essayComp - Park 1 Jennifer Park Textual Analysis WRT 102,...

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Park 1 Jennifer Park TextualAnalysis WRT102, Sec. 45 13 November 2007 VerbalBonding: Father-Son Pairs in “Ocean of Words”and “Motorcycle Talk” According to the stereotypes, women talk and talk, swimming easily through the sea of words, while men flounder, preferring concrete tools like hammers to the abstraction of language. Thomas Simmons' personal essay “Motorcycle Talk”confirms the notion of men having difficulty expressing themselves. Simmons recounts his boyhood experience of bonding with his normally taciturn father over the motorcycle his parents bought him. The vocabulary of motors and the stories of motorcycle-related exploits form a private language between the boy and his father, a friendly current to carry them through the difficult waters of communication. In Ha Jin's short story “Ocean of Words,”in contrast, two men bond over their common love of words. The main character, Zhou Wenis a young man in his final year in the Chinese Communist army during the 1970s. His fellow soldiers marginalize him because of his bookishness, a characteristic which takes concrete form in his treasure, a valuable dictionary entitled Ocean of Words . Zhou's determination to study creates an unlikely bond between him, the lowliest of the foot-soldiers, and Director Liang Ming, the high-status director of the post. Though they are not related by blood, Liang becomes like a father to Zhou, sheltering and guiding him as they dive together into the world of words. The pairs of men in “Ocean of Words”and in “Motorcycle Talk”come from very different circumstances and have different attitudes toward language. Simmons explicitly discusses the importance of language and of the motorcycle in his relationship, while Jin is more implicit, relying on dialogue and description. However, both relationships rely on a private
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Park 2 language, center around a symbolic object, and follow similar progressions. The pair in “Motorcycle Talk”is literally father-son. “My father,” Simmons' essay opens, “was not an easy man to get along with, but in one respect he was magnificent: he was unfailing in his devotion to machines of almost any variety” (Simmons 63). From the very beginning, the essay focuses on Simmons' father and his relationship with machines. Simmons says that his father “would encourage [him . . .] toward automotive literacy” (63)--a striking choice of words that first introduces the tie between motors and language in this essay.This tie becomes more explicit after the symbolic motorcycle arrives. With his “50cc Benelli motocross bike,” Simmons also gains: a new kind of lexicon. The motorcycle was a compendium of gears and springs and sprockets and cylinder heads and piston rings, which between my father and me acquired the force of more affectionate words that we could never seem to use in each other's presence. (63-64) In a sense, the motor-parts are words for the Simmonses; the motorcycle is their language, for it is the means by which they connect and communicate. Logical, then, that “almost immediately
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essayComp - Park 1 Jennifer Park Textual Analysis WRT 102,...

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