Comparative Analysis: The Effectiveness of Arguing Blue-Collar Jobs Versus White-Collar Jobs
Pulitzer-prize winner Rick Bragg explains, “But this is just whining. It did not kill me, though it killed others” (Bragg 296). Here, Bragg, a writing professor at the University of Alabama, exploits his struggles with an arduous job in an attempt to convince readers of the luxury writers have when compared to manual laborers. He addresses his message toward those who believe sedentary jobs are more challenging than mobile jobs. Furthermore, Rick Bragg presents significant and accurate information in the excerpt, “Real Work,” but his argument is logically flawed in some claims. Though his experience appeals to the reader, the tone is off-putting.
Bragg's depicts his argument, the ease of logical jobs compared to physical labor, through his first-hand experience at working a blue-collar job. Bragg starts the article by foreshadowing his previous work and his uncle noting he will never be the man his uncle is. Bragg prefaces by mentioning his uncle providing Bragg with hard work throughout his childhood and free advice. The advice is if you ever pity yourself, look upon the tools hung on the wall and reflect; however, Bragg is ashamed he never took the advice. To compare the jobs, Bragg claims writers plea to make their work authentic, and he loves those stories, but cannot imagine Hemmingway or an excellent writer lasting a week of manual labor. Bragg explains his toughness and perspective of jobs originate from his uncle. Bragg begins defining the job and its stipulations.
His uncle is “his own boss” who governs the construction from the front while Bragg and his brothers “dug water lines, ran chainsaws, loaded pulpwood by hand, for minimum wage.” Bragg discusses the best and most uncommon job is operating a machine as his uncle is the most proficient compared to the younger men. He claims the job taught toughness, not character. Bragg declares the most dangerous position is wielding chainsaws with improper footing to dismantle limbs or pulpwooding. He continues to explain they complete the job so fast that they do not take any considerations of their surroundings, which leads to multiple snake bites. They burn the limbs and load the logs once they finish cutting the timber. However, the job left one looking more like nature than a human with the next day being mysterious. Bragg claims the stupidest job was running a yard fork when both the fork and the operator are not long enough to complete the task leaving him to go to extremes to complete the job. Bragg finishes the story by recognizing not just anyone can be a writer, and not anyone can use a yard fork which instills his proudness.
To begin with, Bragg's argument, the easy life writers have compared to manual labor, provides accurate and significant information but lacks a rebuttal to writers' struggles. Now, the information is significant and accurate because he inspires readers to think toward a new perspective by supporting his claims with evidence from his personal experience as a manual laborer. Bragg writes, “I owe my uncle for that perspective, enough of it, one shovel at a time, to realize how good I have it now, how easy it is- at its hardest- to do what I do” (Bragg 296). When read, the reader understands that the job and Bragg's uncle left a huge impression upon Bragg's life. In turn, it allows the reader to think of a new perspective and apply it to their own life. Now, it also demonstrates the accuracy of the information as they come from his own experience. Even though his evidence is significant and accurate, the argument turns a blindside to writers by not mentioning their struggles as a rebuttal and writing them off as fake. Bragg complains, “We invent myths about it to make it seem like man’s work” (Bragg 296). He quickly dismisses all writers without providing a relevant and accurate contradiction for writers. Providing the reader with only one side makes the comparison extremely biased and unfair. Also, it makes Bragg seem narrow-minded and blinded toward the subject, resulting in a less effective debate. Not only is he unable to defend the counterarguments toward his points, but some of his reasons are illogical.
Additionally, fallacies found weaken Bragg's case leading him to lose credibility. One specific example is, in the piece, his argument becomes clouded by hasty generalization. Bragg generalizes writers by stating, “Those of us who write for a living want the rest of the world to think it’s real, real hard” (Bragg 296). Bragg rushes to explain all writers want the world to think their work is hard when it is not. This generalization skews the reader’s view of writers. It causes the reader to believe writing is inadequate compared to manual labor. It flaws the logic and makes Bragg loose trustworthiness as his own opinions are acting as evidence for a claim. In addition to hasty generalization, his argument becomes clouded by ad hominin. Bragg pleas, “But really. How long do you think Hemingway could have lasted against a roofer with a tire iron?” This attack against another writer makes Bragg lose credibility and seem arrogant. He lets his personal opinions sway his piece, leading to bias. Bragg does this to exaggerate the extremities of manual labor compared to writing, but it fails as an argument because it provides no proof or logical evidence toward his argument. The point appeals to the reader but results in a weaker argument as a whole. However, Bragg’s rationale is appealing to the reader though the tone of the piece can be repellent to the reader.
Another point worth noting, the author’s experience in both fields allows readers to understand and familiarize themselves with his perspective. Bragg claims, “I know that just any fool can be a writer. But I also know that not just any fool can get that yard fork over the lip of that truck” (Bragg 298). This appeals to the reader due to his sincerity and knowledge about both topics. It also gets the reader to put both jobs in perspective. It allows the reader to apply the perspective into their own life and take away that their struggles could be worse compared to someone else. However, the tone used throughout the piece comes across as arrogant and cocky, which is disconcerting to the reader. It makes the fans of such writers angry, to hear that their storied writers would not match up against a plain ol’ redneck” (Bragg 296). The arrogant tone exemplifies his knowledge of the topic, but readers receive this as he believes he is better than every writer because he knows the struggle of manual labor. Readers turn away from this style of writing as it makes it seem as he is not wrong, which he can be. Also, it creates a feeling in readers that the basis of the argument is faulty to his own opinions and arrogance. However, the approach may work on some.
In the final analysis, Bragg bestows valid and important information in the excerpt, “Real Work,” but some of his evidence is illogical. His familiarity with both jobs allures the reader to favor his argument, but the tone leaves a bad taste in the reader’s mouth. His first-hand experience with writing and manual labor validates his information. It also provides a new perspective to the reader, which proves its significance. However, Bragg refuses to dispute for writers making him lose credibility and unbiasedness. Also, he adds illogical evidence in the form of hasty generalization and ad hominin. These lead to a biased argument and a loss in trustworthiness or credibility. However, his experience and perspective do charm to the reader leading them to favor his views. On the other hand, his arrogant tone does turn the reader away from the work. All in all, readers and writers need to understand there are struggles for every job, and even though it may seem difficult, it does not kill them.
Bragg, Rick. “Real Work.” Reading for Writers, edited by McCuen-Metherell, Jo Ray, and Anthony C. Winkler, Cengage Learning, 2017, pp. 295-98.