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“Perfection Is an Insult to the Gods” by Tracy Kidder Essay (Critical Writing)


Since the essays that depict the life of ordinary people needs to attract the attention of the readers to show the life of these people in full requires specific skills, the writers do quite a lot of work to make the picture interesting to those who are watching it. The whole procedure reminds of coloring a picture in the book to make it brighter and to make people see the all the colors of the rainbow.

The same goes for the short novel called Perfection Is an Insult to the Gods by Tracy Kidder. As Bank (2009) put it, “You can be creative writing nonfiction. Frequently, the techniques of creative writing are applicable to work of nonfiction” (10)

Kidder is trying to convey the main idea of the life of the people who are far from being refined and well-mannered, that is, the life of workers, the types that are usually referred to as Simple Sams, also possesses the element of culture unknown to the upper class and that watching the little pieces of happiness and tragedy of those people is no less interesting than reading a Greek tragedy or another classic book.

The ways that Kidder uses to make her idea explicit to the rest of the readers are quite numerous.

Of course, the first to mention is the air that the whole novel breathes with, or the style, to be more precise in the literature terms. It is rather lively and vigorous, though it involves quite a philosophic element as well.

The softening details that the author adds to the story have a mild ironic effect, which is rather strange trait for a text of this kind. The picturesque descriptions of the people and their feelings, the place and their job make the environment in the story almost exquisite. The elegant style mixed with the topic, which is the everyday life of the working class, adds to the humorousness of the situation described in the novel.

The characters are of lower class, which is not to be doubted, but their manner of conduct does not resemble the typical one for the people engaged into physical work. Whenever they speak, they do not use the specific words and expressions that are the attributes of the working class. Instead, their speech is full of various terms that sound rather vague to the one who does not know much about the carpenter’s job.

The choice of words is also very careful, for the way the carpenters speak does not remind of the way people of their profession usually do. After all, are there many carpenters who could tell about one of their colleagues something like “Alex is their cutter nonpareil”? There are serious doubts about that.

The rhythm of the story also contradicts the subject that it observes. Since any physical job involves certain tenseness, and is time-consuming, every single movement done without purpose is wasting the time. Meanwhile, the lead characters do not seem to hurry anywhere. They do their job rather quickly and with the air of business that floats around their swift hands, but he fact is that the train of the story is going at rather slackened pace.

This is the world of meditation and friendly talk, where philosophic ideas are welcome to be sounded and where the friends can have a funny chat while working. In fact, this is where the real borders the surreal, and the author must be well aware of this fact. She is trying to show the way those people could speak, and the way they might think. After all, although people can hear each other speaking, no one can yet hear each other thinking, thank Goodness.

The judicious meditations of the leading characters are amazing. They enjoy their work, they enjoy their life, and they enjoy talking to each other, so why not mix it all in a talk that they have during short breaks.

Indeed, as Rozakis (2004) says, A relatively new form of writing, creative non-fiction blurs the line between fiction and non-fiction by adopting the fiction writer’s techniques, such as creating dialogue, writing scenes from memory, and imagining scenes outright. (164)

The world that Kidder describes is the world of hard work, which the numerous names of tools and instruments are clear evidence to. All these “generators, extension cards, ladders, sawhorses, electric and hand-driven saws” make the tension between the life realities and the dreamy world of the metaphysical conversations tears the novel apart, making the difference between the gap between real and the desirable yawn in attempt to swallow the reality and to suggest the fable.

The ample descriptions of the lead characters create another gap between the reality and the world that the workers live in. The words that the author uses, all high-flown and rather passing for a description of a lyrical character than an ordinary worker also make the distance between the reality and the imaginary world created for the reader wider.

Kidder fills her characters with the ideas which one would have never suggested to reside in the minds of carpenters and the like. However harsh that might sound, it has to be admitted that the people who are engaged in physical labor are considered rather far from fine arts and intellectual challenges. Some think that workers make a good example of human machines for doing a good job. Kidder brings this statement down, sharing her vision of the world with her neglected characters.

Although philosophy and physical labor do not go together, as a rule, Kidder makes them coexist in the novel and creates the atmosphere of logical tension. As the story unwinds, the tension grows more and more until the story faces the risk of explosion. And as soon as the air is filled with the anticipation of the inner conflict coming, the author shuts the door to the story with the philosophical idea of perfection as an insult to the gods. The conflict between the real and surreal has been put out, and these are only the echoes of it ringing in the reader’s mind. Someday he or she will find the answer to them.

Reference List

Bank, R. D. & Glatzer, J. The Everything Guide to Writing Nonfiction: All You Need to Write and Sell Exceptional Nonfiction Books, Articles, Essays, Reviews and Memoirs. Cincinnati, OH: Adams Media.

Rozakis, L. (2004) The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Creative Writing. London: Penguin. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2020, June 27). "Perfection Is an Insult to the Gods" by Tracy Kidder. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/perfection-is-an-insult-to-the-gods-by-tracy-kidder/

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""Perfection Is an Insult to the Gods" by Tracy Kidder." IvyPanda, 27 June 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/perfection-is-an-insult-to-the-gods-by-tracy-kidder/.

1. IvyPanda. ""Perfection Is an Insult to the Gods" by Tracy Kidder." June 27, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/perfection-is-an-insult-to-the-gods-by-tracy-kidder/.


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IvyPanda. ""Perfection Is an Insult to the Gods" by Tracy Kidder." June 27, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/perfection-is-an-insult-to-the-gods-by-tracy-kidder/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. ""Perfection Is an Insult to the Gods" by Tracy Kidder." June 27, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/perfection-is-an-insult-to-the-gods-by-tracy-kidder/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) '"Perfection Is an Insult to the Gods" by Tracy Kidder'. 27 June.

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