In the novel “The Right Stuff” Tom Wolfe profiles the lives and careers of several fighter pilots. While Wolfe never fully defines “the right stuff”, he does lend a few attributes that were forbidden to be spoken namely “…death, bravery, danger, fear”. Wolfe writes “…it was not bravery in the simple sense of being willing to risk your life.”, yet those who did have “it” also had “the uncritical willingness to face danger”. Are those characteristics part of what motivated these men to become test pilots of machines capable of reaching heights never attempted and being chosen the first astronauts as a result? Or was their motivation simply to not be left behind? I believe it is safe to say that motivation is the seed that bears the fruit of success. While none of the pilots were necessarily motivated to become the “Mercury 7”, not being chosen, to them, was the same as being left behind. Being left behind meant that you were not a possessor of “the right stuff”. Attempting to become the first man in space meant opening their minds to whatever challenges may lie ahead, unknown as they may be. Though the competition to be the first man in space was looked upon as saving a nation, the competition between the pilots extended not outside of the seven as evidenced by John Glenn’s thought “Competition was competition, and there was no use pretending it didn’t exist” (Wolfe). From...
Bibliography: Wolfe, Tom. The Right Stuff. New York, NY: Picador, 1979.
Wolfe’s novel recounts the experiences and lives of fighter pilots and astronauts of the
first manned space program. He tries to relay to the reader what it is these individuals possessed
that gave them the ardour to accomplish the unknown, the never before attempted.
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