Components of a Compelling Essay
Angelou’s excerpt, recalling her first visit to the dentist, is the most compelling piece I have read in a long time. I was blindsided with the thought of a medical professional refusing to treat an innocent child simply because of their skin color. Although segregation is a significant part of American history, it is something that I rarely consider. This essay reminded me that its painful effects are carved in the memories of many individuals across our nation. Angelo’s words are so effective because of the racial context, point of view, and tone used in the essay. For example, the tone shifts throughout the essay along with her pain from a toothache. In the beginning, the tone is powerful as she begs for “the building to collapse” (Angelou 374) on her jaw to relieve the pain. Later, the tone changes to sarcastic and flippant as the ache is softened by the “whitebreeze that blew off whitefolks and cushioned everything” (Angelou 375). Then, in the commotion of being denied treatment by the white dentist, who owes the family a favor, the pain is forgotten. There is a different tone. The child soon radiates with pride and security as she realizes her grandmother is her powerful protector. The tone changes with the child’s emotions throughout the essay. Furthermore, the essay is strengthened by the first-person point of view. Angelou’s childhood thoughts and views are deeply felt by the reader. When the dentist refuses to treat the toothache, Angelou’s grandmother tells her to wait outside as she re-enters the dentist’s office. While waiting for her grandmother, she creates her own scenario about the events taking place in the office. She imagines her grandmother charging into the office and demanding respect. She pictures the dentist tearful and scared of her grandmother’s power. Then she imagines her grandmother threatening and forcing the dentist to leave town. Later in the essay, Angelou overhears her grandmother’s version....
Cited: Angelou, Maya. "Momma, the Dentist, and Me." Models for Writers. Alfred Rosa and Paul Eschholz. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin 's, 2007. 373-381.
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