Critical Lens Essay


Whenever someone performs a task, he/she can labor over it
carefully, or do a rushed job. A student writing an essay
describing the causes of the American Revolution, or a
president proposing ways to end World War II illustrate two
situations where both simple and complicated ways to
address a problem exist. Writing a non-analytical response
to the essay question would be easy to do. Likewise,
dropping atomic bombs over cities, razing them and
eliminating many people would not be entirely morally
H.L. Mencken^s assertion that ^for every problem there is
one solution which is simple, neat, and wrong^ is excellent
for assessing the literary elements in two works: Fences by
August Wilson and Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson.
Fences is filled with difficulties between characters, and
many of these were not reconciled in a proper manner. One
problem involved Cory, a high school student and his
father, Troy. Cory, an accomplished football player wanted
to focus on his team and play in college. However, his
father was against Cory^s goals, insisting he prioritize
his work and house chores over the football. Ordinarily,
there is nothing wrong with a parent making major decisions
for his/her children, but in this case, Troy^s solution to
the problem was simply to go behind Cory^s back and revoke
his membership on the team. Going behind one^s back is an
easy way out of resolving a problem^the person was plainly
too indolent to spend the time to find a more mutually
acceptable solution.
Troy^s demeanor is unacceptable not only with Cory, but
also with other characters in the book. For example, when
Lyons asks him for a small amount of money, Troy creates a
big scene, detailing problems he had had in the past with
getting credit, such as paying for furniture through
ten-dollar monthly installments. It is clear that Troy is
rather selfish, for he tries to keep what little amount of
money he has for himself. In Snow Falling on Cedars,
readers observe different types of problems.
While those in Fences tend to be between two people, those
in Guterson^s book usually involve a large group of people,
often the entire town of San Piedro. The principal question
throughout the novel centers around who killed Carl Heine.
The entire town seems to show prejudice against Kabuo,
primarily because he is Japanese. This prejudice is obvious
even in affairs unrelated to Kabuo^s trial.
In a descriptive paragraph about life in San Piedro,
readers learn that Japanese workers at the Port Jefferson
mill were referred to as ^Jap Number 1, Jap Number 2, Jap
Number 3, Japan Charlie, Old Jap Sam^ and so on (75).
Actually, Japanese people are curtly referred to as ^Japs^
throughout the entire story. One of the most poignant parts
of the book describes in meticulous detail the setup of the
Japanese internment camps. The United States in confining
the Japanese was executing a simple, neat, and wrong !
solution, since it really had no justification for doing so
besides fear of Japanese spies with World War II. Looking
at literature from different viewpoints can be very
interesting. Instead of analyzing tone, style, diction, and
plot elements as in traditional English papers, in a
critical lens essay, one searches through the works trying
to find ways they can be interpreted through a specified
perspective. Not only is literature studied, but also the
A positive consequence is that it becomes easier to
integrate outside information into a critical-lens style
essay. One can select various applications to real life,
ranging from important decisions of a country in foreign
policy to how to approach a writing task can be in order to
strengthen the piece.

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