Research Paper Rationale

November 15, 2006

1. My argument has finally been narrowed down to celebrity advertising, in clothing ads. I will focus on The Gap specifically, to examine the correlation between a famous celebrity or famous model promoting their products as opposed to an average model who is not very well-known. I am interested to see if the public audience responds differently to one advertising technique more than another. I will take ads put out by The Gap throughout the past few decades, in addition to looking at the ads that they are currently using to promote their products. I will also do some background research about the advertising industry in general, to get a feel for their techniques and how they go about capturing their audience. I am interested to see what they feel it takes to get a consumer’s attention and how they trick the public into thinking that they need to buy a certain product.

2. Given my research thus far, I think I will find a correlation between celebrities and product sales. It seems as though once a person (be it a model, actresses, actor, singer, whatever) has established themselves and their name in the public’s eye, they become role models. People want to be like them, and will do whatever it takes in order to so. Buying a pair of jeans that a certain celebrity advertises will make a consumer feel more sophisticated, and almost better than everyone else, just because of what they are wearing. A celebrity endorsing a product makes puts it on a higher level; if a high-class celebrity likes a product (a pair of jeans, or even a shirt) being sold at the Gap, then the consumer is on a high-class level if they, too, purchase it.

3. I have been lucky in finding very informative resources for my research. The website that most specifically relates itself to my topic is http://www.bwgreyscale.com/ads/. This site houses an archive of actual Gap advertisements, with a mixture of celebrity-endorsed ads and regular model ads. They are pretty much the basis of my research, and will contribute a good amount of observable information. Additionally, I have acquired three books: “Advertising and the Mind of the Consumer,” by Max Sutherland, “Social Communication in Advertising: Consumption in the Meditated Marketplace,” by William Leiss, Stephen Kline, Sut Jhully, and Jacqueline Botterill. The last is “Ads, Fads, and Consumer Culture,” by Arthur Asa Berger. All of these texts give a comprehensive overview of the advertising industry in general, and how they respond to the public. Each one of these books goes into great detail, deconstructing advertisements for what they are verses what they are trying to say, and how these influence the consumer. They also include important terminology relevant to the advertising world, and give techniques to successfully sell a product based on consumer appeal. I feel that these resources will give me the basic and general information that I need to successfully back up my point about the Gap advertisements themselves.

4. While I have established my topic and my goal for my research, there are still a few things that are not yet completely clear. I need to ensure that I have enough information to completely back up my points, hopefully more statistical information or sales information that pertain particularly to the Gap. I am also interesting in examining their sales verses how much money they spend in advertising. While this is obviously a multi-billion dollar industry, I cannot help but wonder if it is truly worth it. Hiring celebrities to endorse a product would make the cost of advertising go up even more, and I am interested to see how that evens out, and if it is monetarily worth it.

1. The politics of the classroom play a large role in helping to convey Freire’s point in this essay. A “problem-posing” class in English, history, psychology, or math would probably be one that requires students to think for themselves. This type of education “responds to the essence of consciousness – intentionality – rejects communiqués and embodies communications. It opens up a situation for discussions and deeper thoughts, considering various opinions and views in order to answer a question. The power struggle that Freire also poses ties into this as well, with that being the source of the problem in learning to begin with. It seems as if the educator’s job is to feed students information. When one is removed from that, a “problem-posing” class can truly take place. It is ironic to consider that one would not be able to critically think about things in the classroom, yet it is all entirely true. The idea of freedom in learning is one that he explores in greatly depth, and it is critical that a student (or the object, as he refers to them) and the teacher (or the Subject) are open about sharing thoughts and opinions. An “authentic form of thought and action” must be referred to as well, and it is crucial that students do not simply take in information. They must process it, scrutinize it, and develop it in order to be actively taking part in the learning process. Being “conscious of consciousness” is an interesting thing to consider, especially after reading this essay. It takes a deeper look into just how important it is to be aware of this consciousness in the learning state. Too often, people just accept things for how they are or what they are – instead of being processed, people absorb information and store it. They are “fed,” as Freire refers to it as. A time in my life, when I was “conscious of consciousness” was last year in my French class, when we were reading about existentialism. My teacher posed a question that, at the time, seemed like it had an obvious answer: “What is this?,” she asked, holding up a pen. “Un stylo,” everyone in the class replied. However, after further explanation, she told us that it was only a pen because we accepted it to be a pen. We were told when we were very young that is what it was called, and our minds processed it as being just that. I think that it is hard to really dwell on this idea too long, as it is hard to process. However, it is an interesting idea – are things just things because we accept them to be? Is this concept of an object just one that we make up and develop as time passes?

