“Why Don’t We Complain?” Essay Review
Editor, talk show host, and writer, William F. Buckley Jr., in his essay, “Why Don’t We Complain?” discusses his understanding of how people voice their opinions. He has found himself to be passive and unresponsive within the situations he has encountered; by utilizing a frustrated tone, he talks about how Americans have to complain and stand up rather than expecting somebody else to speak up. Through his use of personal anecdotes, imagery, and asyndeton, he is able to send his message that American people shouldn’t feel held back from complaining.
To start with, the author uses several personal anecdotes where he failed to voice his opinion and talks about why he believes Americans are reluctant to make their voices heard. One incident he describes is about how while on a train, he wanted to complain about how hot it was inside, but his seatmate had given him a “resentful stare”, which made him “incapable of making a discreet fuss” (pg. 65). Due to his seatmate making him feel intimidated, he didn’t voice his complaint about how uncomfortably hot it was on the train for him. Another occasion was where he was watching a movie with his wife, and throughout the movie he told her that it was out of focus, but she told him to “be quiet” and that “it will be alright in a minute” (pg. 65). After the movie ended, he expressed that everybody suffered because the movie started and ended out of focus. He additonally addressed how he thought everyone was expecting someone else to say something and take initiative to resolve the situation. These occasions show how people would rather not complain and stay silent to satisfy those around them rather than themselves. He displays how he would rather tolerate the inconveniences than express his uncomfort because he didn’t want to be judged.
The author also uses imagery to supply his essay with more detail of what is occurring and how he feels in the situations he is in. For example, he describes his story of being on a plane and his encounter with the flight attendant. While writing on the plane, he needed to get more paper, but it was in his briefcase, which was blocked by his lunch tray, so he called the flight attendant, but she told him “just a moment” even though she was already heading to the kitchen area. Stated in the text, “I arrested the stewardess as she passed by empty-handed down the aisle on the way to the kitchen” (pg. 68). By saying that she was empty-handed, he puts an emphasis on how she could have easily taken his lunch tray because she wasn’t holding anything, and she was already headed to the kitchen area where his tray could have been easily placed. The author also goes to recount his time in line at a ski-repair store in Pico Peak, Vermont. He states, “All I needed to get on with my skiing was… a small screwdriver… behind the counter in the workshop were two men. One was industriously engaged in servicing the complicated requirements of a young lady… the other… sat in a chair puffing a pipe” (pg. 67). The author also goes into detail about what he saw to show how it could have been easy to speak up and ask the other man for help because he wasn’t doing anything. Even though Buckley had spoken out in this situation, it was at the most inconvenient time. Throughout his essay, he reasoned that the American culture has become passive and compliant, but he wants that to change, he wants people to voice their words and be heard.
Additionally, the author uses asyndeton to show that different people can have the same views. During the movie he was seeing, when no one complained, he stated, “and the reason no one did is because we were all increasingly anxious in America to be unobtrusive, we are reluctant to make our voices heard, hesitant about claiming our rights…” (pg. 66). The use of asyndeton shows how the author proposes how Americans feel about confronting authority. Americans have the tendency to just accept what comes and to not act on it. By addressing everybody, he talks about how Americans as a collective group show a lack of interest or caring in anything that makes them feel discomfort or inconvenience. Also, stated, “he shuffled down the aisle, picking up tickets, punching communication cards” (pg. 64). By giving a list of what the train conductor is doing as he is walking down, it gives attention to the fact that the conductor isn’t over occupied with more important tasks to do. Buckley had the opportunity to complain, but he chose not to take it.
Overall Buckley’s was able to use anecdotes, imagery, and asyndeton to point out that Americans don’t take initiative and express how they really feel, but instead just let things be. He accentuates the idea that people should make their voice heard and essentially complain if they want a change.