“On Dumpster Diving” by Lars Eighner

Think about and discuss each of these questions within your group. Elect one person to be the group scribe (to write down your answers) and one person to be the spokesman or spokeswoman.

1. What do you think Eighner’s main argument is?

2. What do discarded items reveal about their previous owners? How does Eighner feel about college students? Do you agree with him?

3. Describe Eighner’s tone and style. Does he seem, to you, to be a credible source?  Why/why not?

4. What role does Eighner’s dog play in the essay? Why does he include her at all? How does this help the essay achieve its purpose?

5. List some fact or evidence based claims that Eighner makes. Does he back them up?

6. In paragraph 7, Eighner lays out the rhetorical direction the rest of the essay will take. Describe some of the specific subtopics he uses to accomplish his stated goal.

7. At one point Eighner states, “I do not want to paint too romantic a picture.” Describe his tone here. Where else in the essay does his tone reveal something about his attitude toward his subject?

8. By the essay’s end, we have a good sense of Eighner’s attitude toward material possessions. How would you describe his attitude? How is this attitude different from the attitude of other members of society?

9. Discuss the ending. How do you read the final sentence? Does it change your reading of the entire essay?




David Foster Wallace—“This is Water”

1. Describe DFW’s tone throughout the piece.

2. Who do you imagine DFW’s audience is for this piece?

3. What forces does DFW say limit our choice to think for ourselves?

4. Explain Wallace’s quote about “the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.”

5. Do you feel that this piece is in any way polarizing? Is DFW making generalizations or assumptions about his audience?

6. How does DFW make use of the rhetorical appeals? Focus on how he DEVELOPS ethos/pathos/logos throughout. Give examples from text.

7. How convincing is Wallace’s claim that none of us are atheists because we all worship something?

8. What is Wallace’s definition of freedom? Does it match your own?

9. Discuss the fish parable. What does it really mean? Why is that idea so central?

10. What do you think DFW’s thesis is here?



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