2. The two words that Freire draws from Marxist literature – praxis and alienation – are two that are easy to define after reading this essay. He discusses liberation being “praxis,” and defines it as the “action and reflection of men and women upon their world in order to transform it.” In other words, praxis could be explained as being the use of knowledge or information in a practical manner. I think it is important to understand that he uses this in reference to being aware of one’s consciousness. Freire also discusses alienation, which could be defined as a way to isolate someone from something, and in this case, it is knowledge. He feels that the “practice of freedom – as opposed to education as the practice of domination – denies that man is abstract, isolated, independent, and unattached to the world; it also denies that the world exists as a reality apart form people. Going along with his views on consciousness, both of these terms are used to help support his arguments.

3. Freire does frame his essay as though he were making deposits in a bank. His points are clear, conscious, and backed up by strong reasons and support. He even evokes points of other famous views, such as alienation and praxis. Freire casts the reader into a role of a listener; however, they are also engaged by his strong details and striking points. All of the points that he makes about “authentic liberation” really grabbed me as a reader, and made it easier to understand his point of consciousness. Backing up his main point by smaller details allows the reader to fully grasp what he is trying to say. I think it is important for him to do this, as his existentialist view is a vast one to comprehend. His discussion of the submersion of consciousness and the emergence of consciousness as well as critical intervention in reality are all important in conveying his point as well.

My topic, the developments of clothing advertisements throughout the past century, will attempt to deconstruct the marketing techniques of well-known, popular clothing lines. I plan to find information on the correlation between a certain type of advertising “method,” and clothing sales. For example, I think it will be interesting to look at advertising campaigns that feature celebrities (The Gap is always using famous people in their advertisements), and seeing if that really does make the product sell more. Sarah Jessica Parker, Lenny Kravitz, even now Audrey Hepburn (ah, the power of technology!) are all celebrities that The Gap employs to endorse their clothing. I am also interested in the advertisements of more prominent designers, such as Gucci and Dior, who also included celebrities in their advertising campaigns. However, I expect to find a difference in intention here; I think (before researching, anyway) that companies such as The Gap and Nike use celebrities to attract common people to their product, to catch their eye and show them that this product is reliable. I feel that more elite companies, such as Louis Vuitton, uses celebrities to show that their products are on the same “level” as celebrities, and the public should buy them in order to aspire to the kind of lifestyle that celebrities endorse.
I am especially interested to research if people will really buy into a store’s campaign for a product because a celebrity is endorsing it, verses if a regular model is. I think it will be important to research this because it prove just how much influence the media truly does have on the public, and how vulnerable and defenseless the public has become in response. As far as resources go, I intend to consult the following online databases of advertisements, as well as magazines and other information published about advertising:
http://www.bwgreyscale.com/ads/gap.html
http://www.bwgreyscale.com/ads/louis_vuitton.html
http://www.bwgreyscale.com/ads/nike.html
http://www.bwgreyscale.com/ads/reebok.html
http://www.bwgreyscale.com/ads/roberto_cavalli.html
http://www.bwgreyscale.com/ads/tommy_hilfiger.html

Research Paper Topic

October 24, 2006

For my research paper, I am interested in writing about clothing advertisements and their development throughout history. I plan on focusing specifically on common, well-known brands such as Gap or other common clothing manufacturers, to see how their advertising pattern has developed and changed over time. I will focus on the types of models used, the overall look of the ad, in addition to the clothing styles chosen. I suspect to see a trend, reverting back to old styles and icons as time goes on.

