Human’s Best Friend
Assignment Analysis Final Draft
Academic English 204
Instructor: Dr. Emma Moghabghab25-09-2018
American University of Beirut
The people stood in silence, in mourning, staring at the fire eating away at the pages of the books, destroying the final breath of the souls that live in them, replaying the memory of the forceful Nazi attacks and the snatching of their favorite books to feed the power of greed and unjust power. There are several ways to take a stance against what you believe is unjust, and that is exactly what William Lyon Phelps did. He was an acknowledged English professor at Yale along with being a literary critic and author; thus he responded to the wrongful act of burning books with ‘un-German’ ideas under the Nazi rule, in 1933, in the center of Berlin, in the only way he knew how: he wrote a cultured masterpiece that highlights the importance of books to both individuals and society as a whole. He considered that books are a fundamental part of society that act as a link to the ideas and thoughts of ingenious writers. Phelps delivered his speech ‘The Pleasure of Books’ with the fruitless hope of raising awareness to the cruel act of burning books which are not only considered better friends than humans and should be accessed by all, but also are reflective of the age during which they are written.
Phelps started his text by emphasizing the importance of having an owned and not a borrowed book to use it freely. He then describes his pride in having a private library that contained 6,000 books and always accessible and visible. Then Phelps portrays the importance of books by describing books as people, to show that each book has its own essence as if it were a living soul, a soul that leaves a perpetual effect on your life and may as well change the way you see life and your future.
The author has used figurative language throughout his text to convey his ideas clearly. The author begins the speech in a direct approach stating that we enjoy reading books and that they are the most precious resource humans own, his speech then takes a metaphorical turn where he compares borrowed books to guests that you entertain, showing that the way you treat borrowed books is parallel to that of a guest, with an air of formality and carefulness . On the other hand, you are quite comfortable with the books that are yours just like you are comfortable with an old friend, for you can highlight the parts that interest you and write your own notes. Phelps uses the phrase ” it is like visiting a forest where you once blazed a trail.” CITATION Wil33 l 1033 (Phelps, 1933) to show the permanency of reading books on each person’s life, for when you walk through a familiar trail you not only remember the words that mark your trail, you remember your past self as well.
The sentence that draws the most attention in this speech is: “Books are of the people, by the people, for the people.”(Phelps,1933); this simple sentence stands in defiance to the Nazi’s decision of burning the books since books flourish the minds of people through knowledge thus the books should not be controlled by a certain political group that restricts the freedom and education of others. Moreover, books are written to show the truths of the past generations to the people and by destroying these books they are not only burning paper, but they are also murdering the spirits and knowledge of both the past, present, and future generations under the banner of discriminative doctrinal ruling. Phelps compares books to real humans not only to gain the sympathy of the people, but to increase their rage against this injustice. In the spring of 1933, “Thousands of Americans attended anti-Nazi marches and rallies throughout the United States, protesting early persecutions, the boycott of Jewish stores, and Nazi book burnings.” CITATION Reb17 l 1033 (Erbelding, 2017).
Phelps’s speech forms the perfect combination of ethos and pathos where the author uses inputs of his own experience with his quaint home library: “Most of my indoor life is spent in a room containing six thousand books; and I have a stock answer to the invariable question that comes from strangers. ” Have you read all of these books?”, “Some of them twice.” CITATION Wil33 l 1033 (Phelps, 1933). “This reply is both true and unexpected.” CITATION Wil33 l 1033 (Phelps, 1933) .This sentence perfectly engages the audience with the author since it gives them a glance to the life of the man that preaches for the importance of book and their right to be saved.
Moreover, he uses pathos through the sentence: “There are of course no friends like living, breathing, corporeal men and women; my devotion to reading has never made me a recluse. How could it? Books are of the people, by the people, for the people. Literature is the immortal part of history” CITATION Wil33 l 1033 (Phelps, 1933).The question asked by the author urges the audience to think about the consequences of destroying books and their importance in forging a safe paths for the development of the people especially the youth since literature is a transparent reflection of the human spirit and engraves the stories and morals of the past into the present for both the revealing of the human nature and the speculation of the history through the eyes of millions of people who lived before us. He further emphasizes this point by stating examples of authors that changed the way we observe nature and the human mind and emotion, “As for our personal friends and acquaintances, we cannot always see them. Perchance they are asleep, or away on a journey. But in a private library, you can at any moment converse with Socrates or Shakespeare or Carlyle or Dumas or Dickens or Shaw or Barrie or Galsworthy.” CITATION Wil33 l 1033 (Phelps, 1933). He also ends his speech with a praise for the authors that dared to reveal their deepest thoughts and ideas to assist the progress of society in the climb towards the greater good. In addition, he reminds the audience of the vital role they play in society, for without them and their engagement, the words of wisdom would have died a long time ago: “And there is no doubt that in these books you see these men at their best. They wrote for you. They “laid themselves out,” they did their ultimate best to entertain you, to make a favorable impression. You are necessary to them as an audience is to an actor; only instead of seeing them masked, you look into their innermost heart of heart.” CITATION Wil33 l 1033 (Phelps, 1933).The author engages the readers by maintaining a motivational and inspiring tone throughout the text through the usage of imagery that entails nature along with encouraging the audience to build their own private libraries.
Unfortunately, the triangle of ethos, pathos, and logos was not completed in this speech because the author does depend on facts or logic directly in his speech, but rather uses picturesque imagery. In this way, he appeals to the emotions rather than the logic of people as this would stir people more into action. Moreover, his choice of words was simple enough to reach as many people as possible.
Phelps in his speech has emphasized the importance of books being a human’s friend and having its own identity descriptive of the writer and era in which it was written. Phelps wanted to make sure that the identity of the writers and their societies is preserved. Perhaps Phelps had his heads in the cloud for believing he might change people’s perspectives with words, fighting for what is right, and saying speeches that entice the people like the heroes in books, but perhaps he was not, for his speech has survived the second world war, and has survived as far as our modern times, and it might live for centuries to come and it has altered the beliefs of many along the way. This in particular is proof of the importance of words and their ability to change both the past, the present, and the future for they are “of the people, by the people, for the people.” CITATION Wil33 l 1033 (Phelps, 1933).
BIBLIOGRAPHY Erbelding, R. (2017, November 7). 1933: How Did Americans React? Retrieved from United States Holocaust memorial musuem: https://www.ushmm.org/information/about-the-museum/museum-publications/memory-and-action/1933-how-did-americans-react
Phelps, W. (1933, april 6). the history place. Retrieved from http://www.historyplace.com/speeches/phelps.htm