A Beautiful Piece Of Chalk Analogy, contradiction, and irony are some of the important rhetorical methods that many authors use to portray their ideas. In “A Piece of Chalk” (1905), G. K. Chesterton demonstrates his adept writing ability in using those methods as a means of appeal to convey that everything is beautiful and valuable in its own way. His piece of writing not only exemplifies the use of contradiction, humor, analogy and metaphor, but also succeeds in using relevant support and evidence.
Initially, the first rhetorical technique that Chesterton uses is contradiction. We sometimes hold prejudiced views, along with implicitly wrong definitions, towards the world. The author first states the falsifications, and then contradicts them by describing the simple, pure, yet undeniable beauty of those notions. Chesterton says about the white color, “It is not a mere absence of color; it is a shining and affirmative thing, as fierce as red, as definite as black” (133). In the process, the author is able to make his points emphasized.
Moreover, he notes in his essay that, “[v]irtue is not the absence of vices or the avoidance of moral dangers; virtue is a vivid and separate thing, like pain or a particular smell. Mercy does not mean not being cruel, or sparing people revenge or punishment; it means a plain and positive thing like the sun, which one has either seen or not seen” (Chesterton, 133). He continuously talks about the notion that people usually evasively understand as trivial and trite, affirming their grace and charm. Beside contradiction, humor also effectively contributes to his narration.
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In the first paragraph, Chesterton talks about the conversation between the narrator and the old woman. He came up to look for brown paper for his drawing, but the woman insisted on thinking that he wanted to wrap up parcels. Even when she realized his primary purpose, this kitchen owner still could not capture the value of brown paper to the painter (Chesterton 132). The author also uses humorous phrases such as “rationale of the existence of brown paper,” “beyond my mental capacity,” and “she offered to overwhelm me with note-paper” (Chesterton 132).
He dwells on the misunderstanding of the woman, as well as the misconception that many people hold about the little but useful materials around them. In addition, Chesterton says in the last paragraph that, “Imagine a man in the Sahara regretting that he had no sand for his hour-glass. Imagine a gentleman in mid-ocean wishing that he had brought some salt water with him for his chemical experiments” (134). The narrator states two examples, where people hilariously trick themselves in two simple and obvious situations, to ridicule himself of something that he has just realized to be similar.
Added to an effective use of contradiction and humor, Chesterton’s “A Piece of Chalk” is an exemplary use of analogy and metaphor. He talks about his attitude towards brown paper, “I then tried to explain the rather delicate logical shade, that I not only liked brown paper, but liked the quality of brownness in paper, just as I like the quality of brownness in October woods, or in beer” (Chesterton, 132). One cannot judge things by their mere look or use, but has to really look into them.
Their essences, which were deliberately brought by their creators, are just unique as the passion and devotion of their creators. Similarly, the author says about the old poets, “They preferred writing about great men to writing about great hills; but they sat on the great hills to write it. They gave out much less about Nature, but they drank in, perhaps, much more. They painted the white robes of their holy virgins with the blinding snow, at which they had stared all day” (133). The old poets not only care and appreciate nature, but also capture it successfully in their own works.
In addition, according to his last paragraph, “[a]nd yet, without any white, my absurd little pictures would be as pointless as the world would be if there were no good people in it” (134), he compares white chalks with good people. And as he talks about using white chalks in painting, the readers understand the values and importance of the existence of good people in this world. In the last sentences of the essay, he says, “I was sitting on an immense warehouse of white chalk. The landscape was made entirely of white chalk. White chalk was piled more miles until it met the sky” (134). The use of metaphor here enhances his point.
By emphasizing how much white chalk is around him, Chesterton skillfully introduces to the readers a seemingly obvious fact that good people are easy to find in the Southern England. Ultimately, with “A Piece of Chalk,” Chesterton has proven that he is a master of rhetorical techniques. He develops his paper by using different rhetorical methods alternatively and altogether. The story flows peacefully and naturally, yet does not turn boring, because every sentence is a joy to read. Work Cited Chesterton, G. K. “A Piece of Chalk. ” 75 Readings across the Curriculum. Ed. Chris Anson. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2006: 132-4. Print.
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