Knowing that his wife is struggling with poverty in England, John Downe first tries to convince her to come to America by overwhelming her with lists of all the cheap food available in the U.S. In the letter, Downe also anticipates his wife’s concerns about emigrating, and counters them with reassurances about the journey itself and the wonderful life they will have if she joins him.
Downe opens the letter by focusing on the abundance of cheap food in America. He does this to contrast his happy life in the U.S. with the difficult one his family faces in England. First, Downe shares an anecdote about a simple farmer who invites him to dinner, and on the table they had “pudding, pyes, and fruit of all kind that was in season, and preserves, pickles, vegetables, meat, and everything that a person could wish” (9-12). This is a long list, with many specific foods mentioned, including the luxury of desserts, which makes it seem extravagant. It also includes the exaggeration “everything that a person could wish.” There surely was not “everything” a person could wish for, but phrasing it like that makes it seem as if there was so much food on the table that it was overwhelming and Downe could not even remember all of the specifics. Such a list would probably have impressed his wife, who would not have been used to such abundance. It becomes clear that they were poor and hungry in England when Downe reminds his wife why he left, saying, “you know there was nothing but poverty before me” (41-42), and how difficult it was for him to hear his children crying for food (44-45). If even a lowly farmer can afford such a feast in America, Downe implies so can he and his family if they emigrate. Downe builds on this idea by going on to list the foods that you can pick up for free on the side of the road, “peaches, apples, and all kinds of fruit” (15), and all of the good food people just throw out, such as “bullocks’ heads, sheep and lambs’” (21). The fact that Americans throw out any food is probably a shock to Downe’s wife, who would probably have difficulty imagining doing such a thing. Many of the lists also emphasize how cheap that food is. For example, Downe mentions getting “32 gallons [of cider], for 4s.” (17) and “100 lbs. of Beef for 10s.” (18-19). These examples mention large quantities sold for very little money, which makes America seem like a land of plenty where you don’t need to be rich to eat well. All of these lists are calculated to impress Downe’s wife, and make her see that they would never have to worry about the children going hungry if she came to America.
Having addressed the important physical concerns, food and money, Downe then switches gears and talks about the various reasons his wife might be reluctant to make the journey. He knows she has reservations, and that she might have heard some discouraging things about the U.S., so he wants to reassure her, although he often does this by exaggerating or downplaying the truth. First he deals with the rumors that there isn’t enough room for more immigrants. He dismisses this by saying, “It is a foolish idea” (29-30) and that “there is plenty of room yet, and will for a thousand years to come” (34-35). Since he is actually in America, and can see that “more than 1000 emigrants came in” day after day, his opinion should be convincing, even if it sounds like exaggeration. He also downplays the hardship of the journey to America saying, “You will find a few inconveniences in crossing the Atlantic, but it will not be long” (49-50). In 1830, the journey was actually very long and difficult and filled with dangers like shipwreck, sickness, death, etc. By ignoring these dangers and presenting the trip as filled with only “a few inconveniences,” Downe tries to reassure his wife that she can handle the little difficulties of the crossing. He also assures her that when she arrives, she will be treated well, since “America is not like England, for here no man thinks himself your superior” (52-53). This is an exaggeration, but probably nice for her to hear, since she is probably looked down upon by the rich in England. Also, Downe anticipates her concern about the U.S. being some backwater with no culture or style. He counters by writing, “There is as much attention paid to dress at any of the watering places in England. Out in the country where I have been you see the young women with their veils and parasols, at the lowest I saw. Poverty is unknown here” (63-67). It is unlikely that this is strictly true, but it is probably a relief to hear, as Downe’s wife probably cannot afford to wear anything very nice. The thought that she could finally wear such finery and not have to worry about money is
This is an 8. The thesis is strong, as is the evidence and the analysis. There is a good balance of evidence and analysis, and the analysis is perceptive and not repetitive. The writer finds new things to say about each example. The choices of rhetorical strategies is good—these are central strategies for Downe. The prose is clear and fairly sophisticated. The last paragraph is unfinished, but that doesn’t take away too much from the whole because what we do have of the essay is already convincing and well-supported.
In his 1830 letter to his wife, John Downe tries to convince her to emigrate to America by using lists, insinuation, and appeals to pathos.
Downe tugs on his wife’s heartstrings to get her to join him in the U.S. He calls her “My dear wife” and “My dear Sukey” to make the letter seem personal. He also says that “all I want now is to see you, and the dear children here, and then I shall be happy and not before (36-38).” This is a guilt trip so that she will feel sorry for him and want to emigrate to make him happy. He also says, “You know very well that I should not have left you behind me, if I had money to have took you with me. It was sore against me to do it. But I do not repent of coming, for you know that there was nothing but poverty before me, and to see you and the dear children want was what I could not bear (38-43).” These appeals to pathos make it seem like she should come to America to make him feel better.
Downe also insinuates that it would be easy to steal from Americans. He says that “they do not think of locking the doors in the country (13-14).” This means that anyone could walk in and rob them without much trouble. Being poor, Downe has probably had to steal things before to survive. The fact that Americans don’t lock their doors would make America look like a good opportunity.
Downe also creates long lists of the kinds of food he can get in the U.S. He mentions how the other day he had “pudding, pyes, and fruit of all kind that was in season, and preserves, pickles, vegetables, meat, and everything that a person could wish (9-12).” This list contains polysyndeton, which makes it seem like the list of food keeps going on and on. He even says that some food is free. You can walk along the road and pick up “peaches, apples, and all kinds of fruit” (15). People even throw out “bullocks’ heads, sheep and lambs’” (21). Downe also talks a lot about prices. In lines 17-19 he lists off different things he can buy and how much they cost. He is exaggerating because there is no way that 100 pounds of beef only cost 10 shillings. But this makes it sound appealing to his wife, even if he is lying.
Downe uses many rhetorical strategies to convince his wife to emigrate to the United States. Some of the most persuasive strategies are insinuation, pathos and catalogues.
The AP readers will grade this as a 4. The writer is analyzing Downe’s rhetorical strategies and how they help him accomplish his purpose, and there is some passable analysis here, but that analysis is insufficient and marred by misinterpretations (of why he mentions not locking doors, etc.). There is specific evidence included, and some of it supports the claims. The thesis is missing the “how” part, but there is a thesis, even though the order of the body paragraphs doesn’t match the order promised in the thesis. The language level is not great, but not low enough to drop the essay to a 3.