1. Bordos’ essay, “Beauty (Re)discovers the Male Body,” is definitely constructed from a different perspective than most other essays. She does seem to develop certain points more than others, but I feel that it allows her readers to understand her idea, as she follows up each of her points with strong details and support. It seemed, as a reader that her concepts of pleasure and work tied in together. She makes her point, which is work, and backs it up with sarcasm or humor, which is pleasure. She balances the two out equally, which makes her essay fun and easy to read, despite its length and depth. For example, while she does spend time deconstructing advertisements and the way that men are perceived in the media verses the way that women are perceived, she also balances out that argument with a personal fact. “No, I don’t think the business of beauty is without its pleasure. It offers a daily ritual of transformation, renewal. Of “putting oneself together” and walking out into the world, more confident than you were, anticipating attraction, flirtation, sexual play. I love shopping for makeup with my friends.” “Women bond over shared makeup, shared beauty tips. It’s fun. Too often, though, our bond is over shared pain . . .” Beauty and looks are, in general, a shared burden of expectations between men and women. I appreciate the way in which Bordo uses work and pleasure in constructing her essay, although I do not feel that that style made this essay any easier or harder to read than others. The pace of the essay moves slowly, but it is directed in a powerful and meaningful way.

2. “Beauty (Re)discovers the Male Body,” is organized into subsections to mark various stages in the presentation of Bordos argument. The sections are organized internally according to the advertisements she discusses or the movie scenes she analyzes. Each section has an italicized title pertaining to the topic, and she goes into great depth to deconstruct each section’s topic. Usually, the sections are about the way in which males are conveyed in advertisements verses the way women are, sex appeal, and the way men are perceived in the media. Having the text marked off in this way makes it easier to read, as having a break in the paragraph allows the reader to become more aware of new points Bordo introduces. The essay is structured so that her “loudest,” or strongest points are in the beginning, and her more general points come into play towards the end of the essay. I found the sections “Men on Display,” on page 168, and “Honey, What do I Wear?” on page 189, to be the most engaging. While these are spaced out in the essay, with “Men on Display,” being in the very beginning, and “Honey, What do I Wear?” to be towards the middle, both sections introduced and reinforced important points about Bordo’s overall thesis. I suppose that I have been an innocent onlooker all of these years and taken these advertisements for granted; I never considered their true meaning of sexism and the way in which men are perceived to the public through the media. It is ironic how used to seeing practically naked women the media the public has become. Decoding men in this light is eye opening, and it is interesting to consider the differences in advertising between men and women. Men have a very relaxed and casual aura about them, even while they are standing around in their underwear. Women, however, constantly need to look sexy and sophisticated. Women sell sex, men sell causality and confidence, and I like the way in which Bordo deconstructs this.

3. The “subject position” of people is something that Bordo calls upon often to support her points. She uses the subject position to define the “gaze” of another when one’s gaze is the source of definition. “We’ve all, male and female alike, felt the shame that another pair of eyes can bring.” “Until the eyes of another are upon us, “catching us” in the act, we can deceive ourselves pretend. Getting caught in moments of fantasy or vanity may be especially shameful.” The differences between how Bordo invokes or inhabits the “subject position” can be seen in the way she described her own personal experience, by being walked in on when her head was in the Chock Full O’Nuts can. I think that situations like this are something that all of her readers can relate to, as almost everyone has experienced this at some point in their lives. She uses this to transition into a discussion about stereotypes and how the “gaze” of others influences one’s “subject position.” I think this is a powerful argument, and she uses valid points to back up her idea. Practically all of the things that Bordo discusses are things that society has simply accepted. As a reader, I appreciate Bordo’s dive into the media in an effort to effectively deconstruct it for what it is trying to say, both at face value and beyond.

