Analysis of a Book Under the Stars: How America Fell in Love with Camping
In June of 2016, a book titled Under the Stars: How America Fell in Love with Camping by Dan White was published. Dan White is a journalist and author who has had work appear in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Backpacker Magazine. The Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post He received his Master of Fine Arts from Columbia University. Throughout Under the Stars, White expresses the issue of societies tendencies to constantly keep people going and moving for productivity and the purpose is to address this issue by sharing the experience of silence with his readers.
Whites primary claim is that society is very fast paced and high production which makes it hard for people to slow down and take a moment to relax. He supports this claim by making a secondary claim- the loud noises of every day life completely drown out the silence that can ease and relax the mind. White seems to have a complete distaste for civilization and the issue that societies pressure causes him to keep moving instead of stopping to relax, he supports this claim with how important he thinks silence is, “silent as in all the wildlife is stock-still, holding its breath. I mean silent as in the ‘absence of mechanical noises,’ including plane whoosh and generator hum.” (White 344) He explains these claims by making another claim that the camping trips are not just used for escaping but for disrupting life’s loud and busy daily schedules. White makes statements throughout his writings to support and connect back to these claims. The target audience suggested in this piece would be younger, American citizens possibly suffering with mental health issues, with experience and an interest in hiking and camping, possibly just in the Seattle, Washington area. These readers would most likely have quite a lot in common with the narrator due to them having the interest in nature and needing an escape. By reaching out and relating to readers with mental health issues, White could possibly reach the reader to convince them to take a break from their busy, stressful lives and go on a camping trip or hike in a forest or national park near where they live.
With these particular readers in mind the narrator provides multiple examples to support why he believes forests and nature can be very therapeutic not only for him but for anyone who follows his advice. For example, he says that nature is like a prescription and “even a quick glance at a photo of a forest can provide some mental benefits” (White 343) that he claims eases the mind. There are a few stated implications that the narrator is providing, if the audience decided to accept these implication’s they would possibly consider going on a trip into a forest to get away from their stresses, on the other hand if they did not accept the argument they would still continue to struggle with their mental health. His recommendations for his readers would be for them to find another way to deal with their issues other than immediately turning to a doctor for advice, White repeatedly supports his implications by saying, “Tom the therapist is helping, but I have to keep coming back for more, every other week, a junkie whose crack pipe is confession. Let me tell you what works for me: the Hoh Rain Forest on the Olympic Peninsula.” (White 343) If Whites readers decided to visit a forest or national park, like the one he references, this could lead to further support, reservation, and the creation of more national parks.
Whites purpose for writing would be that he’s trying to relay the importance to the reader of taking a break from their daily schedule to get a relief from their stress. The narrator finds the particular forest he visits better and more effective than drugs or therapy because everything he has personally tried has never worked him, he supports purpose with the first few sentences of this piece stating “I don’t go in for a cranial sacral massage. Hydrotherapy? Please keep your hose away from me. Melatonin, serotonin, Saint-John’s-wort? Happy pills merely bloat me. I’ve never tried Effexor, but I doubt it would have much Effect. Hypnotherapy makes me regressive…” (White 343) this shows that no matter how many therapies or medications he’s tried he never gets his escape like he has always wanted.
White has arranged his essay by starting out sating how he already knows many therapies don’t help his issues, then supports this claim with his most recent camping trip and explains all the sounds and feelings he experiences. He finishes this essay by digging into his past where he felt a “sense of erasure”(White 351) that he just can’t seem to get back to. He begins the piece with the most current issues he is experiencing as an adult and his trip because he can support his claims for this trip with a camping trip he took with his father as a child. He does this because it provides evidence proving that the trips can most definitely help but his relief is only temporarily.
The tone of the piece is hopeful, White is constantly trying and hoping to experience what he did as a child, the way he describes this exhilarating feeling makes the reader feel as if there’s a chance they could possibly feel that way at least once in their lifetime. He explains the feeling as his “life before the campout was an Etch a Sketch mess of loops and squiggles. It was as if someone had gotten hold of the screen and shaken it clear” (White 351) he has spent his life wanting and needing to get this feeling back. White uses this story to try to draw in the audience, being both relatable and personable, by diving into intimate feelings he had and still has, of a longing need to feel complete relief again. He uses specific word choices to build a pathos relationship with the audience by being vulnerable about how the forest and camping makes him feel and how he despises the loud drum of civilization, “following the same logic, making a stand to protect just ‘one square inch of silence’ in a beautiful forest can protect one thousand square miles from human- generated noises…” (White 346) He goes on to explain his distaste for civilization by saying how the silence of the forest still isn’t silent, it’s just a different silence that saying “yet the ambient sound was so loud it canceled out all negative distractions” (White 348) with this he’s trying to push the reader to feel a longing need to experience this special type of silence.
The word choice that White decided to use in A Dose of Enchantment further describe his despise for the city and its constant movement, noise and everything that comes along with it. A few words that stick out in the piece like “gag”, “vomitus”, and “sphincteresque” (White 349) are all words he used to describe the processed food that he brought from the city on his camping trips. Using these particular words to describe foods we eat in our everyday lives would also cause the audience to have a distaste for these items that he describes in this way. The unique shifts in tone further support his purpose of trying to convince the audience to give his therapy preference a try is dispersed throughout the piece, White will go from describing the forest in a very fond way to immediately shifting to tone of distaste for something that reminds him of his life and stress in the city.
Since Whites purpose in this writing is to describe his distaste for the city, begins the piece with a trip he is on to signify the importance of these trips, but a the end he supports this current trip with a story of a camping trip he went on with his father when he was younger and got his first taste of bliss and freedom that he chases, much like people who may read A Dose of Enchantment need this same escape.
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