Implying Pathos And Ethos In David Foster Wallace's Work

 Water you doing now? Many people do not realise, recognize and be aware of what they are doing. This is Water, written by David Foster Wallace, is a commencement speech given towards the graduation class of the Kenyon College in Ohio USA in 2005, before it turned into an essay. Wallace tried to let the class not look individually at the universe, but as one. David Foster Wallace is a mastermind for his essay writing, novels and stories inclusive of being an educator of Creative Writing and English at the university. The aim of ‘This is Water’ is to psychologically address the perceptiveness and realising the concern of awareness of others. It contains one of the most impactful truths and explains our complete blindness. David Foster Wallace criticizes the young society for the unconscious thinking and ignoring the priorities in the world.

First Wallace uses a small didactic parable-ish story with a humorous tone in his essay to expose the younger society for not knowing what actually is happening around them.

“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?’”(This is Water 2005, (line 6-11)

This small funny story demonstrated the lack of awareness for the real priorities, water in this case. Water is represented as our human blind certainty because we always believe our point of view is the absolute truth. Water is also represented as close mindedness. For example, we always think people who abandon their baby are ruthless and self-centered, which is delusional. Everybody can choose to think about it differently but it has become automatic that our mind does not give you a choice. You are totally imprisoned that you do not even know you are in prison in your own mind. In this quote above the younger fish have completely no idea what water actually is, they take the water for granted and automatically decide to not think. Wallace inverts the didactic story into irony to manufacture it as remarkable and memorable. The irony in the story is that fish live in an environment full of water and do not comprehend water. Irony makes our perception different and that is what Wallace tried to conceive. You get to see the younger community not knowing what is going on. The effect of this anecdote emphasizes the criticism of the lack of consciousness from our environment for the younger society, illustrating the younger generation uncontrollably does not experience and perceive.

Secondly, the setting where we live can make us feel like every situation is all about us and makes us more selfish.

“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.” (This is Water 2005 (line 83-85)

Wallace debates if it is more complicated for humans to be raised in a state of awareness because of the ‘’hard-wired default-setting’’. Our default setting is to be boorish and cavalier along with thinking every situation is all about you. Which makes you not consider that the woman who abandoned her baby might be homeless and want to give this baby the best chance. According to Wallace we believe the worst because we live in this default setting. Wallace believes the best way is to get out your intimate and familiar habits and look from a different perspective. The effect of this quote is empathy and compassion for the younger society. It may not be their fault that they were born in a life with crowded cities, global warming and frustrating dilemmas. It is arguably that the default setting of the younger generation minds could be the issue of the absence of awareness. However, because of the default setting the younger generation becomes more arrogant and self-centered. ’This isn't really about the capacity to think, but rather the choice of what to think about.’’ (This is Water 2005 (line 32-33) We can consciously choose to interpret differently, to give the benefit of the doubt and believe not everything concerns you. To believe the woman from the customer shop was not rude because she is arrogant but because she is overworked. The younger society believes that everything has to do with them while it does not. By saying that you can choose differently Wallace provides the young students a bigger perspective to look at life choices. Too little people decide what to think and that inclines the negative judgements from Wallace for the unconscious thinking.

Furtheron Wallace implies the rhetorical appeal ethos to provide credibility throughout his essay. ‘’But if you’re worried that I plan to present myself here as the wise, older fish explaining what water is to your younger fish, please don't be.’’ (This is Water 2005 (15-16)

Wallace does not want to convert himself into an authority figure. He wants to relate to his audience and be more connected than feel like he is better than others. The effect you gain is the development of credibility. Along with credibility you also keep the audience interested. Instead of dictating you he lowers his level and presents his aberrations to relate to the reader. “A huge percentage of stuff I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded.” Wallace notifies the audience that he is human and imperfect. The achievement of this is that the audience wants to keep reading because they feel a connection and the same as Wallace. So Wallace implies ethos to make himself credible for the younger society, so they start to indeed admit the lack of conscious thinking.

Next, not only Wallace presents ethos but also adopts pathos to attach, inspire and associate to the audience. Wallace was furious that a car cut him off in traffic and immediately felt anger running through his body. Nonetheless Wallace decides to look differently and react in a positive view“ Maybe being driven by a father whose little child is hurt or sick in the seat next to him, and he’s trying to rush to the hospital, and he’s in a way bigger, more legitimate hurry than I am.” By making it personal and realistic you pull out the hearts of your audience and increase the impact. In this significant occasion you instantly feel the empathy and compassion for the boy and you want to look the same. Wallace persuades the audience into living a life with a positive perspective and being aware of where you are.

To conclude it is clearly evident that Wallace wants to persuade the audience in this essay by implying pathos and ethos into living a life with others and making sacrifices for others. Wallace advocates living centred and not as individuals and that is why Wallace criticizes the younger generation for the lack of attention in comatose thinking. Through our default setting and choices of thinking we incline our inadequacy and Wallace needed to criticize and tell this to younger society to let them know and from now on be aware of their thinking.  

07 July 2022
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