Rhetoric in Holland’s Endangered Pleasures: Travel

Introduction

Barbara Holland’s Endangered Pleasures: In Defense of Naps, Bacon, Martinis, Profanity, and Other Indulgences is a critically-acclaimed collection of thoughts on mundane and unappreciated subjects. However, the wit and quick thinking turned the narrative into an interesting discussion about the small details of life to which most are indifferent. With the overall relaxing tone, Holland does not care to criticize the decisions of others; rather she criticizes judgment – something that limits people’s perception of the world and prevents them from enjoying the simple things in life. Chapter “Travel: Getting There” is a witty insight into the world of travel as most people know it today. In her rhetoric, Holland reminds modern readers about the minutiae of travel as an inevitable part of human existence and points out everything that is both great and not so great about it. In this paper, the chapter on travel will be explored from the stance of six rhetorical strategies that include detail (physical senses), diction (tone and attitude), imperatives, metaphor, syntax, and repetition of sound. By brilliantly combining these strategies, Holland develops a narrative about the peculiarities of travel and challenges her readers, who are used to new technologies, to share her sentiments on the beauty of traditional train travel.

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Detail

The appeal to physical senses aligns with the rhetorical strategy of detail in a literary work. It is used for transforming the written word into the basic senses such as taste, touch, sight, smell, and hearing. Through reading the text that appeals to the physical senses, readers can reflect on their feelings and perceptions of the world. For instance, when reading about the smell of freshly mowed lawn, one cannot help but remember the physical experience associated with smelling the fresh grass in real life. Thus, the device is instrumental in getting readers closer to the subject matter and making them invested in the narrative that the author pursues.

From the first paragraphs of the chapter, the author aims to develop a discussion on travel by using references to the physical senses. In the sentence “from a plane, the view often looks like the inside of an old mattress,” the device of simile is used to transfer readers to the time when they were sitting on a plane, looking into the window (Holland 88). The fluffy white clouds are usually bright to the eye and awakening, and, indeed, are similar to the cotton and feathers that could be found inside of an old mattress if one uses his or her imagination. Continuing on the topic of airplane travel, the smell and taste of “plastic airplane dinner” is also something that one does not forget, and Holland realizes this (88). She mentions this kind of food because it is directly associated with being on a plane, thus getting closer to her audience on a conversationally friendly level.

The detail in rhetoric is also traced in the author’s mentions of specific sights one may encounter. For example, “the giant circles in Wyoming – or is it Utah?” is a reference to the unique pattern of the land that one can see when flying over the area (Holland 88). Those who have seen the circles will immediately envision them in their mind while those who have not may research them to understand the author’s reference. The link to the sense of hearing is found on the third page of the chapter when Holland discusses train travel and the business and loudness of train stations. The author writes, “the hoarse cries of “Board!” still echo down the platform as they always have and tingle in the blood” (Holland 90). The sentence enables readers to hear the hustle and bustle of a train station in their mind and thus emerge into the atmosphere.

Diction

When exploring Holland’s diction strategy, both tone and attitude come into play. Tone refers to the use of words and the writing style intended for conveying the attitude of an author toward a specific topic. It is one of the components of a writing style; however, it usually changes when different topics are explored. Overall, through reading the chapter, one cannot help but think of the calming and relaxing tone of the author’s writing. For example, when speaking about train travel, Holland communicates her fondness for this type of travel by describing images seen through a train window: “a beaver dam in a forest in Virginia. The couple in a white convertible, stopped at a grade crossing, laughing. Sunset over Manhattan. Wild swans on a lake” (Holland 91). The short sentences describing calming images transfer the positive attitude of the author towards traveling by train, thus influencing readers’ feelings. It seems that Holland reflects on her personal experiences of travel, which makes the tone and attitude more real and understandable to readers since it is likely that they have had similar experiences.

Imperatives

In rhetoric, imperatives refer to the calls of an author to do or to feel something. The strategy is used as a persuasion technique and, therefore, can be attributed to the intention to get closer to the audience. Holland is quite frank in her observations and appeals to her reader as to their reflections. In the same way in which Wallace asks his audience to “consider the lobster,” Holland asks her audience to think about multiple things that contribute to the discussion of travel (50). Holland enables readers to “compare an overnight coach flight to Heathrow with sailing on Southampton on the Normandy. Compare the plastic airplane dinner or the highway hamburger with lunch on the Orient Express” (88). The use of the phrase “compare something with something” is the author’s way of appealing to hear the reader’s thoughts and thus illustrating the stark difference between traveling in the past and today. She proceeds with imperatives when reminiscing about old-fashion train travel: “ask anyone old enough to remember the glitter and jingle of the dining car […] with a flower in the vase and the world clicking by outside” (Holland 90). The author’s imperatives contribute to the paradigm shift significantly as they are linked to concrete experiences and allow drawing conclusions about the world.

