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How do I use the short story "Popular Mechanics" by Raymond Carver to springboard into...

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jmcculler | eNoter

Posted April 19, 2011 at 3:47 PM via web

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How do I use the short story "Popular Mechanics" by Raymond Carver to springboard into a informative or persuasive essay?

How do I use the short story "Popular Mechanics" by Raymond Carver to springboard into a informative or persuasive essay?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 20, 2011 at 2:23 PM (Answer #2)

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The first thing you need to know is whether you wish to write an informative essay or a persuasive essay.

After reading "Popular Mechanics," by Raymond Carver, I believe you may not want to write an informative essay about it. According to The KU Handbook for Writers (2008:102):

The goal of an informative essay is not to present your opinion, but 'to inform or educate the audience on a given topic.'

The eNotes.com reference page on the persuasive essay leads me to believe that this is the format you should use, as you are going to present your own point of view. The story has an ambiguous ending which means it could be taken in more than one way, so it would be better to write a persuasive argument.

Persuasive writing involves convincing the reader to perform an action, or it may simply consist of an argument(s) convincing the reader of the writer’s point of view.

If I were writing this essay, I would concentrate on how the adults are acting, and how it is affecting the child. We can first study how the parents act with each other: the man is packing and the woman is crying, but insisting she is glad that he is leaving. However, as the action moves to another room, the parents begin a tug-of-war over the baby. The child is screaming as each parent pulls, and the husband then tries to forcibly take the baby from his mother, shoving her back into a corner in the kitchen and prying her fingers loose from the child.

The wishes of the parents become more important than the welfare of the baby. This reminds me of the Old Testament story where King Solomon must decide who will get the baby that two women are arguing over. In the end he says to cut the child in half, wisely knowing the real mother would rather give her child up than see him harmed.

Unfortunately, there is no one here to help the parents be objective regarding their behavior: they are harming the child. It becomes your job as the reader to take a side and persuade the reader, supporting your opinions or point of view with facts from the story, facts you have researched, etc., (as your teacher directs).

Personally, as a mother, I would argue that a mother is best suited to care for a child having given birth to the baby. I would support it with articles that provide statistics on how important a mother's presence is in a baby's life, as well as the position the courts taking in placing the baby with the mother in most cases. I would also present an argument about the father working and having no way to care for the child while he is not at home, other than hiring a caregiver.

However, at the same time, I would be concerned that neither parent is more concerned about the baby than what he/she wants. Their personal differences have overshadowed the physical welfare of the baby. In this case, I might suggest that neither parent seems able to see to the child's needs. On the other hand, the father's physical aggression toward mother and child are equally alarming.

You need to find a position that you wish to defend. If you are using the story as a springboard for an essay, you might want to concentrate on how divorce or dissension between parents affects children.

There are many viewpoints from which to use the story with regard to parenting and the well-being of children. I believe, however, that you would be better to write a persuasive essay with this story than an informative one.

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 28, 2011 at 11:14 AM (Answer #3)

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Choose a theme from the story, and describe it. For example, you might argue that parents need to put their child's needs above their own. You can make this a persuasive essay, because you are going to prove it. Use examples from the story to demonstrate what happens when parents don't put the child first.

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