We analyze Wallace’s analysis on the morality of eating lobsters. (Image Credit: Flickr)
We analyze Wallace’s analysis on the morality of eating lobsters. (Image Credit: Flickr)

Considering “Consider the Lobster”

By: David Imposter Wallace: Make sure to read every footnote!

October 4, 2021

 

In September[1]Calm down, this whole article is satire. Please don’t take it too seriously. Or do I don’t care., Northern’s AP Language students spent weeks analyzing, highlighting, analyzing some more, then highlighting again, and finally analyzing and highlighting once more[2]The lovely AP Lang teacher, Mrs. McAllister, emphasizes the importance of highlighting, analyzing, highlighting and analyzing a passage. “Once isn’t enough,” she says. “Twice isn’t … Continue reading. All of this tedious work was squeezed into on one 5 page essay[3] Wallace wrote only one article, but he included enough information in his footnotes to write two.. What article do English teachers all around the country think is so worth the number of highlighters wasted? David Foster Wallace’s piece, “Consider the Lobster.”

The Summary

Wallace spends approximately five thousand words describing the “mid-level county fair” of the Maine Lobster Festival. He uses excessively long sentences  to create the imagery of a festival full of “styrofoam trays,” and “iceless… flat…soft drinks.” He brings his ranting all to a single question: Is it okay to eat a sentient creature, such as the lobster? 

One may think that after spending so many paragraphs investigating the question, a definitive answer would be created by the end. 

THIS IS NOT THE CASE.

His final answer: “I’m confused.”[4]With a scholar such as Mr. Wallace who spent a year researching the ethics of preparing lobsters, one may think that “I’m confused” is a pathetic conclusion, even lazy, Mrs. McAllister claims … Continue reading

To which all the students responded: “Us too.”

Neurological studies, analyses of the history of lobsters, recipes on how to prepare and cook a lobster, interviews with local residents in the state’s midcoast region, all to come to the conclusion of  “I don’t know.” What kind of conclusion is that supposed to be? If an AP Lang student were to write a seven-page opinion essay on a controversial topic and concluded without a final say on the matter, their essay grade would be lower than the original pre-test[5]On the second, third, fourth, and fifth day of school, AP Lang students took multiple pre-tests to attempt to prepare for the close-to-impossible AP test to come, resulting in most students, … Continue reading.

The lengthy and inconclusive essay begins with the author describing Maine using hundreds of words. That’s a lot of words for a state known for sasquatches and pine trees. Wallace was assigned to visit The Maine Lobster Festival by Gourmet Magazine, the magazine in which the controversial article was published. I’m sure chefs, and food enthusiasts love it when their jobs, eating habits, and hobbies are over-analyzed and insulted. He describes the festival as, “full of irksome little downers,” which makes him sound picky and ungrateful, almost as if he expected the festival to be a five-star gourmet meal [6] According to a very accurate Google search, the festival’s rating is 4 stars. If, perhaps, Wallace went into the MLF with lower expectations, he would have had a better experience. . Then again, he is writing for a magazine called Gourmet.

After the lengthy list of complaints, Wallace aimlessly babbles on about a bunch of scientific jargon on the anatomy and history of the lobster. In case his readers didn’t know what a lobster was, he defined the lobster using thousands of adjectives. These long paragraphs feel like [7]Though paragraphs don’t feel emotion, there is no other possible way to describe this thought. Also, this thought can not be argued against because it is a personal opinion, therefore by disputing … Continue reading  they were copied and pasted from a Wikipedia page. He explains that in the 1800’s, lobster was a “smelly nuisance” like DFW himself, and how they turned into a “posh… delicacy”[8] Dear reader, I know this is getting incredibly boring, Yes, my point is coming. Stay with me. . I think David is just jealous of the lobsters’ glow-up.

After more incoherent babbling and whining,  a new point finally emerges: Is it morally okay to eat a lobster?

His main question has arrived; however, he never picked a side. He looked at aspects of both sides, including a verbose analysis of pain. At this point, his opinion essay is lacking an opinion and is starting to feel more like a textbook-definition of analysis paralysis. 

Wallace continues his deep-dive of his “issue” through well-known sources like PETA, ethical websites, and a random cab driver who just so happens to know about the existence of the lobster festival. His use of facts and sources makes it seem as though he has an important point to make (he doesn’t). 

Despite having multiple paragraphs about how lobsters can feel pain and exhibit preference, Wallace appeals to the culinary audience by adding instructions on how to prepare lobster. Now, many of you may be wondering: 

“What the heck? This article is all about discussing if it is okay to eat lobster, and this dude is adding a recipe?”

