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McKenzie McClure

Jillian Bennion

ENG 1010

02/29/16

Wallace, Consider the Lobster


What is the authors view of his subject matter? What evidence
supports this conclusion?
When first reading David Fosters Consider the Lobster I thought he was
addressing the cruelty of lobsters and how we torture them to death so they may
be consumed. This is an interesting question considering the fact that many people
tend to have different ideas as to just what David Foster Wallace was addressing in
this essay. After discussing with my peers and critically analyzing David Fosters
essay, it became clear that there was an underlining story. Wallace gave the
example how prisoners were fed lobster as a form of punishment and how now
they have festivals were people pay hundreds of dollars to eat lobster. Maybe
Wallace wanted to reader to consider how different generations have different
eating practice and thinking big picture different practices and thoughts. Wallace
shows this may be a frame of thought when he asks he makes the statement As
far as I can tell, my own main way of dealing with this conflict has been to avoid
thinking about the whole unpleasant thing. I should add that it appears to me
unlikely that many readers of Gourmet wish to think hard about it, either, or be
queried about mortality of their eating habits in the pages of culinary monthly.
Wallace was obviously trying to provoke some reflection here, and did so with
effective questions like the one just quoted. A second point I think Wallace was
trying to make is how people treat the lower class like animals. Making them eat
the trash that is not suitable for the higher class. Definitely something to think
about.

What evidence suggests that the author takes a more negative view of
his subject? Explain.
There wasnt a positive spin on cooking lobster in his writing, it seemed to be
pretty clear that Wallace took a negative view on the subject due to several
aspects. He showed this in the way he described the way lobsters to suffer during
cooking. The detail that he uses in explaining the process made me as the reader
never want to eat lobster. Such detail and emotion would not be used unless the
author may have had a somewhat of a negative view. Another way Wallace
indicates his disapproval is the way he painted the picture by asking questions like;
How much do you think about the moral status and probable suffering of the
animals involved? And: Why is a primitive, inarticulate form of suffering less
urgent or uncomfortable for the person whos helping to inflict it by paying for the
food it results in?

Overall, how would you describe the authors tone and why?
(enchanted, sarcastic, detached, disapproving, angry, cheerful?
Something else?) Offer 3 details in support.
I feel the authors tone was at times thought provoking and at other times
disapproving. One piece of evidence that seems to support such a stance or tone,
is the statement Wallace made on page 264 when he described cooking the lobster
alive and how the lobster will sometimes try and cling to the containers sides or
even hook its claws over the kettles rim like a person trying to keep from going
over the edge of a roof. I believe this demonstrates his disapproval. Another piece
of evidence that supports his thought provoking tone is when Wallace says: I like
to eat certain kinds of animals and want to be able to keep doing it I feel this
maybe an indication he isnt necessarily entirely against the eating lobsters, but
maybe think rhetorically about the lobster. He is simply trying to provoke reflection
and thought. Lastly, in the closing paragraph of the essay. Wallace said, Im not
trying to bait anyone Im genuinely curious. After all, isnt being extra aware and
attentive and thoughtful about ones food and its overall context part of what
distinguishes a real gourmet or is all the gourmets extra attention and sensibility
just supposed to be sensuous? Is it really all just a matter of taste and perception?

I believe Wallace genuinely wants the reader to take the time to think critically on
these questions and to think big picture, not just about the lobster.

Provide five specific details about the authors audience and explain
how you arrived at these conclusions/details. A bulleted or numbered
list might work well here.
1

At first it seemed that Wallace was writing to the readers of the Gourmet
magazine but on page 262 he said, I should add that it appears to me unlikely
that many readers of Gourmet wish to think hard about it either indicating that
Gourmet magazine readers are not his intended audience.

2 Another way he shows he might know be speaking to a higher class is by the


way he describes the lobster festival. Page 255 when Wallace gives the example
of the eating tent, he describes the tent of having a Disneyland grade queue,
which turns into a quarter mile of awning-shaded cafeteria lines and rows of
long industrial tables at which friend and stranger sit cheek to cheek to jowl,
cracking and chewing and dribbling. This image Wallace gives the reader
indicates most, likely not geared towards those of the Gourmet magazine.
3

I think the intended audience could have those who eat and prepare lobster.
Not necessary to make them stop eating lobster but to get them to think big
picture on how we treat animals and yes people that we deem to not be on the
same status.

4 Another way you showed his audience maybe for the occasional lobster eater is
how he used he described those eating and cooking the lobsters as normal
everyday people not chefs or some horrible monster. By doing this he opened
it up to a larger audience.

5 I think Wallace had a younger more liberal audience in mind I dont think hes
an activist but he does reference PETA many times throughout his essay.