Deconstructing Advertisments

October 10, 2006

Part 1:
The two images presented from adflip.com are both selling the same product in drastically different ways. The first advertisement, obviously a much older one, is extremely “wordy” and almost seems complicated. In keeping with the polite, socially consciousness of the time, the advertisements gets a consumer’s attention with the large “Are You in the Know,” at the top of the ad. While the pictures are enticing to the eye and hold the viewers attention, I feel the paragraphs explaining the product and why it is so good is a bit much.
In the latter advertisement, however, the model herself is used in selling the product. Her eyes draw the consumer to look at the advertisement, rather than having words to capture the viewer’s attention. “Be a question. Be an answer. Be a beautiful story.” Simple phrases help to sell this product, and that makes the advertisement more memorable than the older one. The model is looking straight at the camera, making eye contact with the consumer. She is portraying a message that sells straight to the woman looking at the advertisement.
While the two advertisements are representative of advertising during drastically different times, the 1940’s, and the 1970’s, the different approaches taken are quite interesting. Looking at these advertisements from a historical context makes them easier to understand. Obviously, since society was more conscious of women in the 1940’s, the first advertisement is not surprising, as it is selling a woman’s product. However, fast-forward to the 1970’s – a time of liberation for women, and it is easy to understand why this type of advertisement would be chosen for Kotex products. The way in which the model is positioned makes her look “approachable” to the consumer.
Looking at these examples truly does reflect a historical context and a worldview of how differently women are looked at during specific times. During the 1940’s, women were looked at as proper, and always trying to be pleasant. I feel that this is why the advertising technique used is such a good reflection of the time. What to do when you’re a houseguest, dining on a train, or meeting new people are all situations that women at the time dealt with, as was choosing the “right” sanitary napkin. Using all of these techniques is what makes this advertisement successful for its time.
The second advertisement is more like what we have all around us today – a model selling a product, using a few simple words or phrases to grab the consumer’s attention. The older advertisement sells its product in terms of what other people will think about you, how to be polite, and look your best. This ad, though, takes a different approach. It sells directly to the consumer, telling them all of the things that they can be, selling to the newly liberated woman who can be a question, an answer, a beautiful story, etc. In comparison to the older advertisement, I feel that this one is much more successful in getting its point across and its product sold. However, these need to both be considered in relativity to their own time.

Part 2:
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These advertisements, both from adflip.com, show comparative ways in which a product can be sold. The first, a Movado watch ad from the 1940s, shows the watch close up. The second, a Gucci watch ad from 2000, uses sex appeal to sell the product. This is the epitome of what Susan Douglas discusses in her essay, and her techniques of deconstructing or “reading” an advertisement can be applied here.
A value system for the consumer is undoubtedly developed here, although it has changed drastically over time. It seems as if currently, there is a universal understanding that sex sells. Unfortunately, society buys into this and relies upon it. In the second advertisement, it is almost impossible to tell what is being advertised at first. The woman in her underwear, with tousled hair and natural looking (yet perfect) makeup is used to sell a watch. This would have been unheard of years ago, when women were still respected and their bodies were not used to sell products. Today, however, this is far too common, as Douglas discusses.
In the older advertisement, the image of the watch is used to sell the watch. The advertisement reads “Calendograph, from month to second.” The ad shows how good the watch is, its features, and where to get it. The second advertisement has no words; it is simplistic, with the model positioned in the middle of the page, and “Gucci” written across her collarbone. This advertisement is exactly something Douglas would discuss: the first ad uses the product to sell the product; the second ad exploits a woman’s body to sell a product. The value system here has definitely changed over time. The media takes consumers for granted, and almost makes it seem like the only thing that grabs their attention is sex. Isn’t this undermining the intelligence of the public today? I think that Douglas’s call to closely read and deconstruct advertisements can definitely be applied here, and it is interesting how we simply accept seeing all of these ads today that use sex or a woman’s body to sell something. Most of the time, the product being sold does not even have anything to do with a woman’s body or sex. Yet, the media thinks it is what people want to see. This idea has obviously evolved over time, and would have been completely appalling at the time of the other watch ad.

1. Douglas makes quite a few comments in regards to her critiques of the advertising industry and its creation of “endless images of women.” What might be considered “womanly” in the images she values? She tends to portray this underlying assumption that women need to be “real.” Women are far from the way that the media sculpts them to be – and that is a something that everyone needs to understand. It seems as if every advertisment she discusses has this sense of luxury to it. The media portrays this idea of beauty being associated with a wealthy, luxurious lifestyle, which is probably what attracts so many women to it. They buy into this idea easily, as they do not want to be the ones who are not looking their best, no matter what the price. “Americans are becoming increasingly self-abosrbed, [wrote Lasch], but not becuase they were conceited. On the contrary, Americans were desperately insecure, consumed by self-doubt and self-loathing and totally obessed with competing with otherpeople for approval and acclaim.” In addition to taking advantage of the insecurity of women in America, the media also sculpted an idea of what feminism and women’s liberation should be. This was played off to the media’s benefit, sending off the notion that self-indulgence is worth the money, and so says every advertisment that Douglas discusses. The media targets insecure women and tries to sell them into a life of security, luxury, and beauty. The images that Douglas values are strong, secure women. Not necessarily as skinny as a twig, but confident – these are the images that Douglas supports, and women really need to see more of these advertisments. Confidence is what makes someone beautiful, not the new, expensive facial cream.

