“ Chronicle Of An American Execution”, written by Dan Barry, is a very powerful and descriptive writing which illustrates an cruel execution by electrocution that took place in the state of Tennessee in 2007.
Third person narrative, imagery and word choice are the three techniques Dan skillfully uses throughout his essay as a result to create strong and unforgettable impressions and pictures in the reader’s minds; These rhetorical devices not only lively portray physical characteristics, but also directly present the concrete ruthless details of the execution and effectively contribute dominant impression upon the readers. Dan uniquely starts off his essay with a brief description talking about the surrounding environment and atmosphere of the execution.
Then he uses flashback to inform the readers about the background details of the main character, Mr. Holton, such that why he is being arrested and sentenced to death. In this descriptive piece of writing, Dan aims to closely present and demonstrate the cruelty of American executions especially ones by electrocution, and he urges the readers to think about abandoning executions since they are no difference than murdering. Dan begins his essay with a relaxed description of Mr.
Holton’s outlook and expressions before his death; Dan’s choice of words immediately captures the reader’s interest; He states “ He looks almost like a young child buckled into a car seat, with his closed eyes and freshly shaved head, with the way the black restraints of the electric chair crisscross at his torso. He yawns a wide-mouthed yawn, as though just stringing from an interrupted dream, and opens his eyes. He is moments from dying ( 66)”. In here, the author uses words like “young child” not only to contract Mr.
Holton’s death with that of his four children’s, but also to foreshadow Mr. Holton’s crime of killing his own children for revenge. Furthermore, the words “stirring” and “interrupted” reflect that the reality is coming, and there would be no more sweet dreams in Mr. Holton’s life since death is approaching him very soon. Shortly after capturing the reader’s attention with the introductory descriptions, Dan begins using imagery. The numerous examples of imagery throughout the essay portray how inhumane, cruel and barbaric electrocutions are. The author then portrays the scene of Mr.
Holton’s execution as an observer, he states “With the push of a button on a console labeled Electric Chair Control, 1750 volts bolt through Mr. Holton’s body, jerking it up and dropping it like a sack of earth. ” ( 68) The three imagery phrases here “ jerking it up “, “ dropping it”, and “ a sack of earth” invoke the readers for the cruelty of Mr. Holton’s death. Moreover, in the up coming paragraph the author talks about the second bolt of electrocution which enhances the cruelty of the execution by describing“ Fifteen seconds later, another bolt, and Mr.
Holton’s body rises even higher, slumps even lower. His reddened hands remain gripped to the arms of the chair, whose oaken pieces are said to have once belonged to the old electric chair, and before that, to the gallows “(68). The “reddened hands” and “ gripped” are the two powerful phrases that reflect Mr. Holton’s great desire to survive before his death; The author also uses contrary words such as “ rises” versus“ slumps”, “higher” versus “ lower” in order to deeply engrave Mr.
Holton’s death scene in reader’s heads. In conclusion, writing techniques and rhetorical devices such that Dan Barry uses in “ Chronicle Of An American Execution” help greatly in creating strong images and unforgettable impressions upon the readers. The cruelty of Mr. Holton’s execution leaves us to wonder, to question and to rethink about our social regulations and punishments; There are ways to improve such that maybe we should abandon electrocution for good.