Yes, however, you missed something. After admitting he lacks “culinary sophistication”, he provides recipes, plural. Multiple recipes as well as paragraphs describing with barbaric detail how to kill, prep, and boil a lobster alive. Every step is perfectly laid out for anyone hoping to ruthlessly murder lobster after reading.

 

The Response

AP Lang students felt deep emotions about this article. Himani Patil says, “The article made me feel hungry as I read it.” An anonymous student said, “the article made me consider dropping AP Lang”  AP Lang students report nightmares about clinging to the sides of East 20’s door and trying to scrape through the walls to escape. These nightmares are filled with graphic detail like multicolored highlighters, needlessly large adjectives, and excessively long sentences. Several have reported symptoms of “boredom”, “fatigue”, and even “irritation” while reading Wallace’s piece. 100% of the students we surveyed recommended the article, 100% have also admitted to responding that way to please their favorite teacher, Mrs. McAllister. The same 100% read every word of the article infinity times, including the footnotes, and do 5+ days of Membean [9] Membean (noun): a vocabulary program used to “teach students new words”. Students must complete 15 minutes each day for five days, which seems simple enough, until it isn’t. each week[10]On the shopping list of many of her students reads: “Some kind of flamingo memorabilia to become Mrs. McAllister’s favorite student”. (Figure 1) Avery Sablan warns, “The title doesn’t prepare you for the depth, it should be called Obsess over the Lobster”. 

Figure 1

 

 

After the month of agony, Mrs. McAllister rewards her students for reading the article about the rights of “giant sea insect[s]” by giving them plastic lobster necklaces that will one day pollute the same animal’s natural habitat. I’m sure David Foster Wallace would have many words to say about the morality and irony of that. All in all, it was only a sweet gesture by the beloved Mrs. McAllister. 

Students enjoying their lobster necklaces (Image Credits: Annierae Lang, Libby Kurt)

 

Not only have AP Lang students had strong responses, though. As of August of 2004, “Consider the Lobster” received a record-breaking number of responses to the article. Some readers thought that the article was, “…one of the most entertaining, well-written, and honest articles I’ve encountered,” while others thought that it was an “editorial diatribe on behalf of liberal organizations.”

What do I think? I’m confused. Those who say, David Imposter Wallace , you just said that it is stupid to have an inconclusive opinion. I know. That’s why I’ll leave it up to my readers to decide and send in the hate mail in the thousands. If you have a response, email it to The Howl for a chance to be featured in the next issue.

References

References
1 Calm down, this whole article is satire. Please don’t take it too seriously. Or do I don’t care.
2 The lovely AP Lang teacher, Mrs. McAllister, emphasizes the importance of highlighting, analyzing, highlighting and analyzing a passage. “Once isn’t enough,” she says. “Twice isn’t enough,” she replies. “Three times? Not quite,” Mrs. McAllister voices. We never got a definitive answer on the number of times she thinks is adequate for highlighting and analyzing the article.
3 Wallace wrote only one article, but he included enough information in his footnotes to write two.
4 With a scholar such as Mr. Wallace who spent a year researching the ethics of preparing lobsters, one may think that “I’m confused” is a pathetic conclusion, even lazy, Mrs. McAllister claims that it is full of “rhetorical moves.”
5 On the second, third, fourth, and fifth day of school, AP Lang students took multiple pre-tests to attempt to prepare for the close-to-impossible AP test to come, resulting in most students, excluding the savants, to start with a failing grade in the class.
6 According to a very accurate Google search, the festival’s rating is 4 stars. If, perhaps, Wallace went into the MLF with lower expectations, he would have had a better experience.
7 Though paragraphs don’t feel emotion, there is no other possible way to describe this thought. Also, this thought can not be argued against because it is a personal opinion, therefore by disputing it, you are invalidating the paragraph’s own experience. See, ‘Stop Saying I Feel Like,’ by Molly Worthen, The New York Times, April 30, 2016
8 Dear reader, I know this is getting incredibly boring, Yes, my point is coming. Stay with me.
9 Membean (noun): a vocabulary program used to “teach students new words”. Students must complete 15 minutes each day for five days, which seems simple enough, until it isn’t.
10 On the shopping list of many of her students reads: “Some kind of flamingo memorabilia to become Mrs. McAllister’s favorite student”

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    TheoJan 13, 2022 at 8:12 am

    loving this article you guys!!! Wowza–can we expect to see more in the future

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