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"The Courage of Turtles"

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Michaela Behrens

on 18 December 2013

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Transcript of "The Courage of Turtles"

"The Courage of Turtles"
Edward Hoagland
Born in NYC on December 21, 1932
Has a stammer
Was legally blind
Lived in northern Connecticut
Lives in Barton, Vermont

His Sayings
“I love life and believe in its goodness and rightness, but I seem not to be terrible well fitted for it- that is not without writing. Writing is my rod and my staff. It saves me, exults me.”
“Words are spoken at a considerable cost to me, so a great value is placed on each one. That has had some effect on me as a writer. As a child, since I couldn't talk to people, I became close to animals. I became an observer, and in all my books, even the novels, witnessing things is what counts.”
“Our world is being destroyed in a quiet holocaust. It’s up to us to say what we have to say while we can still do so.”

Narrows in on individual turtles and incidents where he encountered them. He then compares them to other animals to paint a picture for all turtles, and then all nature.
To make people aware of nature and ultimately do something to conserve it before it is too late.
He is also indirectly criticizing the developers and water company in the Mud Pond Story, the artist and the arcade owner in the Penny Arcade Story, and the fish shop owner and himself in the Diamondback Story.
This piece is a factual and descriptive piece to paint a picture and move the reader.
Snapping turtles gradually suffocating in the mud (Mud Pond incident)
Little painted baby turtles stuck forever in their baby-sized shells (Penny Arcade incident)
An individual, small turtle abandoned under a pier in the Hudson River (Diamondback incident)
Paragraph 1-3 are very factual. Paragraph 6-7 very descriptive. The end gets more into a narrative, and is more memory like.
This piece is very observational and straightforward as Hoagland sets the scene, but leaves the reader to infer the meaning behind "The Courage of Turtles."
Long, compound and complex sentences interrupted by short, simple sentences to speed up a rather slow piece.
Long sentences: factual
"They pee in fear when they're first caught, but exercise both pluck and optimism in trying to escape, walking for hundreds of yards within the confines of their pen, carrying the weight of that cumbersome box on legs which are cruelly positioned for walking."- Paragraph 6
Short sentences: emotion
"What could be more lionlike?" paragraph 7
"Somehow there were so many of them I didnt rescue one." paragraph 14
Rhetorical Strategies
Personification of turtles throughout the entire piece
"humble creatures" (paragraph 1), "produce social judgments" (paragraph 5), "The timid turtles turn fearless" (paragraph 7)
"He is benign by nature and ought to be as elegant as his scientific name (
Pseudemys scripta elegans
), except he has contracted a disease..." (paragraph 9)
"He eats chicken gladly." (paragraph 8)
"Yet she will climb on my lap to eat bread or boiled eggs." (paragraph 10)
"...she breathes the way we breathe..." (paragraph 10)
"... they were creeping over one another gimpily." (paragraph 14)
"He was very surprised when I tossed him in; for the first time in our association, I think, he was afraid. He looked afraid as he bobbed about on top of the water, looking up at me from ten feet below. Though we were both accustomed to his resistance and rigidity, seeing him still pitiful, I recognized that I must have done the wrong thing." (paragraph 14)
Literary Devices
"They don't feel that the contest is unfair; they keep plugging, rolling like sailorly souls- a bobbing, infirm gait, a brave, sea-legged momentum- stopping to study the lay of the land."
"...his swollen face like a napalm victim's." (paragraph 9)
"Unfortunately, like flowers, baby turtles often die." (paragraph 8)
"Their organs clog up from the rust in the water, or diet troubles, and, like a dying man's, their eyes and heads become too prominent (paragraph 9)
"...it's like an old, dusty, richly engraved medallion dug out of a hillside." (paragraph 10)
"She can walk on the floor in perfect silence, but usually she lets her shell knock portentously, like a footstep, so that she resembles some grand, concise, slow moving id."
"If put into a creek, she swims like a cutter, nosing forward to intercept a strange turtle and smell him." (paragraph 11)
"... she pumps her throat ruminatively, like a pipe smoker sucking and puffing." (paragraph 11)
"...lurching about in those dry bins like handicapped citizens..." (paragraph 13)
"They were as dry as a heap of old bones in the sun..." (paragraph 14)

Presentation by: Michaela Behrens and Julia Barker
To get a new perspective and gain an appreciation for nature and help conserve it.
Ultimately, this piece is about the animal kingdom and conserving it, yet focusing on a turtle since they have characteristics that encompass the entire animal kingdom.
4 Truths & 1 Lie
Joined the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus
Graduated from Harvard
Worked in a pet store
Served in the Army
Wrote a book on boxing
5 Truths and 1 Lie
Has traveled to Alaska and British Columbia 9 times
Has traveled to Africa 5 times
Has received two Guggenheim Fellowships
Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters
Has taught at 10 different colleges
Has won a National Conservation Award
Not the Purpose
More like the Purpose
Written by: Edward Hoagland
Similes throughout the entire piece that compare turtles to many animals
"They can stretch out their necks like a giraffe, or loom underwater like an apocryphal hippo. They browse on lettuce thrown on the water like cow moose which is partly submerged. They have a penguin's alertness, combined with a build like a Brontosaurus when they rise up on tiptoe. Then they hunch and ponderously lunge like a grizzly going forward." (paragraph 6)
"...he bucks like a bronco. On the other hand, when this same milder-mannered fellow isn't exerting himself, he will stare right into the face of the sun for hours. What could be more lionlike?" (paragraph 7)
"While they live they're like puppies." (paragraph 10)
"Her plastron- the bottom shell- is splotched like a margay cat's coat..." (paragraph 10)
"She has a turtleneck neck, a tail like an elephant's, wise old pachydermous hind legs and the face of a turkey- except that when I carry her she gazes at the passing ground with a hawk's eyes and mouth." (paragraph 10)
"The hole closes over her until it's as small as a mouse's hole. She's not as aquatic as a musk turtle, not quite as terrestrial as the box turtles in the same woods, but because of her versaitility she's marvelous, she's everywhere." (paragraph 11)
"...sets off like a loping tiger in slow motion..." (paragraph 11)
"... she has the grace of a rodeo mare." (paragraph 11)
"But if an earthworm is presented, she jerks swiftly ahead, poises above it and strikes like a mongoose, consuming it with wild vigor." (paragraph 10)
More Rhetorical Strategies
"pike and perch" (paragraph 2), "poor puddle" (paragraph 3)
"idée fixe"- an idea that dominates one's mind especially for a prolonged period
"entombed" (paragraph 3)
"personable beasts" (paragraph 4)
"Nice prices" (paragraph 2), "boxes in boys" (paragraph 3),
"It's like the nightmare most of us have whimpered through, where we are weighted down disastrously while trying to flee; fleeing our home ground, we try to run." (paragraph 12)
They have the idee fixe of eating, eating even when they choose to refuse all food and stubbornly die (paragraph%-about alligators)

More Literary Devices

In paragraph 5 he uses the word priapic to describe the snake.
Priapic means pertaining to Priapius- the God of male procreative power. He uses this to contrast snakes with turtles- we usually don't think of turtles in this way. We also don't see them as valuable animals but with the paint on them people were more attracted to them but they still get mistreated as Hoagland shows us.
Full transcript