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Bing Case

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The words "optimist" and "pessimist" need further exploration. In the above example, they represent the two aspects of Wallace's audience. Unfortunately, the words themselves are not a perfect fit for the duality of the readership. For our purposes, we will say that most of the Gourmet readers are probably in the "optimist" crowd, but they are also the omnivores typical of the Standard American Diet: they will eat anything so long as it is expertly prepared and tasty. The "pessimists" are the segment of Wallace's readership who are actually most receptive to his arguments. The reasons behind any particular reader's membership in this group are numerous: the reader may be a vegetarian, or opposed to the typical method of lobster preparation, or may just be opposed to commercial fishing and/or commercialized food festivals. The specific reasons are not important; what is important is that Wallace does not have to fight to keep this audience: he just has to keep from alienating them. It is the optimists for whom he must fight.

Wallace must tread a careful path in the opening four pages of his article. In this stage, if his language is too negative, he will lose the optimist majority, but if he caters to that portion of his audience too heavily, he will lose those whom he is most likely to reach. In the second paragraph, he continues to use neutral language and allow the readers to bring their own opinions into the article. He combines negative and positive language in a single sentence when he describes the Maine Lobster Festival as "less an intersection of [Maine's two main] industries than a deliberate collision, joyful and lucrative and loud" (252). Our optimistic readers gloss over the collision and focus on the joy, profits, and revelry. The pessimists find plenty of words to latch onto: "collision" implies a negative event, what is "loud" is often annoying, and even the mention of how profitable the event is will again fill our pessimists with feelings of capitalist exploitation.

Farther along, Wallace has spent some time comparing lobsters to various insects and spiders an referred to them as "giant sea insects" (254). He then follows this up by saying that "they are...good eating. Or so we think now" (254). He follows this up with a discussion of how the lobster was originally a cheap food for the poor and that there were even laws to protect prisoners from being fed lobster too often. Again, importantly, he refrains from passing judgment on either the old perspective or the new. It is left up to the reader to decide if the people of old were silly for failing to properly value lobster meat or if the modern lobster eaters are silly for not realizing that they are eating such a common food.

It is shortly after this point that the essay begins to change in tone. Having hopefully won the



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