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The Rhetorical Analysis of “Consider the Lobster” by David Foster Wallace

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    In an 2004 article for Gourmet Magazine titled “Consider the Lobster,” David Foster Wallace uses his visit to the Maine Lobster Festival as a vehicle fefor questioning the ethics of eating lobster. He provides the reader with factual reasons and definitions to make thought of absentmindedly harming animals (particularly lobsters) for the sake of satisfying one’s palate. In the article, he begins by acknowledging the history of the lobster and he discusses more scientific information about the lobster. The article mainly refers to why the Maine Lobster Festival is an annual-large crowd drawing event. The main arguments that are presented causes the reader to question the seemingly unethical way lobster is prepared before consumption.

    Wallace uses imagery to make the reader relate to the disturbing reactions of the Lobster when submerged into boiling water. Humans can relate to: “…clinging to the side of the container’s sides or even to hook its claws over the kettle’s rim like a person trying to keep from going over the edge of a roof”…The image that is created in the reader’s mind is quite disturbing and it really provokes a lot of thought and consideration. No one really knows if lobsters feel pain, but their reaction to boiling water is certainly something that needs to be looked upon. The human alike would act similarly with possible screams due to suffering and distress. Another violent image Wallace uses to appeal to pathos through his statement: “watching the fresh- caught lobsters pile over one another, wave their wobbled claws impotently, huddle in the rear corners, or scrabble frantically back from the glass as you approach, it is difficult not to sense that they’re unhappy, or frightened.” This statement created a sense of sympathy between the reader and the lobster, the readers begins to get a visual of the reactions of a confined lobster while making the reader feel just as uncomfortable and vulnerable as the lobster. Wallace cause the reader to experience something that many have dared to consider- empathy towards a live being before it becomes nothing more than a main dish. Lobster either can or cannot feel pain… or maybe they just notice the difference in water temperature and behave adversely to the sudden change. Regardless of which side of the argument humans identify with , one thing that is sure for the lobster, it definitely reacts in a way that shows signs of distress once the water temperature changes. When the lobster is fully submerged, it exhibits behavioral thrashing and scraping as if they were trying to escape. This evidence shows that the lobster may be in terrible pain and it definitely shows sights of struggle and discomfort— which is something that humans would not prefer to experience.

    Throughout the article, Wallace states how he lacks ‘culinary sophistication’ and how he ‘is confused’ as to why people even consider mass tourism to the Maine Lobster Festival just to feast on lobster, Wallace’s essay is a very good example of the boundaries that are set when one is trying to refer to another person’s or to an audience’s own beliefs and ethics toward a topic. The main issue discussed in this essay was of the morality-of- boiling- lobsters alive and whether or not it was worth it even with the reasons of not knowing if the lobster can or cannot feel pain. Wallace stated that lobsters are most likely prone to pain in relation to other animals because of their lack of natural opioids, which are the mammal’ built-in painkillers. Wallace’s personal explanations and examples about why the reader should consider the lobster are of great details and influentials. A personal connection between Wallace and the audience causes the itself article to be taken into consideration seriously and the readers to really take the time to think about the things that humans do when it involves the cruelty of animals and the way we kill them. This article is based upon emotion and feelings, Wallace creates a mental image of the lobsters actions when submerged into boiling hot water. The lobsters suffering should pull on the heartstrings of the reader and could possibly cause them to change their stance regarding the unethical way of cooking lobster.

    The last rhetorical strategy that was used in the article was through the use of scientific research.. Many of the things that Wallace said was backed up by factual information. When writing an essay, I know that it is important to provide information that will move the audience. Wallace did a lot of research for this article and with the tone he displayed, he is not trying to stop the readers from eating lobster entirely, but is calling attention to the approach in how lobsters are prepared before eating. This article really affected my thinking. I have realized that there are many foods we consume in our diets that were once a living being and may have died brutally before becoming our main dish. For instance, the article mentions the fact that there are some foods called “lamb, fish, and chicken” Then there is beef and pork. What does this really mean? Does it have something to do with the way it was prepared? The way that people perceive or preference one type of animal over another? This really sinks in, I initially never thought of that. This article ends with comparing the lives of animals to humans. Which is more important? Can Humans live without the consumption of animals at all, and just rely on things that are grown such as fruit and vegetables?

    Toward the end of the article, Wallace states that it is the individual themselves are solely responsible for their participation in the Maine Lobster Festival and they can question their own stance of ethics/morals when it comes down to performing the act of cooking or watching lobster be cooked. Wallace’s evidence of the reactions of cooks walking out of the room to to being uncomfortable and maybe even feelings of guilt when they hear lobster clattering in the pot are also good examples for why people should think about what they are doing when it pertains to lobsters.

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    The Rhetorical Analysis of “Consider the Lobster” by David Foster Wallace. (2021, Nov 29). Retrieved from

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