House of (Writing) Style, February, 2002
Lars Eighner’s Style in On Dumpster Diving
Analysis of On Dumpster Diving By Lars Eighner A.C. ’03
On page 15, paragraph 4, Lars Eighner makes use of sentence structure to make the paragraph more powerful. As usual, he begins with a long-winded topic sentence: I like the frankness… on an aquarium wall. Immediately following are two short, declarative, and shocking sentences. I live on the refuse of others. I am a scavenger. In those sentences, Eighner breaks from his scientific and intellectual style of describing his profession, being blunt about his seemingly demeaning position. The two sentences are followed by another long, philosophical sentence that is much less brutal, making the previous sentences stand out more. Paragraph 22 is another example of Eighner’s scientific style, which is extremely effective since he is continuing with descriptions of his disreputable profession of plundering dumpsters for food. Again, Eighner begins with his topic sentence. In it, he makes an assertion about the reason why students throw food away. In the following sentences, he supports his assertion by giving scientific facts about peanut butter and analyzing the thinking process of college students. The sentences are both objective and scientific, making it seem as if Eighner is writing a manual on how to Dumpster Dive.
Imitation of On Dumpster Diving A.C. ’03
I began wrecking sandcastles at an early age.
I like to think of myself as a castle wrecker. though beach bum captures certain aspects of my profession. Some common folk believe that I make my living by searching for quarters in the sand, which obviously is not my main vocation, though I do indulge myself in it on occasion.
I am not a beach bum or a coin searcher. mainly because the profit margins are too slim, and, often enough, the pleasure is extremely scarce.
I have learned that wrecking sandcastles is a refined art, one which is enjoyed by young children, angry adults, and the average jerk. I destroy the hard work of others. I am a castle wrecker. I enjoy doing it mostly because of the rewarding looks of shock on the faces of the structural architects, though I would hope to someday build my own sandcastle- only, of course, if I could destroy it myself.
Conclusion: A.C. ’03
Like a tennis player’s kick-serve or a basketball player’s fade-away, each writer had certain techniques that were well-honed and reusable in many situations. All had a set of tools that, when put together, formed the writer’s personal style. Eighner, McMurtry, and Jen all provided examples of these techniques, some of which I hope to incorporate into my own writing. Eighner’s use of scientific analysis, research, and philosophical discussions to describe living off dumpsters yielded a humorous, yet deadly serious piece. The juxtaposition of two seemingly opposite tones was made possible through his combination of scientific style and a pitiable subject matter, catching my interest immediately. Also, his alternating between long, complicated sentences and short, declarative sentences served to emphasize particular points.
Jen’s modest and non-sensational writing, achieved through consistently long sentences and common language, made her piece clear and understandable. It also forced me to pay close attention, since there were few topic sentences. She and McMurtry both made use of paragraph-lists, which served to build up certain emotions to channel into later paragraphs. Overall, all three had specific ways to catch and keep my interest, something I hope to achieve in my own style. Perhaps the most important thing I’ve realized from this is that there is no set equation for good writing; like trying to put together a cabinet, a writer needs to first select the right tools to use, and then figure out where to insert them. Once that is done, a style is born.
Footnotes: The photo of Lars Eighner is from: io.com/
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