2. Douglas’s project is defined by words that portray positive or negative ideas. The media is obviously responsible for a large part of the meaning of women’s bodies. They sell sex, beauty, and other sterotypes through products, and sculpt a consumer in terms of what they buy. The media makes women out to be helpless and lacking greatly in confidence. However, women do not need to buy into this idea – but unfortunately, most do; it is that idea of needing to fit in, and have constant approval from friends, family, and men. “Even when we are fully able to deconstruct these pseudoscientific sales pitches which would make any self-respecting snake oil salesment blush there we are, a part of us still wanting to believe that we can look younger and that it’s desireable to do so.” The idea that the advertisments “confront our ideal selves” allow us to bask in the glory of a perfect life; the media sells this image of a perfect self, and women buy into it. Douglas uses key terms to provide her readers with the idea of feminism and how the media portrays it. Words like “performance,” “precision,” and “control” are used repeatedly in the advertisments that Douglas discusesses. Cosmetics are considered a “defense.” Companies refer to their products as “systems.” These are all examples of the bold words used to sell products and images to women.

Women in Advertising

September 26, 2006

After reading Susan Douglas’s essay, “Narcissim as Liberation,” I was surprised at how much it hit home. It’s amazing how the media can sculpt such an image, and companies put hundreds of thousands dollars towards fueling it. Having never really thought about it before, I was intrigued by this idea of how looking good is a status, as putting money into looking good is a requirement. I appreciated Douglas’s sarcastic take on advertisments on television and in magazines.
While looking for pictures for this assignment, I found it very difficult to find advertisments in which a woman was not using her body to sell sex, beauty products, or anything of that sort. The task of this assignment was simple; find pictures of alternative representations of women in the media and post them. However, it was much more time consuming than I expected, which really proves Susan Douglas’s point – women are portrayed so superfically in the media, almost every advertisment is using a woman’s body to sell a product.

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(photo from Dove.com)
This photo, taken as part of Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty,” shows a woman with a body that is not perfect – as contrived by the media- and supposed to be an inspiration to other women. While her legs are not as a thin as the media usually expects, or she is shorter than a supermodel, she is supposed to be an inspiration to other women, and thus, promoting Dove’s sales. While she does use her body to sell a product, it’s done in an almost reversed way than what Douglas discusses.

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(photo from FoodNetwork.com)
This next photo, from FoodNetwork.com, uses the traditional “women-in-the-kitchen” role to sell cooking products. People can identify with this woman, the one who cooks dinner for her family, and uses to proper kitchen tools to do so. Identifying with the woman in the advertisment attracts other women to buy the products. This advertisment defininately does not use sex or body image to promote sales, although it does play off the traditional sterotype of a woman’s place being in the kitchen, or her job being to cook meals for her family.

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(photo taken from Target.com)
This photo, used to get shoppers to open a Target credit card account, does a good job of catching one’s attention. Instead of using the woman’s body to attract viewers, it uses a fun facial expression and bright colors. The model looks so happy, trying to portray the idea that the consumer will be just as happy as she when they open an account at Target.

1. Berger spends a lot of time in his essay, “Ways of Seeing,” discussing history. It’s correlation between art and the present is quite deep, when one truly realizes what he is trying to convey. Often times, history is simply defined as “the branch of knowledge dealing with past events.” However, I feel that “history,” in terms of Berger’s essay, is meant to be more a story. The story is of people, the past, and its connection to the present.
Berger’s views are pretty straightforward, yet his point is quite valid. As viewers, we often take for granted what we see. “We only see what we look at. To look is an act of choice. As a result of this act, what we see is brought within our reach-though not necessarily within arm’s reach. To touch something is to situate oneself in relation to it.” Art allows history to speak. Often times, I feel, that we can learn more from looking than we can from speaking; every piece of art comes from a different time or era, and tells a different story. It is really amazing how much art can tell; yet everyone has assumptions about it. “Yet when an image is presented as a work of art, the way people look at it is affected by a whole series of learnt assumptions about art. Assumptions concerning:
Beauty
Truth
Genius
Civilization
Form
Status
Taste, etc.”
While all of the above can be drawn out of art, Berger goes onto explain about how these assumptions obscure the past. The “mystify” it, which is clever… all of the assumptions people make about art are extremely subjective. Therefore, I feel, they do little to show history for what it truly is. To learn about history from art, we must situate ourselves in it, which teaches us history. Instead of viewing art from a subjective point of view, if we look at it in it’s context, we are much more likely to learn about it’s history. As a result of this, Berger has “situated” us in history, or has returned a piece of history to us.

