In her passage “Live Free and Starve,” Chitra Divakaruni explains
why the United States House of Congress should not have passed the bill, which restrains
the importation of products from manufactories where child labor is used. As a
result, she mentions this bill will adversely impact the lives and sustenance
of children and their families in Developing nations. Divakaruni uses multiple
persuasive appeals by giving a personal anecdote and by using multiple examples,
which enables the reader to relate to an emotional experience of how this bill
will adversely affect these children.
opens her argument by seeming to agree with the bill. She writes, “My liberal
friends applauded the bill,” (428) stating that the bill was a triumphant
advance in the field of human rights. She describes the wretched conditions these
children live in and the horror of forced labor. A distinctive utilization of
patriotic expression in her introduction invites the reader to connect with her
point of view. She creates common grounds with her audience regarding liberty,
human rights, and freedom. These affable overtones in the first paragraph,
however, are displaced by the sarcastic tone of her last sentence, when she tells
these free children could be “free and happy, like American children,” which predicts
her later contrast of children in America versus children in developing nations
who benefit from different economic structure. However, she indicates her disagreement
with the proposed bill.
By using a personal anecdote the author
effectively expresses her disagreement, which allows the reader to relate to
the situation emotionally. Thus, she uses ethos to further her argument.
She gives an example of a
child named Nima who was from a tribal village that needed to find work in
order to support his family, so Divakaruni’s mom hired him as a servant.
This job had favorable working conditions that allowed
Nimai to economically support his family. By using this example, Divakaruni not only appeals to the
reader emotionally, but she also indicates that the bill is not applicable in
all situations and other cultures. First, by the author’s use of ethos, the
reader feels empathy towards Nimai and his pursuit to support his family.
The way in which Divakaruni
introduces the anecdote causes the reader to want the child to succeed; this
indirectly leads the reader to support child labor to some extent. Second, this
example disproves the notion presented by the bill that all child labor is bad
and should be abolished. It provides an exception to this idea, which then
proves the argument for the bill being wrong and points out a faulty reasoning
in the bill.
She discloses a personal appeal toward the end of her
article by giving the reader the brief glimpse into her own experiences with
child labor through her anecdote of the child named Nimai, whom her mother had hired. Some could say that this story
would make Divakaruni partial and culturally willing to accept this form of employment.
However, she has avoided this issue by intermixing frequent concessions
throughout every argument, keeping her American audience in mind. This brief
story gives the reader a name and a face for one of these child laborers, a well-treated
child named Nimai who “ate the same food that we children did and was given new
clothes,” (249) and was encouraged to “learn to read and write” (249).
goes back to yet another concession, discussing the context of American society,
and putting child labor into that perspective. “It is easy for us to make this
error,” (249) Divakaruni says, because Americans and even foreigners may have
“wiped from their minds the memory” (249) of desperate conditions. She uses
this forgiving statement to put her readers at ease again. However, she ends
the paragraph by restating her argument that it is still true that these
children “prefer bread to freedom” (249). She again uses imagery to create
another emotional pull, this time in the opposite direction from before, by
telling Americans that these conditions they had forgotten would force a parent
to sell his or her child, which is unimaginable in our own society.
Throughout her passage, Divakaruni composes an excellent
argument by projecting her point of view back and forth with the presentation
of both the pros and cons of the bill. She exercises caution by agreeing with
her target audience, allowing them to remain their sympathetic emotions while
also using amiable sarcasm and logical appeals to express the other side of the
story. Divakaruni includes a personal anecdote, putting a face and name to a
child who benefitted from employment, and she is able to use the anecdote to
show that, perhaps, allowing child labor is the only way to give these children
better lives in a non-American culture. She ends with a strong, powerful thought
that will stick in the reader’s mind: the abolishment of child labor could
leave these children in worse conditions. Overall, Divakaruni has crafted a
convincing argument that is difficult to oppose and has affected the minds of
many Americans through her writing.