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Transcript of Rhetorical Analysis
A Walk in the Woods
Bryson is on a mission: To hike the entirety of the Appalachian Trail.
gears the narrative toward nature and hiking enthusiasts, including potential or past hikers of the trail. As a
audience, he speaks to anyone interested in truly understanding the Appalachian trail in regards to history, biology and geology.
Let's take a moment to appreciate the idea of hiking,
as this term was non-existent before the eighteenth century. Walking long distances was for the sole purpose of survival and was associated with poverty.
We now hike for
Fia van der Lee
of Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiking Stories
ways to tell their stories
This reveals how accustomed Americans are to
comfort and convenience
. Coexistence of nature and society is slowly becoming less realistic as the gap between them gradually widens.
"In America, alas, beauty has become something you drive to, and nature an either/or proposition- either you ruthlessly subjugate it [...], or you defy it, treat it as something holy and remote, a thing apart, as along the Appalachian trail". (Bryson, p: 286)
Nowadays, the norms for hiking (or any outdoor activity for that matter) are like going to a party: you need to dress up...and a five dollar dress will not do.
"Are you saying, Dave, that I pay $250 for a pack and it doesn't have straps and isn't waterproof?" (Bryson, p.:14)
"So what are you guys eating? [..] Noodles? Big mistake. Noodles have got like no energy. I mean like zero. [..] Is that a starship tent?" (Bryson, p.:73)
The ultimate goals of "A walk in the Woods"
the audience of the history, geology and biology of the Appalachian trail (as there is little to be learned on the trail itself; blame it on the lousy maps and lack of information posts), to give outdoor
the impact of nature on humans and the impact of humans on nature.
Note that the title of the book is:
"A Walk in the Woods:
discovering America on the Appalachian Trail"
He discovers America again in a new light
The Appalachian Trail:
a Thru-Hiker Documentary
An interesting perspective: A New york State Park worker continuously sees Appalachian trail hikers come by. He got curious as to what motivated them to take on such a mission.
In contrast to Bryson's book. This video is shot
the hikers start their journey.
Bill Bryson: "A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail"
The Appalachian Trail: A Thru-Hiker Documentary
Long Life: Steve Fugate's Long Walk from Heartbreak to Gratitude
Bryson narrates his own experience on the AT
New York State Park worker interviews Appalachian trail hikers
Radio interview of Steve Fugate who used the Appalachian trail as a means of therapy
This video targets
hikers, whether they are Appalachian Trail veterans or are planning their attempt to conquer the trail (day hiking and thru-hiking). Their
audience consists of anyone interested in understanding the hiker's motives for the undertaking.
It seems people have different reasons for going out into nature for such an extended period of time: finally they have the
(unemployment, retirement), or they happened to read about it or see it on television. Modern technology and communication advances allow for travel journals and blogs to be read on-line, and everyone is familiar now with the "
" concept (perhaps after science revealed we can no longer sustain ourselves with such a large population). A lady talked about how she was reaching her 30's, so the journey was overdue. Not necessarily the best reason, but then again: does there need to be one? Modern times expect us to be rational at all times: where has our
A contributing factor to the widening gap between nature and society can be the
spread about merciless wildlife, like black bears:
"The typical black bear-inflicted injury", he writes blandly, "is minor and usually involves only a few scratches or light bites." Pardon me, but what exactly is a light bite? Are we talking a playful wrestle and gummy nips? I think not. And is 500 certified attacks really such a modest number, considering how few people go into the North American woods? [...] That's not because the bears have signed a treaty, you know. There is nothing to say that they won't start a modest rampage tomorrow." (Bryson, p.: 24)
Hiking comes with certain risks that people are not willing to take anymore as there is too much at stake (their jobs, their kids....o and their life)
the main purpose of the thru-hike documentary was
inform and advise
those interested in hiking the trail, as they discuss budgets, trail names and general plans. Another purpose is to show the variety of hikers, in all shapes and sizes, of all age groups, and all with different goals and reasons for the hike. The message is thus that no matter who you are, you can do more than you think.
Spoiler alert: Gypcgirl (the Australian women well in her 60s) made it all the way to Maine.
Everyone in the video is excited by the look of their
and their nervous giggles. This is of course because they have not started the hike yet.......
The video is made in an amateurish way: like a
. It makes the video much more welcoming and personal, and leaves the audience feeling connected to the hikers.
Love Life: Steve Fugate's Long Walk from Heartbreak to Gratitude
This video consists of photos that accompany a touching radio interview of Steve Fugate, a man who
used the trail as therapy
, after his son committed suicide. As a result, he vowed to help prevent other people from ending their life by carrying a
of of the interview is frequent radio listeners and those with particular interest in learning about hiking, suicide prevention, and therapy.
