[an analysis by Carl Rosen]
The concept of juxtaposing ethical morality and the culinary process for lobsters is brilliant. David Foster Wallace’s “Consider the Lobster,” neither argues nor advocates any particular point toward animal cruelty or PETA ideals. Wallace creates an informative essay to call to attention to an event that lies between the line of our everyday society, and also conveys a metaphor about man’s morality through the article. What makes Wallace’s essay so precedent is Wallace’s his style of diction. He presents an extreme thoroughness of factoids about the Maine Lobster Festival, theories about the killing of lobsters, and also the lobster’s anatomy in explicit detail. He also juxtaposes a stark satire to the situation, contrasting facts with his own comical analysis.
Wallace’s satire allows him to keep enough of a distance as the writer to still present facts in an unbiased manner. An especially gripping example of said satire is when Wallace describes the instance of chefs using a knife to stab the lobster’s head before boiling it. Wallace writes:
“As far as I can tell from talking to proponents of the knife-in-head method, the idea is that it’s more violent but ultimately more merciful … [it] honors the lobster somehow and entitles one to eat it (there’s often a vague sort of Native American spirituality-of-the-hunt flavor to pro-knife arguments)” (249).
In this case Wallace is able to convey an opinion and also display his mastery because let’s face it, if there were no metaphors or purpose to this essay, the idea of writing 20 pages about lobsters may not be the biggest hit. Wallace transforms the concept of writing about the death of a lobster into writing about the mass genocide of a species. Wallace’s contrasting style of presenting concise scientific data, allows his sarcastic analytical sections to shine brighter than they would on their own. An example of this is when he describes the lobster’s nervous system, contrasting it with the theory that lobsters do not feel pain. He writes,
“Lobsters do not, on the other hand, appear to have the equipment for making or absorbing natural opioids like endorphins and enkephalins… From this fact, though, one could conclude either that lobsters are maybe even more vulnerable to pain, since they lack mammalian nervous systems’” (250).
Because Wallace is able to effectively support his point of lobsters feeling pain, he creates a compelling argument in drawing awareness to the lobster cooking phenomenon.
Overall looking back on Wallace’s essay, one can realize that if the information he has presented is accurate and if the reader accepts it into their world view, the setting of the story, Maine’s Lobster Festival, is a place of torturous murder, making the essay all the more elegant and masterful.