Daily Archives: June 12, 2010

The author and his audience.

How does the intended audience affect the way an author writes? Do authors usually write to please the people who will be reading his work or do they write for self-satisfaction? In an excerpt from Montaigne’s “To the Reader” from his essay “On the Inconsistency of Our Actions,” it seems as though he is one of the latter. However, this is a contradiction because he tells the reader that he is writing this for his friends and family and wants to be seen in his “simple, natural, ordinary fashion” and is not writing to please the audience, yet he addresses the reader as if  he knows that someone other than his friends and family will read the essay. Other oppositions that he brings up are natural vs. artifice, myself vs. not myself and public vs. private. These conflicting ideas help Montaigne make his argument that he is writing in his natural form and not in a mindset where he feel he needs to write in a way that the audience will enjoy. Because his intended audience are his friends and family, he does not need to write differently because they know him well enough to understand him as himself. Writing as himself in the first person perspective makes the argument more valid and honest because it gives him more power in his words than if it was written in a third person perspective. The word “I” is used many times in this passage and therefore it is unusual for the word “you” to appear in the second to last paragraph. This goes back to him addressing the audience when he’s not intending for there to be an audience.  Another grammatical feature he uses besides addressing the second person is the use of subjunctives.  In fact, the excerpt starts with the word “if.” He then continues to say that the “if” he presented is not what’s happening and then writes what he’s really trying to accomplish.  Three sentences later he presents the phrase “had I been,” once again spectating how he could have written this piece but ultimately didn’t and goes on to repeat his real intentions of this essay. Because he has a specific reader in mind, he writes in a way different than if he were writing for others to read and therefore it sets this piece of work apart from others that he has written.

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Robinson Crusoe

Daneil Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe” is about a Englishman who gets shipwrecked on to an uninhabited island (at least, in the parts I’ve read) and has to survive with all that nature provides him. Luckily for him, he is able to get tools off of the boat that he was on. When Crusoe tells us his adventures on the island, I cannot help but think of Lost, Lord of the Flies, and Castaway and every other “stranded on an island” book/movie out there.

Crusoe’s character is one that slides on a scale from good to jackass. For the first 80 pages or so, he is on the right side of the scale. Crusoe as the narrator tells us the advice his father gives him about staying in the “middle life” because that is where it is most comfortable; the lower class has to work everyday just to get by while the upper class is too preoccupied with money that they miss out on life. Crusoe hears his words but doesn’t listen.  He goes out into the world and as misfortune would have it, he gets taken as a slave. He is actually very understanding as to why the Captain took him to be a slave and carries out his slavely duties for two years.  After that he escapes with a boy named Xury, who he sort of makes into his own slave. But later, he sells the boy into slavery for a safe passage to Brazil. (You see what I mean about being on the right side of the scale?) In Brazil he earns money with his plantation and feels bad that he sold Xury after he realizes how much work goes into a plantation and wishes he had some help. (Again, what an ass).  When he gets a proposition to smuggle slaves from Africa from some other Brazilians, he agrees and that’s when he gets shipwrecked.

And he is the only one who survives. After being on the island for almost a year, he experiences his first earthquake. This is the first time religion appears in the book in relation to him because he cries out for the Lord to save him. After that, he becomes ill and has a dream that God is about to kill him because he has not repented for his sins. This is the turning point of religion for me and he prays to God every day after that. He believes God controls everything and therefore God must be controlling his actions and so he finds peace in this rationality about being stuck on the island. These two events inspire Crusoe to become religious; I think if they hadn’t occurred, he would not have given any thought to religion. After this, he reads the Bible and believes it was written to him because he finds lines in there that relate to what he’s experiencing. Having faith in God might also be something to keep his sanity because now he has someone to talk to and something to believe in so he doesn’t go crazy.

Being on an uninhabited island gives Crusoe the will to do as he pleases and he thinks he’s the king of the island. (How pretentious). He builds himself a “country-home” and a “summer house” or whatever it was and soon learns how to bake bread and harvest crops. He exerts his power over the animals of the island because there is no one there for him to boss around.  I think it is a good thing he is the only survivor of the ship because it has caused him to learn how to work for his food and shelter and it has made him religious. For him to see what his father was talking about, he needed to experience the worst life has to offer in order to appreciate the best that he can get.

So far, I enjoy this book.  But the narration is a little confusing because he repeats a lot of things and whether it’s him telling the story or his older self retelling the story is still something I haven’t figured out yet.

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