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R Analysis

786 words - 4 pages

Empathy is a distinctly human trait. The ability to empathize with other individuals is vital for myriad professionals. In particular, patients seek empathy from doctors. In Understanding, Jonathan Mao presents the stories of three fictitious patients and their interactions with one doctor. Mao’s extensive use of imagery and descriptive language, along with his use of a second-person perspective, is effective in making readers empathize with each patient and assume the role of the doctor.
Mao’s abundant use of imagery coupled with personification strongly appeals to readers’ emotions. In the first stanza, the doctor examines Diego Hidalgo: “The heart whispers/ Lub-dub-ta, lub-dub-ta./ The lungs utter/ Huff-puff, huff-puff” [1]. The onomatopoeia phrases “lub-dub-ta” and “huff-puff” used to describe the sound of Hidalgo’s heart and lungs, respectively, enhance the connection between Hidalgo’s and readers’ physical conditions. Thus, readers can relate and empathize with Hidalgo’s current condition. In the second stanza, Roseanne Brown’s condition puzzles the doctor: “The brain responds/ With rushes of hormones./ The arteries convey/ A struggle with pressure” [1]. Readers can infer that high blood pressure is one facet of her ailment. Readers can empathize with Brown’s condition through the personification of her brain and arteries. In the third stanza, Toroshi Tanaka’s condition is critical: “The limbs shout/ With painful flailing./ The eyes cry out/ With ruby tears./ The liver clamors/ As the organ crumbles” [1]. The dramatic visual description of Tanaka’s condition as highlighted by his flailing limbs and tearing eyes makes readers establish an emotional connection with Tanaka. The expressive description of the patients’ conditions creates emotional resonances between the readers and patients.
The poem’s structure also enhances its rhetorical power. The patients’ conditions become progressively worse with each successive stanza: Hidalgo seems healthy; Brown seems to struggle with high blood pressure, and Tanaka seems to be experiencing liver failure. By using this structure, Mao gently eases readers into the poem and shapes their emotions. The repeated structure of each stanza also makes the poem cohesive. Each stanza, with the exception of the last, begins with a patient’s name and age in single line: “Diego Hidalgo. Forty four . . . Roseanne Brown. Twenty seven . . . Toroshi Tanaka. Sixty eight” [1]. What follows is an evaluation of his/her spoken language and body language: “His...

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