Published Journaling Essay

2015 words - 9 pages

Most Americans, at one point or another in their lives, owned some sort of journal or diary or personal notebook. Celebrated American author and journalist Joan Didion, in her essay entitled “On Keeping a Notebook” comments: “We are not talking here about the kind of notebook that is patently for public consumption, a structural conceit for binding together a series of graceful pensees; we are talking about something private, about bits of the mind” (Didion 3). Regardless of appearance (pink sparkles or dark leather), identity of owner (philosophical college student or love-sick, pre-pubescent female), or frequency of use (daily or ‘no idea where that thing is’), journals hold value. They ...view middle of the document...

Through the journal, the author can transcribe events any way he or she chooses. A journal cannot recognize truth. It neither encourages nor discourages honesty. It does not demand evidence, multiple witnesses, or accuracy. One’s own words are the only requirements.
Are Woody Allen and James Thurber’s respective essays, “Random Reflections of a Second Rate-Mind” and “University Days” merely diary entries? Are they purely individual thoughts and inventions that harbor no universal meaning nor truth, so therefore can they be rejected without a second though? Upon first glance, the reader may think so. The essays do not seem to be particularly structured or intentional. The anecdotes appear sporadic and unrelated. But upon closer inspection, the reader recognizes that Thurber and Allen adopt a journal-esque writing style by the use of relaxed diction and comical tone to provide a deliberately casual atmosphere. This casual atmosphere, the result of this journaling technique, emphasizes through sharp contrast the serious, rather dismal, and devastating theses proposed by the individual authors.
In his book Process, Form, and Substance: A Rhetoric for Advanced Writers, Richard M. Coe writes of tone: “It gives readers a sense of the writer as person. Your readers’ sense of who you are – and thus of whether they ought to trust you, believe what you say, respect your conclusions -- depends very much on the stylistic choices you make” (Coe 207). As early as his title, “Random Reflections of a Second-Rate Mind,” Woody Allen attempts to convince his readership that his writings are nothing more than personal considerations and therefore not to be taken seriously. He does this through diction and tone.
Allan’s diction directly contributes to the offhand and familiar atmosphere of his essay. His choice of verbs peppered throughout the paper, such as “gutted and muttering,” “off and running,” “pandering” and “waffling,” make his piece witty and informal (Allen 653 – 657). Phrases such as “emaciated zombie” and “mindless sybarite” to describe Holocaust survivors and Adam from the Garden of Eden are examples of hyperbole (Allen 652; 654). Choppy asyndeton sentences such as “But she did it anyway. But why? To see what?”, “Talk about cognitive dissonance!” and “How they misunderstood me!” also contribute to the conversational style. “We’re talking here…,” “After all, you know…,” “What could be more awful than, say…,” “Incidentally, I’m well aware…,” “…despite what my Uncle Max says,” and “So what was my point before I digressed? Oh …,” (653) are vernacular phrases never to be found in an academic paper (652-655).
Allen’s comic, conversational, and exaggerated diction parallel his tone. Employing polysyndeton sentences, Allen builds the momentum of his anecdotes to his amplify his point. He writes as if he rushed across town to inform his reader something very important and blurted everything out all at one. For example, in his story of playing dreidel as a...

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