Barbara Lazear Ascher's Essay 'On Compassion'

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In her essay, “On Compassion”, Barbara Lazear Ascher analyzes the idea of compassion and the -------- of the homeless by the those more fortunate. She presents two instances in which homeless people are gifted with money or food items and ponders the motivation behind these acts. ----------------------. Targeting a broad audience, specifically people belonging to a higher socioeconomic standing, Ascher emphasizes the need for awareness of the adversity of the homeless, establishes that one must learn “compassion” for the homeless and less fortunate, and poses the question of whether the motivation for the “compassion” is relevant. Ascher begins her essay with two juxtaposing narrative anecdotes, both intended to engage the audience. The first introduces a man crossing the streets of New York and describes, without directly relating that he is one of the homeless; “his buttonless shirt, with one sleeve missing, [that] hangs outside the waist of his baggy trousers” (195) implies that he is …show more content…

These questionings of the reasoning behind helping the homeless in the two anecdotes enable the readers to contemplate the answers themselves without Ascher having to plainly address them. Ascher also includes slightly less important rhetorical questions to emphasize various points. When Ascher states that “the owner of the shop, a moody French woman, emerges from the kitchen with a steaming coffee in a Styrofoam cup, and a small paper bag of...of what? Yesterday’s bread? Today’s croissant?” (196), the questions at the end of the phrase allow the readers some mystery as to the contents of the bag and the amount of generosity in the shop owner. At the culmination of the essay, Ascher asks “could it be that the homeless, like those ancients, are reminding us of our common humanity?” (197). Ascher is implying

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