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Matthew Cavaliere

AP Language and Composition

October 1, 2015

In the aftermath of a tragic event, ones interpretation of the universe may be modified.
This is precisely the concept illustrated by author Colum McCann; when he speaks of the morose
Upper East Side; when he describes of a desolate New York City, impinged upon by a horrific
cataclysm. McCann is able to to manipulate his audience in a way that allows for subconscious
concurrence with his own philosophy. Via violent diction, symbolism, and conflict, the author
conveys the idea that tragedies alter the way you perceive the world (while also relaying the
significance of an ostensibly normal occurrence).
The authors utilization of violent diction is prominent in the development of the central
idea. As McCann formulates the image of an unusually quiet and baron Upper East Side,
[e]verything felt honed down to necessary, except for one women who sat alone at an outdoor
table in a restaurant on Seventy-fourth Street. Now in this instance, this seems out of the
ordinary (ironic even), considering the circumstances, especially due to the fact that the woman
had just ordered a piece of cake, a collision of cocoa and flour and eggs; a celebratory dessert
in a time of grief. By using the words hone and collision, words having a naturally vehement
connotation, the author instills in the reader, a sense of enmity and loss, common to McCanns
rancor. This mutuality allows the reader to foster an emotional attachment, or sympathize, with
the author, therefore encompassing the reader. In this way, McCann is not only able to connect
with his audience and keep them engaged in doing so, he is simultaneous using his talent to
achieve another eect; forcing the reader to subconsciously arrive at the same conclusion as
himself, by way of common emotional anguish.
McCann also derives his central idea from the rhetorical device of symbolism. The author
feels as though at any other time would have just been a piece of cake. This statement alone
sets the stage for further questioning and discussion of the cake, by the audience. The author
establishes a sense of ambiguity for the piece, that can only be clarified through the visual
interpretation. This illustration of the decadent, rich two-layered chocolate dessert, undoubtedly
resembles the Twin Towers. This is no coincidence. The visual interpretation provides clarity to
an otherwise ambiguous scene. This seemingly simple dessert is in fact a complex abstraction
symbolizing not just the towers but a sense of the city itself, the desire, the greed, the appetite,

the unrelenting pursuit of the present. Through McCanns description of the cake itself, its
symbolic qualities, and the visual interpretation, McCanns audience can surely uncover his
distorted perception of a simple, sensual moment and realize that his language, not the
womans actions, gave meaning to the cake, proving that even he, when face faced with adversity,
can be born again with a changed outlook.
Lastly, the author uses conflict to further support his central idea. As McCann recalls the
event regarding the woman and the way she ate the chocolate cake, he states that he still has no
ideaafter a decade of wondering whether [he was] furious at the woman and the way she ate
chocolate cake, or whether it was one of the most audacious acts of grief [hes] seen in a long,
long time. By revealing this personal conflict to the audience, the author is able to establish a
sort of trust with his reader. This is key concept in the art of persuasion. As a result of this
established yet unspoken agreement, the author is able to convince the reader that the central idea
he has developed is irrefutable. Naturally, the audience will remain loyal to the author, in regards
to support of his central idea, as a way to appreciate his honesty.
Catastrophes have the capabilities and means altering ones perspective through
devastation. Colum McCann has proved just that. Through his eortless and impeccable use of
rhetorical devices, McCann has demonstrated his ability to eectively persuade his audience and
steer them in the direction of his choosing. Without McCanns proper use of rhetorical devises,
many readers would be frozen in ambiguity, without clarity, without closure, and asking
themselves So what?

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