Maya Angelou’s Graduation presents a story about the graduation of a young black female from grammar school. Written in the first person, the story draws attention to the trivial topic regarding access to education for the black community. The author takes her readers through the educative process for blacks all through to the dramatic graduation ceremony at the end of their studies (Angelou, 1970). Kurt Vonnegut’s How to Write With Style, on the other hand, provides guidelines on how writers can best produce literary pieces. In his essay, the author explains how literary writers have been misled into hiding their nature from their pieces of art instead of bringing it out in their writing. The author provides seven steps towards writing with style including finding a subject that one cares about, avoiding rambling, simplicity, cutting the unnecessary, sounding like oneself, saying what one means and pitying the readers (Vonnegut, 1999).
This paper presents a critical examination of the relationship between the articles, “How To Write With Style” by Kurt Vonnegut and “Graduation” by Maya Angelou. Specifically, the paper examines how Vonnegut’s ideas regarding the literary process have been used, and brought out by Angelou in her essay. It explains how Angelou’s essay improves one’s understanding of the ideas brought out in Vonnegut’s essay.
The two essays presented are reflective of each other, with relation to matters of writing style in literature compositions. Both can be used as an example of the other as they bring out each other’s ideas, thus increasing understanding of the two literary pieces. Notably, Angelou’s essay builds on the ideas presented by Vonnegut’s essay. In his article, Vonnegut proposes that there is need for many writers and composers to examine their writing styles so as to improve their skills, as well as, capture the attention of their readers (Vonnegut, 1999). For the achievement of this, the author first draws attention to choosing subjects that the author cares about. Evidently, in her essay, Angelou examines the reception of education for the black community. This is a subject that is presumably of interest to the author as a member of the black community. She can relate to the events that she presents in the essay, and for that reason, one can assume that her literary success may be linked to her interest in the topic. This is illustrated in her statement, “I hoped the memory of that morning would never leave me” (Angelou, 1970), the author implies a sense of tenure for the story presented in the essay.
Vonnegut also emphasizes the need to stop rambling on about the subject being discussed when writing an essay (Vonnegut, 1999). Rambling, in this case, refers to writing in excess to the point that an author goes out of topic. Throughout her essay, Angelou tries her best to keep to the topic, but has failed, and often goes out of topic. For example, a section of the essay, the author describes the colors that she hated, which in turn steered the readers away from the topic that was in discussion. This also goes hand in hand with Vonnegut’s perceptions regarding having the gut to cut. Vonnegut believes that good mastery of writing style demands that the author not be afraid of disregarding unnecessary information (Vonnegut, 1999). As he explains, sentences and paragraphs in any essay should illuminate the subject matter in discussion. Though Angelou may have specifically used some information to build on her essay, one cannot help but to feel that the less she may have written, the better her writing style. Vonnegut proposes that simplicity is a factor in determining the success of a writer’s style of writing (Vonnegut, 1999). Notably, he gives the example of Shakespeare and Joyce as two of the greatest authors who benefitted from simple language. Angelou’s essay is simple and easy to understand, which in turn, gives the essay its compelling characteristic. In the statement, “My dress fitted perfectly, and everyone said I looked like a sunbeam in it” (Angelou, 1970), the reader can get a sense of excitement from these simple yet powerful words in relation to the preparations for her graduation.
Vonnegut also emphasizes the need for writers to sound like themselves and say what they mean to say when composing a literary piece (Vonnegut, 1999). He argues that these two have the ability to bring out the author’s style of writing more than any of the other guidelines he presented in his article. Angelou clearly brings this out in her choice for narrative as her writing style, as well as, presenting her essay in such a way that it is understandable to the readers. Conclusively, it is clear that Angelou’s essay echoes the ideas that Vonnegut is trying to push forward to his readers in his essay. Not only does she employ the ideas presented by Vonnegut in her essay, she also diverges from the usage of these guidelines, and the outcome of this can be noted from the readers’ perception of the message being passed across.
Angelou, M. (1970). Graduation, in I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. New York: Harcourt
Brace College Publishers.
Vonnegut, K. (1999). How to Write With Style. United Kingdom: Prentice Hall.
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