Metaphor

In addition to imperatives, the use of metaphors in Holland’s “Getting There” is a significant contributor to persuading the audience to agree with her attitudes. In literary writing, the impact of metaphors is vast and includes the creation of vivid imagery for readers, the transfer of emotional content from phenomena that are generally understood to phenomena that are less understood, the revitalization of traditional phrases and words with new meanings, as well as many more (Jaworska 162). Holland is not shy about the use of metaphors and inserts them into the writing to make it brighter and more impressive. She writes, “the flicker of travelers’ faces,” “remember the glitter and jingle of the dining car […] and the world clicking by” (Holland 90).

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These metaphors underline the peaceful and desirable environment of train travel. It is evident that the author is fond of this method of “getting there” and wants to transfer her warm feelings to her readers. Holland proceeds, “even gritty industrial slums quiver with meaning. Every train-traveler has packets of sharply remembered mental snapshots […] Everything from a train window has the feverish reality we yearn for when we travel” (91). These quotes facilitate further the attempts to persuade readers of the beauty of riding trains. The reference to memories as mental snapshots appeals to the audience’s experiences and feelings that can add to the persuasion technique. It is clear that the mentioned metaphors are all applied to traveling by train, which solidifies Holland’s intentions to ensure that her readers agree with its positive aspects.

Syntax

While syntax refers to the grammatical structure of sentences, it still can be used as a rhetorical strategy for facilitating a paradigm shift. When reading “Getting There,” it becomes clear that the author places syntactical emphasis on the first part of sentences. For instance, Holland writes, “by land, trains are the best way to travel […]. From a plane, the view […]” (88). The comparison between land and plane travel is evident as the writer intentionally uses the same syntactical structure in sentences located in two separate paragraphs. Similarities in structure continue in sentences “except for the idle rich and the busy executive. […] Except on Air France, the food seems like a form of punishment” (Holland 89). The identical grammatical structure in the first parts of the consecutive sentences furthers the emphasis on the author’s feelings about the topic.

Syntax also plays an important role in defining Holland’s writing style and the overall relaxing tone of the chapter. Short adverbial or noun clauses placed at the beginning of sentences set the mood for what the writer is planning to explore, as seen from the following examples: “bulleting down the road, there’s nothing to see […] Some places allow billboards, and these are a glad relief […]” (Holland 90). Furthermore, Holland utilizes short sentences that bear a stronger meaning than long ones could have had. Such sentences as “A beaver dam in a forest in Virginia […] Sunset over Manhattan. Wild swans on a lake […]. It seemed, urgently, supernaturally real. It still does” both serve as descriptions of the author’s positive attitudes while also highlighting a syntactical structure (Holland 91).

Repetition of Sound

Repetition of sound, which is also referred to as literary consonance and assonance, depending on the type, refers to a stylistic literary device used for directing readers’ attention at specific words and sounds. In Holland’s rhetorical strategy, repetition of sound is among the author’s style components and thus adds to the intention of making arguments that will inevitably influence readers’ perspectives. The author’s repetitions can be rather attributed to the device of epiphora (epistrophe), which is defined as the successive use of the same words in clauses. At the very beginning of the chapter, such repetitions are evident and serve as a reminder of the author’s style and ultimate intentions. In the phrase “less interesting and much less fun,” the wordless is a simple but unique combination of sounds, the repetition of which pushes the very message of the argument: while in the past travel took more time, it brought the sense of adventure that modern solutions fail to offer (Holland 88). It is remarkable that Holland is not afraid of sound repetition in her rhetoric, which makes the writing similar to conversations people have every day: “we always vow to pack a lunch next time and the next time we forget. When we land, we’re still many miles from our destination […]” (Holland 89).

A slightly different type of sound repetition can be traced not through repeated words but through their components. In the sentence “they dawdled along reading signs for church socials and criticizing the washing hung on a line,” the repetition of ‘ng’ is a visual means of attracting readers’ attention to the subject matter of the writing (Holland 89). Ending several words with ‘ng’ may seem unintentional; however, further examples point to the opposite. In the sentence, “bulleting down the road, there’s nothing to see […],” the same sound repetition is present, which solidifies the presence of the stylistic device in the text (Holland 89).

Conclusion

In summary, in “Travel: Getting There,” Barbara Holland appeals to the old traditions of travel and reminds her readers how great train journeys were. Touching upon the peculiarities of travel both by land and by air, the author brilliantly describes the minutiae of travel in a positive and calming tone. The key paradigm shift referred to her intentions to evoke positive feelings and make readers lean toward train travel as the most interesting and traditional method. However, Holland finds beauty in any way of “getting there” as her prose is filled with various rhetorical strategies that both define her writing style and strengthen the paradigm shift.

Works Cited

Holland, Barbara. Endangered Pleasures: In Defense of Naps, Bacon, Martinis, Profanity, and Other Indulgences. William Morrow Paperbacks, 2000.

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Jaworska, Sylvia. “Metaphors We Travel By: A Corpus-Assisted Study of Metaphors in Promotional Tourism Discourse.” Metaphor and Symbol, vol. 32, no. 2, 2014, pp. 161-177.

Wallace, David Foster. “Consider the Lobster.” Gourmet. 2004, pp. 50-64.

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