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     Crane’s voice in the story is versatile: at times tender or thoughtful, at times choleric, frank, and unapologetic—always personal.  He describes empathically the injured captain who lies in the dinghy’s bow as:
buried in that profound dejection and indifference which comes, temporarily at least, to even the bravest and most enduring when, willy nilly, the firm fails, the army loses, the ship goes down. The mind of the master of a vessel is rooted deep in the timbers of her . . . and this captain had on him the stern impression of a scene in the grays of dawn of seven turned faces, and later a stump of a top-mast with a white ball on it that slashed to and fro at the waves, went lower and lower, and down.  Thereafter there was something strange in his voice.  Although steady, it was deep with mourning, and of a quality beyond oration or tears.
    “Keep ‘er a little more south, Billie,” said he.
    “‘A little more south,’ sir,” said the oiler in the stern.  (657)
Interesting too, from the standpoint of craft, that Crane describes the captain’s voice, then follows it with the short line of dialogue.  Even though the man’s voice is characterized in abstract terms—rather than something concrete, like murmur or sigh—the captain’s line of dialogue forces the reader to imagine the voice, to concretize it, and thus the captain and his grief.
Later, when the correspondent (Crane) vents his “rage,” he does not cheapen nature with romantic or deferential terms, but speaks bluntly:
if I am going to be drowned, why, in the name of the seven mad gods who rule the sea, was I allowed to come thus far and contemplate sand and trees?  Was I brought here merely to have my nose dragged away as I was about to nibble the sacred cheese of life?  It is preposterous.  If this old ninny-woman, Fate, cannot do better than this, she should be deprived of the management of men’s fortunes.  She is an old hen who knows not her intention.  If she has decided to drown me, why did she not do it in the beginning and save me all this trouble.  The whole affair is absurd. . . . But, no, she cannot mean to drown me. She dare not drown me. She cannot drown me.  Not after all this work.  (662)
Crane emphasizes the futility of this slur against nature, capping it with irony: “‘Just you drown me, now, and then hear what I call you!’”  Like Shakespeare when he puts the drunken porter in Macbeth, Crane deftly juxtaposes pathos and humor.
There is an immediacy to this narration—something palpable, tangible—that brings the reader vicariously into the story.  All je-ne-sais-quoi aside, Crane’s imaginative treatment is more compelling than conventional journalism’s just-the-facts style.
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     A particularly good example of the personal essay is E.B. White’s 1956 piece, “Bedfellows.”  I like his use of imagery as a less-stridently-rhetorical device that gentles the essay’s point.  In this piece White de-barbs his political commentary with imagery, and more especially, with humor, the writer’s most disarming weapon.  He opens with:
  I am lying here in my private sick bay on the east side of town . . . watching starlings from the vantage point of bed.  Three Democrats are in bed with me: Harry Truman (in a stale copy of the Times) [etc.]. . . .  I take Democrats to bed with me for lack of a dachshund, although as a matter of fact on occasions like this I am almost certain to be visited by the ghost of Fred . . . dead these many years. . . . In life, Fred always attended the sick, climbing right into bed with the patient like some lecherous old physician, and making a bad situation worse.  All this dark morning I have reluctantly entertained him . . . felt his oppressive weight, and heard his fraudulent report.  He was an uncomfortable bedmate when alive; death has worked little improvement—I still . . . wonder why I put up with his natural rudeness and his pretensions.  (White 147-48)
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