The Plastic Flamingo: a natural History



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Essay A

In her essay, “The Plastic Flamingo: A natural History,” Jennifer Price does provide a brief history of the flamingo, both plastic and live. Yet she does more than merely describe a bird. Rather, her word choice, tone, and use of examples create a far more significant insight—analysis of American culture and American mindset.

The essay begins with a sense of excitement, created by the very active verb “splashed” and equally striking adjective, “boldness.” Indeed, she begins the piece in a bold way. Her analysis, however, becomes antic-climatic when she states the two major claims. Essentially, at face value, she argues that the pink flamingo was popular because it was a flamingo and because it was pink. This intentional use of the obvious established by the second line even emphasized with italics, already lays the foundation for her opinions on American culture. The fact that this object became popular for these reasons reveals the ways in which the collective American mind forms its desires.

The remainder of the opening paragraph simply established background about the flamingo. After that, though, the author continues to give indications of what she thinks of culture in the United States. Her argument that Americans used flamingos to reveal prosperity (a point that she raises with more very active language—the flamingo “inscribed” the lawns “emphatically”) , and especially important notion following the Great Depression, appears to be a valid interpretation. The examples used are important. Price does appeal to authority in some ways by quoting from two well-known authors. Her other examples are more telling. She cites a gangster, Benjamin Bugsy Siegel, and his hotel, as basis for the striking nature of the flamingo. And when explaining the popularity of pink, she brings up Elvis. Thus, flamingo become popular across the U.S.—or, to use her simile, “cropped up like a line of semiotic spouts”—because of these sights with which Americans were familiar. While there may be a sound basis for this movement, such as post-repression affluence, Price goes beyond that. The examples show that American culture is trendy, that American purchasing patterns are based on those of public figures. Even the Ann Marlings quote she chose reflect s that: Americans bought pink because it was the cool thing to do.

Even more telling that Price’s selection of quotes and examples is the tone she uses selectively but effectively. Her sarcasm is quite strong on the stand-alone fragment in line 15, “But no matter.” The Americans nearly wiped out this bird, but that was unimportant to them. This surely contrasts with both generic sentiment and especially her scholarly audience. It therefore reflects what she things Americans find important. Things that defied conventional wisdom and morality were non-issues. Later in the essay, she asks a rhetorical question. Besides entertaining the reader, she uses this device to further underscore the importance of the color pink. Price then illustrates the further obsurdity of making the plastic bird unnecessarily brighter than the real one. This leads her to the conclusion that it is “no wonder” that the bird stood out in a brighter form outside of its natural environment. Once again she is playing on the obviousness of what she is describing.

Through various techniques, Price is thus able to comment on both a specific phenomenon and its more general implications. Example, word choice, and especially tone help reveal that she finds flaws in the American thought process. This is most true when it comes to the basis for American trends. She is able to get this message across not specifically through her words, but the implications that occur on a second level.

Essay B

The 1930’s was a dark period of time in American history. The mere mention of this decade evokes depressing memories from the generation that was born during the Great Depression and grim recollections from the veterans of World War II. However, Jennifer Price, in her essay, “The Plastic Pink Flamingo: A Natural History” asserts that it was these years that marked the beginning of the popularity of the flamingo. Price crafts her essay by setting up contrasting images and detailed examples to emphasize her view of a culture that continually attempts to distinguish itself and its infatuation with Florida.



Immediately following her allusion to the 1930’s, Price mentions the 1920’s and 1920’s periods of enormous economic growth for Maericans and prosperity. She carries this contrast further by citing the construction of the Flamingo, a hotel that in itself, symbolized “wealth and pizzazz” on Miami Beach. Here the themes of wealth, Florida, and Flamingos are connected and contrasted with the grim 1930’s.

Then, in the second paragraph, Price introduces the consepts of the rest of America desiring to be associated with Florida and its “cachet of leisure and extravagance.” Price symbolizes this connection by using the example of now interstates that evoke an image of a direct line from Florida to the rest of the country.

Next, Price describes the boldness of color that set apart the flamingo and how distinct it is in the desert and lawns. This connection to culture is reinforced with the name of Elvis Presley, a huge cultural icon who himself bought a pink car. He symbolizes pop culture of the time and its quest to be bold, a perfect example for price to utilize. She also quotes authority, Tom Wolfe, who comments that those colors are “Florida Littoral.”

Price concludes with a statement relating the subtropical species that “stands out so loudly.”

Essay C

Price crafts the lead to reveal that she views the United States as being a vivid culture. Throughout her essay she uses facts, diction, syntax, and imagery. She uses the pink flaming to describe how she sees the United States culture.



Price uses a lot of case study to show the popularity of the pink flamingo. She describes the good times about the pink flamingo, then she transitions to what was ironic about the popularity of the flamingo. She emphasizes the pink flamingo by italicizing flamingo and pink when she talks about there boldness in the first and third paragraph. “This was a little ironic, since Americans had hunted flamingos to extinction in Florida in the late 1800’s for plumes and meat. But no matter.” Price reveals that she views the U.S. culture as being ironic because the good covers up the bad.

“Since the 1930’s, vacationing Americans had been flocking to Florida… returning home with flamingo souvenirs.” People in the U.S. act like a bandwagon because when it comes to pink flamingos they all wanted it. Price views the U.S. culture as being widespread but she does not see why they were called pink flamingos, “..call the birds” pink flamingos”—as if they could be blue or green?” The culture of the U.S. is very easily influenced.



She uses long loose sentences filled with commas and some dashes to add a little more about her views on culture. Price crafts the best to reveal how other cultures were influenced by the pink flamingo… Mexico and Caribbean, it remains a major motif in art, dance, and literature.” The U.S. culture has appeal to others and she views it as being easily influenced.
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