Exaggeration In Brent Staples's 'Just Walk On By'

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In the essay “Just Walk on By” written by Brent Staples, the author uses a mixture of exaggeration, quoting, and word choice to grasp the attention of his readers and further his point that racial profiling is an unfortunate circumstance that impacts African American men in negative ways. One can witness very early on in the piece that exaggeration is used, particularly with the way Staples describes his actions. By referring to the first woman to run from him as “My first victim”, two effects are created. The harshness of the word “Victim” draws in attention, and causes one to crave a further investigation into the story. When reading further, the exaggeration is put into place once the reader realises that he committed no crime, and was simply walking down the street. The contrast of a weak action and the severe association of “victim” creates an emphasis Staples’ innocence, as the tension built up is quickly dissipated upon the mention of there being no…show more content…
An appeal to pathos is created as the reader empathises with innocence being turned to danger in the eyes of others, as the same racial profiling remains rampant in modern days, and many of the people impacted can attest to the fact that both sides feel like victims. Another example of exaggeration occurs as Staples describes his age when he realized that whites feared him, saying that he was at the “Ripe old age of 22”. At first glance, one would possibly scoff at the idea of an early-twenties male being considered “Old”, however, the exaggeration has a purpose. Staples exaggeration doesn’t refer to the years he lived, but to the years he lived without the knowledge of his menacing figure and racial profile. The use of this exaggeration is meant to emphasize how common the fear surrounding African Americans is, and to draw focus to the fact that being as young as 22 without the knowledge of it is very uncommon. The way the reader is
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