Search the text for one sentence that stands out to you. What is it
about this particular sentence that grabs your attention, makes you
think, or makes it great? Is it the word choice? The Rhythm?
Something else? Explain in detail and get my help if you need
assistance putting it into words.
One sentence in particular that really seemed to grab my attention was the
description that Wallace gave on page 263. Try to image be a Nebraska beef
festival at which part of the festivities is watching the trucks pull up and live cattle
get driven down the ramp and slaughtered right there on the worlds largest killing
floor or something- theres no way. I think the bluntness and image this created
caught my attention, and it makes this sentence great sentence. Words like
slaughtered and Worlds largest killing floor are extremely descriptive and really
make the situation and image be put into your head. I think the big part of this
sentence is the shock value, everyone seems to be okay with hundreds of lobsters
being cooked alive in front of everyone, but slaughter cows in front of everyone for
a BBQ and nobody will be able to eat beef again. This comparison makes the
reader stop and think about the differences and the lack or really the lack of them.

This essay can be broken down into two sections. The main idea of the
second section contrasts two points of view about lobsters. What are
they? Sum up the main idea in your own words here.
Wallace writes about how the city council and many other feel that lobsters
dont feel real pain, the second opinion is that lobsters are capable of feeling
pain. In the first section, Wallace explains the anatomy of the lobster, outlining a
lobsters nervous system, and how many use this to argue that lobsters are
incapable of feeling pain. He then goes into the argument that lobsters can feel
and pain, Wallace then describes what happens as lobsters are put into a boiling
pot of water as they try and cling to the container as if trying to escape. He points
out that this that such behavior would indicate that the lobsters do in fact to feel
pain, and would attempt to save themselves just like any person would.

What is the LOGIC (be as specific as possible) governing the order of


paragraphs in this section?
The logic that Wallace used to organizing his essay came across to me at first
as deceptive. I say this because I felt when first reading the essay that it was about
a lobster festival in Main. Thinking critically about the writing I understand this was
a genius way to set the stage about the lobsters and if the can or cannot fee pain.
He first described the nervous system of the lobster, this painted the picture of the
lobster for reader. He does share the perspective of the Main Lobster council: The
nervous system of a lobster is in fact most similar to the nervous system of a
grasshopper. It is decentralized with no brain. There is no cerebral cortex, which in
humans is the area of the brain that gives the experience of pain. This brings a
small hope to the reader that the lobster does not feel pain. But then he
transitions into the descriptions of what happens when lobsters are placed in
boiling pots of water and struggle and fight the lobster gives to stay out of the
boiling water just like a human would. This picture Wallace creates for the reader
contradicts the Lobster council theory and gives the idea that lobsters do in fact
feel pain. By forming his essay this way, he makes it almost impossible to see
lobsters as mindless sea grasshoppers.

Name 5 especially colorful pieces of evidence Wallace uses throughout


this essay. Make sure you note the page number where you found
each piece of evidence.
1. Even if you cover the kettle and turn away, you can usually hear the cover
rattling and clanking as the lobster tries to push it off. Page 264
2. Or the creatures claws scraping the sides of the kettle as it thrashes
around. Page 264
3. A blunter way to say this is that the lobster acts as if its in terrible pain,
causing some cooks to leave the kitchen altogether and to take one of those
little lightweight plastic oven timers with them into another room and wait until
the whole process is over. Page 264

4. However stuporous the lobster is from the trip home, for instance, it tends
to come alarmingly to life when placed into the boiling water. Page 264
5. Try to image be a Nebraska beef festival at which part of the festivities is
watching the trucks pull up and live cattle get driven down the ramp and
slaughtered right there on the worlds largest killing floor or something- theres
no way. Page 263

What does this (^) evidence prove for Wallace and the purpose of this
essay?
By describing each detail of what the lobster goes through, Wallace was able
to appeal to the emotions of the reader. Reading the phrases made it hard not to
get the image of the lobster boiling to death out of my head. Im not sure if part of
his idea was to stop people from eating lobster, but I do think he was trying to get
the reader to critically think about the way we treat everything that we believe to
be inferior to us. As mentioned before, Wallaces tone certainly seemed to be
thought provoking. By using descriptive language, he definitely was able to
accomplish this.

Does Wallace think this democratization is a good thing or a bad thing?


Explain why you think so.
I would say based off his statements on Lobster Festival. He describes a nauseating
festival that is hot, noisy, and overcrowded. He talks about having to use Styrofoam that is
used to serve food and coffee, and the fact that the utensils are plastic to eat lobster that
dont work. By all of this I would say he despises the environment and the culture
surrounding the lobster festival and would think democratization is a good thing

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