Analysis Of This Is Water
Dec 4, 20171217Words5Pages
Water You Doing With Your Life?
“What the hell is water?” “This is Water” was originally given as a speech to college students before it was published in essay form. David Foster Wallace, in his essay “This is Water”, addresses the importance of awareness and perceptiveness of others. He believes this and proper education can help people become well-adjusted to the world around them. He adopts a humorous, personal, and important tone in order to accomplish his rhetorical purpose.
Wallace establishes a humorous tone in the first section to convey his argument. “There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, ‘Morning, boys, how's the water?’ And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, ‘What the hell is water?’” (233) This anecdote introduces the fact the many people don’t understand what is going on around them and why Wallace believes it is important to be conscious of what is happening around you. “This is not a matter of virtue- it's a matter of my choosing to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default-setting, which is to be deeply and literally self-centered, and to see and interpret everything through this lens of self.” (233) Wallace argues that it is hard to get into a state of awareness because humans have their “hard-wired default-setting”. People need to get out of their own self-centered habits and see things in a different point of view. By using a humorous tone, Wallace can effectively get people on his side of the argument.
Wallace then shifts to a more realistic example with a personal tone that many people can relate to: the struggles of everyday life. “By way of example, let's say it's an average day, and you get up in the morning, go to your challenging job, and you work hard for nine or ten hours, and at the end of the day you're tired, and you're stressed out, and all you want is to go home and have a good supper and maybe unwind for a couple of hours and then hit the rack early because you have to get up the next day and do it all again.” (234) Wallace discusses an example of everyday life as an adult, which many people can relate to. By giving a common ground, readers want to pay attention to his argument. “Or, of course, if I'm in a more socially conscious form of my default-setting, I can spend time in the end-of-the day traffic jam being angry and disgusted at all the huge, stupid, lane-blocking SUVs and Hummers and V-12 pickup trucks burning their wasteful, selfish, forty-gallon tanks of gas, and I can dwell on the fact that the patriotic or religious bumper stickers always seem to be on the biggest, most disgustingly selfish vehicles driven by the ugliest, most inconsiderate and aggressive drivers, who are usually talking on cell phones as they cut people off in order to get just twenty stupid feet ahead in a traffic jam, and I can think about how our children's children will despise us for wasting all the future's fuel and probably screwing up the climate, and how spoiled and stupid and disgusting we all are, and how it all just sucks, and so on and so forth...” (235-236) He continues using an example to show how self-centered people can get, which acknowledges an ugly truth and stresses how important it is to see things objectively. By giving examples everyone can relate to, it gives Wallace an appeal to ethos and allows him to effectively convey his point.
Towards the end, Wallace takes on a religious aspect. He discusses how “everybody worships”. “The only choice we get is what to worship.” (237) Wallace alludes that whether you chose to worship a god, the God, “or the Wiccan mother-goddess”, it influences your actions. “Worship power-you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart-you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.” (237) This supports his opinion about the human’s “default-settings”. They are things that we follow to fit in, not to understand. By not considering others in your daily life, you are secluding yourself from the rest of the world.
In the final section of his essay, Wallace goes on to establish a tone of importance, which leads to his call-to-action. “The really important kind of freedom…lost some infinite thing.” (237) In this quote Wallace compares awareness to freedom. He provides many comparisons to give a clear view of how awareness is “real freedom”. Everyone wants freedom, so it makes the argument seem more important. “It is about simple awareness- awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, that we have to keep reminding ourselves, over and over: ‘This is water, this is water.’” (237-238) By giving positive reasons for being aware, it makes people want to act on being aware. Wallace is able to effectively make his argument by giving it a sense of importance.
Wallace’s essay was overall effective, but he did have a couple short-comings. First was his example of everyday life. It was good, but was drawn out for much too long. Because of this, his example may not have been as effective as it could have been. The imagery in the example was very vivid, but it took the attention away from his main argument. Wallace also includes bias. But even though he includes bias, he openly admits to it, because it was what drove him to make his argument. When describing both sides of the argument, he uses stronger and more descriptive word choices while talking about his side. While describing the opposing side, he would use weaker words to make it seem less appealing. Although this was clever, it showed his bias. To expand upon his use of an example, Wallace had the tendency to go off on tangents. He continued to speak of similar things, which may lose the interest of the reader. In his example, his syntax varied, but many of the sentences were long. This made his paragraphs very dense, only lightened up by his humorous tones. But even though he is trying to get his message across, he does not use harsh methods, or say his way is set in stone. Many arguments seem radical, but his argument came across as optional. In his own words, Wallace wants for the reader “to decide what to worship…”
Wallace concludes his essay strongly supporting the benefits of awareness. His humorous and urging tone allows him to connect with the reader and effectively convey his point. Wallace conveys his point through his tones, anecdotes, varying syntax and diction. He is able to argue the importance of awareness through these literary devices. So, what the hell is “water”? Water is being able to be fluid, being able to roll with the punches, and being able to understand the world around you. This is water, awareness is water.