“This is Water” [Busyn]

In This is water, David Wallace speaks to a graduating class trying to keep the hundreds of eyes on him. He must do this without abandoning the genre of a commencement speech. The topic of genre can be a difficult idea to grasp, but Kerry Dirk manages to tackle it.

Genre isn’t only the type of music you listen to or the art you enjoy viewing. It is allowing an intended audience to have designated take aways from a message. There are stereotypes surrounding speeches that are challenging to avoid. No speaker wants to be the person on stage saying follow your dreams or be yourself. Everyone has heard an unoriginal speech whether it was at your high school graduation or on television. Due to that goal of not being cliché, a speaker must find a way to be both inspirational and original.

When approaching originality, there are 4 concepts to keep listeners from staring off into space. Be funny, relatable, engaging, and inspirational. When being funny, you don’t need to treat this speech as a stand up comedy act. Wallace creates a story in his book about two guys sitting in a bar where one of the guys identifies as non-religious, while the other prays daily. He explains how the non-religious character tried praying to find his way out of the storm. A group of Eskimos appeared and saved his life. He didn’t believe that God had anything to do with this “coincidence”. Some readers giggled while reading this passage due to the irony of the situation. This shows how Wallace achieved comedy without starting this section with, “Two Eskimos walk into a bar…”.

Accomplishing relatability can be a more simple notion. You must speak about a topic that many of the students have lived through or something that deems agreeable. Being both engaging and inspirational come from the initial topics of humor and relatability. Wallace was very successful in creating an ideal take away for his audience. He easily clinched Dirk’s conclusion for an ideal genre. 

One thought on ““This is Water” [Busyn]

  1. You do not need to have a works cited section. Although Wallace uses the word “guys” to describe the characters in the bar story (Wallace, 17), it is too colloquial for academic writing unless you are quoting him directly. Try to apply Dirk’s understanding of the concept of genre in your analysis of Wallace’s speech.

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