First and foremost, I’d like to begin this post by saying that I am a proud vegetarian. I don’t mean that in a boastful or condescending way, though it likely feeds into what one of my steak-eating, rib-devouring, and seafood-loving friends says about vegetarians. His line is something like, “How can you tell if someone is a vegetarian or not? – They’ll tell you”. What I mean by starting off the post in that way is that because I’m a vegetarian Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace really resonated with me. I was surprised and happy to learn that a non-vegetarian was taking a stance for animal rights on the rather unusual platform of Gourmet Magazine.
The essay is written very well. I enjoyed the points that the author brought up, but mostly I appreciated his honesty. Wallace’s honesty and willingness to see the other side is what really sold the work for me. On page seven the author disputes his own beliefs and biases, willingly admits that he is not a vegetarian, and that he could be preaching a double standard. But he clearly puts all of this out in the open, and I feel this strengthens his argument because he addresses the other side ahead of time.
There are many strong aspects of Wallace’s essay but one that is done extraordinary well is the layout of the piece. The author is writing for a gourmet culinary art magazine in which the readers are expecting an article on how wonderful they will likely find the Maine Lobster Fest with its World’s Largest Lobster Cooker. Instead, Wallace decides to tackle the other side and write about how the readers may not find the MLF wonderful at all. He starts the essay by painting a mental picture of the festival with just a smidge of disapproval and the reader begins to understand that this essay may not be a raving review. The author then moves into the description of the lobster and the history of its consumption. The history is quite interesting and it is clear to the reader that the author has done a lot of research. He goes on to talk about how the Maine natives don’t seem so keen on the festival, and talks about the aged “hippy” PETA protesters presence there. Wallace then starts to dip into his main argument and talks about pain and how humans, animals, and debatably lobsters feel it. Next comes the part about cooking which the readers of Gourmet Magazine would likely be the most interested in. But again, this is not the typical Gourmet essay and Wallace very vividly describes the ways in which lobsters can suffer when “prepared” or cooked. He ends the essay with several thought-provoking questions, which I imagine (well, I hope) left a large impact on the Gourmet readers.
I thought that the essay flowed very well, and each point that the author brought up seemed relevant and tied in with pervious points. This made the essay easy to understand, easy to read, and impressionable. As I stated before, along with the flow, the authors willingness to admit his own biases and areas that he was not an expert validated his argument in my eyes.
On a personal note – I hope that the essay really made the readers of Gourmet, the attendees of the festival, and everyone think and actually “consider the lobster”.