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The article under review, “David Foster Wallace on 9/11, as Seen from the Midwest,” is a reprinted publication by the Rolling Stone as a tribute to the late David Foster. Rolling Stone published Wallace’s “The View from Mrs. Thompson’s” article to commemorate his death. According to Wallace, after 9/11, almost all houses in his neighborhood had the US national flag in the front yard. This was a symbol of patriotism. This paper is an analysis of the original article. It can be argued that “David Foster Wallace on 9/11, as Seen from the Midwest” is an exceptional article that brings out the passion and the spirit of nationalism. It is important to mention that the revised version of the work had a few changes to protect the privacy of the involved.
“The View from Mrs. Thompson’s” first appeared in Rolling Stone in October 2001. The article explains Wallace’s experience during the 9/11 terrorist attack. According to the article, the paradigm shift was evident as even the basic way of life changed after the said attacks. For example, the number of flags in the town increased as a show of patriotism and oneness. Wallace was indecisive about whether to buy an American flag or not. Failure to put up a flag would mean he was not patriotic, while buying it would be a mock of the national spirit he embraced. He did not want to be discriminatory to the “foreigners” as well. The paper proves that America has a sophisticated culture that can at times prove void and that the 9/11 attacks brought out the said issue.
Discussion and Article Critique
The theme of patriotism comes out very strongly in the article. The author states that he was initially shocked to see so many flags in his neighborhood. Whereas Wallace does not claim his neighbors were not patriotic before, he was shocked that one event would entirely change a neighborhood. Maxwell (2014) explains that after the 9/11 attacks, the reaction of the government affected the general reaction of the citizens.
Max (2013) agrees with this, explaining that the then government called for unity and oneness. The president and other politicians asked the public to embrace patriotism and to use the feeling of being American to pull through the tragedy. Indeed, there are numerous other towns that experienced the same thing as Wallace’s town (Parrillo, 2015). It can be argued that this was shaped by the political angle taken in response to the attack.
It is important to note that even the citizens that had not fully embraced the fact that they were American showed some patriotism after the attack. Wallace explains that his citizenship was a non-issue before the attacks. In fact, he had heavily criticized being American up to that point. Thus, failing to buy a flag and raising it in his yard would have been seen as an act of defiance. However, he still had reservations about the government. He later resorted to making a flag himself and puts it in his front yard. The statement brings out the theme of irony. Whereas he considers other people dishonest for putting up the flag despite not agreeing with the government, he goes ahead and does the same thing, albeit to protect his image (Wallace, 2014).
According to Sykes (2018), the article also brings out the role of the media in ensuring patriotism. Wallace lived in Bloomington, Illinois, where a majority of the population could access a television. It can be assumed that many of the residents of Bloomington became aware of what was happening on television. Watching other people in pain and also seeing how people in different parts of the country reacted to the tragedy brought on a feeling of togetherness that led to the development of the patriotic phase explained.
A lot can be said in regards to critiquing the article. Through the article, one can note that some Americans found themselves in a dilemma in regards to loyalty and patriotism (Comey, 2018). Those that criticized the government blamed it for the attacks but still felt the need to show some form of patriotism. Such individuals felt the need to remain true to themselves but were swayed by the innocence of Americans. Overall, a reader can conclude that America has conflicting and at times void cultural elements that were brought out after the 9/11 attacks.
In conclusion, the 9/11 attacks brought the American people together. Before the attack, the country was divided on political ideologies. These were set aside to fight a common enemy (after the attack). However, in so doing, it also brought out other cultural complexities that would have otherwise not been noted. For example, through the works of David Foster Wallace, it was clear that some Americans had conflicting feelings on how to deal with the 9/11 attacks. Where some citizens put up flags to show their patriotism, others did not feel the need. Again, some citizens had heavily criticized the government before the attacks. Thus, to Wallace, it would be hypocritical to show support for the government after the attack.
Comey, J. (2018). A higher loyalty. New York, NY: Oxford University Publishers.
Max, D. T. (2013). Every love story is a ghost story. New York, NY: Oxford University Publishers.
Maxwell. A. (2014). Murder at breakers. New York, NY: Kensington Publishers.
Parrillo, N. V. (2009). Diversity in America (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.
Sykes, R. (2018). The quiet contemporary American novel. New York, NY: Oxford University Press Publishers.
Wallace, F. D. (2014). Consider the lobster: And other essays. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.