2. Berger argued that the account of the Hal’s painting is a case of “mystification.” I would agree with his statement, as he makes valid claims for support. His argument about what he sees as “really” there is valid, yet that brings us back into the argument of history. Almost everything that he drew out of that was from a historical perspective. He states earlier that, “The way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe.” This is a perfect example of that, and he proves his point. Yet, he goes onto explain how the expert’s explanation is not necessarily fact, when a drama of “unforgettable contrast” takes place. A person who lacks sovereignty could take the painting to mean something completely different. Thus proves that knowledge allows for us to see and perceive.

1. Percy moves rapidly through his essay, providing examples of each point or idea. Each example is different, yet all of them help to provide the support that Percy’s point requires. A complex train of though is presented through these ideas, by moving from one example to another, or from tourists to students. While all of the examples Percy discusses support the point, they all vary in reference to how he conveys them. When he discusses how to “recover” the Grand Canyon, for example, he provides four ways in which it may be done. The first, leaving the beaten track, elaborates upon how one should see the Grand Canyon by avoiding facilities provided for seeing it. Looking at it in a different way, rather than what the experts or designers expect you to see it, provides a better outlook on the site.
The second way to recover the Grand Canyon is through a “dialectical movement.” In other words, a visitor may look at the Grand Canyon, but from a different view than everyone else – realizing that they are all looking at it the same way, and refusing to conform. Another way is to note what the experts want the visitor to see. Resisting to conform to that can also help to “recover” one’s visit. Lastly, a national disaster can help to recover the Grand Canyon. People who view it in the wake of a disaster see it in a completely different light; what is typical to some is normal to others.
Through the previous four examples, Percy established his point, but did it in a very intelligent way. All of his examples back up, or support his main theme, yet they are not repetitive. Switching from tourists to students simply helps to further his explination of how people often become “consumers of knowledge,” and almost always conform to the preformed symbolic complex of a situation.

2. Percy’s topic of “loss” comes through numerous times in his essay. He discusses the loss of sovereignty, the loss of the creature. We, as readers, are invited to share in his concern. His main point here is to beware of becoming consumers of knowledge – he reiterates this statement over and over, providing examples in various situations. The interests of the common people are represented here, as he is discussing typical situations, that, more often than not, we have been in. For example, in touring the Grand Canyon, Percy discusses how the experts have a plan for the way they want a vistor to view the Canyon. They set up trails, donkey rides, and looking stations to provide a viewer with a good (yet also typical) experience. This means that the visitor sees the Canyon in the same way that everyone else sees it – it is not as special or meaningful, since he is expecting to have it look a certain way. It is a struggle for a person to view something in their own way, rather than following the way others see it, yet it is beneficial in the end. Of course, everyone has preconceived notions when they view something as magnificant or popular as the Grand Canyon, yet it is important to ensure that an individual can view it for what it is. The media and public alike have shaped these notions, but it is important for one to not simply consume knowledge, for then, it is a loss. “The measures taken are measures appropriate to the consumer: the expert and the planner know and plan, but the consumer needs and experiences.”

3. Percy’s method of using stories to anectodes to convey his point worked, however he did not use first-person accounts of actual visits. While hearing a first-person perspective might have helped to make a few of his points easier to understand, this method shows us a good example of his writing style. He does not simply use quotes from other people, or situations that he has experienced before to prove his point. He takes solid scenerios, describes them thoroughly, and uses that example to support his main point. While this method is powerful, it does have limits. For example, when Percy discussed the student studying biology, a first-hand account may have made the situation a bit easier to understand. I felt that his method was not as strong in the second section of the essays as it was in the first – his examples were difficult to understand.