The two essays, “I want a wife” (Brady, 1971) and “Homeless” (Quindlen, n.d.) both resonate with readers on different levels yet cover much of the same topic. While both of these essays discuss traditional values and home, they do so in vastly different ways. “I want a wife” focuses on the mechanics and operations of a household. The wife personifies the home. However, the descriptive essay “Homeless” concentrates on the emotions that personalize a home nearly to the point of giving the house itself living characteristics. This essay will compare and contrast the narrative and descriptive essay forms and argue that although “I want a wife” uses humor in an effective narrative style, the imagery used in “Homeless” evokes more powerful feelings in the reader regarding stability and belonging making it a more compelling essay.
Judy Brady’s narrative style in “I want a wife” uses sarcasm quite effectively to portray her experience as a wife. Brady graphically details the conventional marital division of labor while subtly highlighting the inequities. However disparate these spousal duties seem to be, they form a nearly universal representation of a traditional household. Brady enumerates all the elements of a working household: the cooking, cleaning, organizing, scheduling and nurturing of family. The author clearly implies that without a wife, the household would cease to function. Also, that the very label of “wife” brings with it all the duties and responsibilities listed.
Throughout the essay, only action words are used in relation to the wife. In fact, it is as if the word “wife” were actually a verb instead of a noun. The wife in question will work, pay, wash, mend, arrange, clean, iron, and plan. The one thing the wife does not do is emote. The home described by Brady is comprised of activity alone. It is the sum of these activities that creates the home. The wife clearly embodies these duties, ergo, an argument can be made that the wife is the home. Without the wifely function, there would be no substance to hold the home together. While the essay is a dispassionate narrative, it relates an essential household component. As Brady says, “who wouldn’t want a wife?”
In the descriptive essay “Homeless,” Anna Quindlen relies on common experiences instead of humor to engage her audience. Her vivid depiction of what a home symbolizes, and what being without one means, evokes a wellspring of emotions in the reader. A home is a place to keep your things safe, to have your own space, to paint your walls blue. In “Homeless,” it is the tangible items that prove worth. For a person with no home to touch, the permanence of walls and household furnishings, even if only a memory, give durability to their existence. Just a photo or a memory of having belonged to such a place makes one “someone.” Yet, those physical objects are mere representations of more vague notions like “certainty, stability, predictability, privacy”...