Welcome to the Preaching
One may say that “At the Buffalo Bill Museum, 1988” by author Jane Tompkins is a timeless work that openly questions the morality of human behavior in the Western Era of American history. However, it is none other than a wordy diary entry. Tompkins comes off as snooty, conceited, and a bit of a snob. Throughout the essay, up until the end, Doctor Tompkins tried to force her thoughts down the reader’s throats. Tompkins attempt to explore with the reader quickly turns into 13 pages of preaching her own ideas. Perhaps, however, I am not the best judge of her essay.
I was not entertained by her writing, but given her audience are most likely other professors or English scholars she did cover Ed Weathers Rules well. What do we mean by explore when we talk about doing so as a purpose for a writing piece? Tompkins is attempting to grab the readers hand and pull them through the doors of these museums. Conversation comes to mind when reading this essay. The author is giving the reader food for thought and we as readers are supposed to make up our own minds as to what we think about a picture, painting, sculpture, etc.
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This idea of answering questions brought to you by Doctor Tompkins is shown here in reference to a painting of a horse that appears to be bound in some cruel way, “His First Lesson. Whose? And what lesson, exactly? How to stand still when terrified? How not to break away when they come at you with strange instruments? How to be obedient? How to behave? ” (Tompkins 415). To a person like me these questions are no more than wasted lines, however, to the intended audience these questions fuel the mind to continue to be engaged in the essay.
What ruined my ability to read this essay with enthusiasm is specific to page 416 when she says, “They are imperialist and racist; they glorify war and the torture of killing animals,” (416). Opinion is what this description of a Remington painting is. To me as a reader I find this opinion pig headed and intolerant of our American history. There was no glorification of animal death or intentional racism. However she herself admits this on page 421 when she says “It was all bloodshed and killing, an unending cycle, over and over again, and no one could escape” (421).
Remington simply captured what he believed focused on the everyday life of the people of that era. Would Tompkins criticize a picture taken of African Americans being hosed off the streets in the 60’s simply because she deemed it racist? I believe she would, when in truth the picture is nothing more than documenting our past. If I am the core audience than Tompkins did not do what she intended to do. I was not willing to take the journey and explore the museum with her.
Unfortunately, I am not the core audience and because of this I would have to say that had I been an English Major and/or a professor I most likely would have found her use of questions and imagery very engaging. Speaking on behalf of that standpoint, then yes Doctor Tompkins achieved her goal. Her imagery is very detailed and it almost brings you into the museum with her which is what she was attempting to do. When describing the museum and what she saw around her she describes it as an “array of textures, colors , shapes, sizes, forms.
The fuzzy brown bulk of a buffalo’s hump, the sparkling diamonds in a stickpin, the brilliant colors of the posters,”(417). Tompkins goes on allude that the museum is like a “child’s adventure story” (417). Tompkins makes the reader want to be there with her. To me this is one of the only parts that I was grabbed by. My mind was sent to the movie Night At The Museum because I envisioned everything coming to life around me. The same feeling of being immersed into her world of vividness happens to anyone who reads this essay, some more than others.
Jane Tompkins writes her essay with a sense of conviction, as if she is making you listen to every word she has to say; this is possible by using the rules of good writing. Ed Weathers says that the five rules to good writing are; be specific, be concrete, be precise, most of the time use action verbs in the active voice, and that hard facts should be the backbone of a writing piece. In Weathers eyes, Doctor Tompkins is a splendid writer. When reading this essay it is found to have all five requirements to meet Mister Weathers qualifications of good writing.
Let us start with be specific. By be specific Weathers means there should be no generality in your writing. Tompkins maintains, in her writing, a continuous string of examples and descriptions for every topic she chose to bring up. For instance, when she brought up how well the museum was set up, she did not simply say the museum was set up nicely, but instead she said, “The whole operation is extremely well designed and well run, from the video program at the entrance that gives an overview of all four museums, to the fresh-faced young attendants wearing badges that say ‘Ask Me’”(413).
Tompkins decided to include all that she saw rather than a general idea of what was at the entrance. Be concrete is to give the reader a taste or touch or smell or some sort of sense when talking about what you see. As mentioned before her description of the Buffalo Bill Museum itself and its “array of textures, colors, shapes.. ” (417) is quite vivid and opens your eyes to see what she is seeing. Of all of the five rules Weathers put together, being precise is by far what Tompkins excels at. Weathers describes precision as words that convey the most information most accurately.
It is hard to pinpoint a few good words in the Tompkins essay because there are so many, but a few include “Sparkling Diamonds” (417), “Angora Goathide Chaps” (418), and “full of moral outrage” (424) Tompkins’s essay was a nine out of ten when viewing it from her audiences prospective. To me, I found it long and wordy. I cannot deny good writing when it is placed in front of me. Tompkins met all the qualifications of good writing. She was interesting, descriptive, and acted as a guide through the story. Tompkins exceled in bringing the reader into the museum and making thenm feel asthough they were having a conversation with her.