Growing up a certified nerd, I can honestly say I had my fair share of nights where I stayed up till the sun came up reading a book under my covers with a flashlight. No, that is not just something you see in movies. Although I shamefully admit included in this long list of novels is Twilight (I was a middle school girl after all), I can also say a lot of these books positively marked my life in one way or another.
Edmund Wilson once said, "No two persons ever read the same book."
If you want to get technical, I will admit that this isn't a "true" statement. Obviously millions and millions have read the same novels. But to me, this quote is truth. I think each novel presents a different lesson to each reader.
For me, the novel that hit me square in the face (for lack of better words) and altered the way I view the world is The Road by Cormac McCarthy. This novel is a relatively short one and only took me one day to read, but in its limited pages I was immensely impacted, which I believe is a strong argument for the importance of rhetoric.
The Road tells the story of a man and son left alone in the scorched aftermath of the United States gone up in flames. Alone in their fight, they try to make their way to the sea without starving to death, freezing to death, or being caught by the few remaining humans (who just so happen to be cannibals). The father has one gun with three bullets, and slowly dies throughout the novel. In the end, in his last moments, he is forced to decide if he should show his son mercy by using their last remaining bullet to shoot his son, or choose to be selfish by leaving his son alone in a world where he is sure to slowly die.
This novel, and this man's ultimate choice, completely changed my views on selfishness, love, and sacrifice. I used to think that love was black and white, and that if you really loved someone of course you would do x or y. This book changed that in me, and has made me view my relationships with people differently. So often I had selfish in my friendships and relationships and only looking at what would ultimately make me happiest, not what would be best in the long run. Sometimes, loving someone the way they deserve requires hard decisions and pain to you.
McCarthy uses only simple sentences with uncomplicated words throughout the entire book, and only refers to the man and boy as just that - "the man" and "the boy." No names are ever given, no details ever leaked, and readers are forced to only focus on the bigger issue at hand - love vs. selfishness, hope vs. fear.
Rhetoric and its impact on us is an interesting concept. I often find myself thinking that in order to be affecting by rhetoric the language needs to be sweeping and detailed and expressive, but that usually isn't the case. We are constantly affected by the tiniest, simplest pieces of rhetoric in our life. For example, I almost wrote this blog post about the song "Survivor" by Destiny's Child, which is only three minutes.
“You forget what you want to remember, and you remember what you want to forget.” -The Road
Link to the movie trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94KcI0gLq1A