What is Gretel Ehrlich's purpose in concluding her essay "The Solace of Open Spaces" with the final sentence she uses? How is the sentence effective and meaningful?In this essay, Ehrlich discusses...

What is Gretel Ehrlich's purpose in concluding her essay "The Solace of Open Spaces" with the final sentence she uses? How is the sentence effective and meaningful?

In this essay, Ehrlich discusses the distorted image of the cowboy, which she claims is built on "American notions of heroism." The physical punishment of "cowboying", according to the author, is greatly underplayed. The toughness commonly associated with cowboys, only conceals the tenderness inside. Ehrlich argues that in essence we often fail to see the fragility and true vulnerability of the cowboy.

The essay concludes as follows: "Because these men work with animals, not machines or numbers, because they live outside in landscapes of torrential beauty, because they are confined to a place and a routine embellished with awesome variables, because calves die in the arms that pulled others into life, because they go to the mountains as if on a pilgrimage to find out what makes a herd of elk tick, their strength is also a softness, their toughness, a rare delicacy."

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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In her essay titled “The Solace of Open Spaces,” Gretel Ehrlich concludes with a sentence that summarizes the work of cowboys:

Because these men work with animals, not machines or numbers, because they live outside in landscapes of torrential beauty, because they are confined to a place and a routine embellished with awesome variables, because calves die in the arms that pulled others into life, because they go to the mountains as if on a pilgrimage to find out what makes a herd of elk tick, their strength is also a softness, their toughness, a rare delicacy.

This is an effective sentence for a number of reasons, including the following:

  • It calls great attention to itself and to its importance by using a rhetorical technique known as anaphora, in which a key word or phrase is repeated at the beginning of each line, clause, or phrase.  Here the repeated word is “because.”
  • By repeating this word at the beginning of five distinct clauses, Ehrlich constructs a magnificently suspended (and suspenseful) sentence. The five subordinate clauses precede the concluding clause, in which the main point of the sentence is finally spelled out. The reader is forced to wait until the very end of the sentence to discover the key argument that Ehrlich wants to make.
  • The repeated use of “because” highlights the “cause and effect” logic of the sentence, making the sentence seem at once highly emotional and also significantly rational.
  • The use of anaphora gives the sentence a highly rhythmic, almost chant-like quality. The sentence seems very musical. If it had been broken up into a number of much shorter sentences, the effect would have seemed choppy and disjointed.
  • Each clause of the sentence emphasizes a different aspect of the paradoxical nature of the lives of cowboys. The sentence is complex, just as their lives are complex.

 

 

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