Introduction to "Gilded"


Both Joan Didion and Tom Wolfe use symbolical grotesques to talk about their subjects through allegory or metaphor, a useful device when commenting on elements implicit or unapparent in a society, place, or individual. The two authors write as if they know their subjects personally or were there with them as events happened; Didion writes in the first person, while Wolfe states his participation more subtly in the third. In writing about the social behaviors and studio practices of RISD students, I have employed both methods (symbolical grotesques and writing as a participant) in order to speak about the parallels between dedication to studio work and our attempts to understand art in general, and the fear of death, sub-conscious desire for immortality, and search for some ultimate truth that are present in everyone. There seems to exist an unspoken belief among some social circles at RISD that as artists, we don't need such validations or we are above worrying about such things because we are part of something bigger; that is, the creation of culture and search for understanding. However, many who subscribe to this attitude do not realize that their own search for understanding is no different than anyone else's, artist or not.

I have also used the same type of collage-like writing in this piece as Didion did in "The White Album" and other essays. This style is especially appropriate when writing about a group of people or a community because it mirrors the way an individual would perceive the group or community in question.

The subtle shifts in voice utilized by Tom Wolfe are also found in this piece, perhaps to a lesser extent than the above-mentioned devices. There are several points where I switch from character to narrator, and at times from wise to naive or active to passive. These shifts in voice can be used to mock the subject, but they also act as correlations to the search for the subject's values, beliefs and fears.

I hope that I have succeeded in establishing ethos in this piece, both through using the devices discussed in class and through my own writing.


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25 December 2007