Steve Fugate went on a mission to hike the Appalachian trail and left his business to his son in the meantime.
Hiking on the Appalachian trail changed him: It was the happiest time of his life, and made new friends. As he was hiking, he got a phone call saying his son had committed suicide. He went home, but returned to the trail 9 months later with the mission of finishing.........and more.
He started to use the trail as a means of therapy. As he would cry and yell, coyotes would yell and cry back offering a listening ear.
When he finished the Appalachian trail, he started weaing a "Love Life" sign to cast light on the issue of suicide. He went on to hike from San Francisco to Delaware, spanning an appalling 4000 miles.
In the greater context, nature is generally associated with the
from society. A place that is unknown and out of ones comfort bubble can be either distracting or can allow room for thought. Hiking is seen as a relatively monotonous activity. So when combining simple muscle memory and silence, there is much room to think or keep the senses occupied. It is not odd that Steve leaves society and uses this opportunity to vent to nature and to deal with his emotions.
the purpose of the interview was to reveal the
wonders that nature can do for you
: especially for your mind. It changes your thoughts, attitude, behavior and thus your actions. It also
people about suicide and emotions, and gives advice on how to deal with these.
How effective was Bryson's text in accomplishing the goals?
Bryson's text was
in terms of his goals as he:
Appeals to emotions to describe the impacts nature can have on people.
In turn, Bryson appeals to emotions by describing, from a personal perspective,the impact nature can have on people: "I learned to pitch a tent and sleep beneath the stars. For a brief, proud period I was slender and fit. I gained a profound respect for wilderness and nature. I understand now, in a way I never did before, the collossal scale of the world. I found patience and fortitude I didn't know I had. I discovered an America that millions of people scarcely know exist. I made a friend. I came home." (Bryson, p.: 393) After this, the audience feels just as proud as he is. It appeals the the audiences pathos as this excerpt in particular, is inspiring to the targeted audience.
Contrasts past and present scenes to reveal human impact on nature:
" I have seen a photograph, taken at the start of this century, of people picnicking in a grove of chestnuts not far from where Katz and I now hiked, in an area known as the Jefferson National Forest." [...]The people are so tiny, ao preposterously out of scale to the trees around them" [...] "And it is all gone now." (Bryson, p.:172-173)
Uses historical, biological and geological examples to inform his audience of the Appalachian trail.
historical example: Centralia was a bald field because of the accidental lighting of the 24 million tons of anthracite the town happened to be sitting on.
biological example: The details about his beloved salamander, and the description of a wide variety of flowers and trees.
geological example: He speaks of the origins of the Appalachian mountains from a geological perspective.
Uses irony to give advice:
"To ward off an aggressive black bear, Herrero suggests making a lot of noise, banging pots and pans together, and "running at the bear." (Yeah, right. You first, Professor)." (Bryson, p.: 25). In this example he advises, in an ironic manner, not to follow that advice.
How effective was Video 1 in accomplishing the goals?
Interview style of video helped to inform the audience:
the answers that the interviewees gave provided helpful insight. For example, all people described a different length of the trail; thus indicating there is a discrepancy in regards to the length of the trail. Also the small narrative intro gave basic information about the Appalachian trail.
Home-style video and expressions of interviewees helped with the advisory aspect of the video:
The home style type video created a sense of trust among the audience, because it reminds them of their personal videos with family and friends. It is more likely to take advice from someone you feel a connection with.
the smiles and nervous giggles of the people being interviewed gave non-verbal advise: the smiles told the audience the hikers were hopeful thus indicating they felt the trail was worth it, whereas the nervous giggles indicated their anticipation of struggle. The audience was thus advised: Do it, it is worth the trip but be prepared for struggle.
The video did a good job of achieving the goals, but it was a more informal and amateurish interview process, thus some technical/editing improvements could have helped communicate these points better (adding music for example).
How effective was Video 2 in accomplishing its goals?
If we were to disregard the video -as it was originally a radio interview- then it accomplished the goals in a very effective manner
Steve Fugate appeals to pathos to reveal what nature can do for humans:
Steve Furgate's story was dense with tragedy; the audience has no way of avoiding the feeling of sympathy. Examples are the fact that his son committed suicide, and the audience even feels it when he walks along the highway with his sign and people flip him off.
appeals to pathos to inform its audience of suicide and dealing with emotion. If the story was not involved, and he would have started telling us about the tragedies of suicide, it would not have been as powerful as it is now with the story.
Furthermore the pictures in the video did help to narrate the story and further increase the emotional connection between Steve and the audience.