Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks Analysis

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The purpose of literature is to move the reader. Some authors turn to laughter or tears to make the most significant impact. In The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, a biography by Rebecca Skloot, Skloot uses a pathos appeal to incite the reader to pity characters in the book, such as Deborah and Elsie Lacks. As Rebecca Skloot and Deborah go looking for information on Elsie, Deborah’s sister, they go to the Hospital for the Negro Insane. There they find Elsie’s file and a picture of her in it. Skloot describes it saying, “No one spoke. We all just stood there, staring at those big white hands wrapped around Elsie’s neck. They were well manicured and feminine, pinky slightly raised- hands you’d see in a commercial for nail polish, not wrapped…show more content…
This makes the reader feel disturbed because of the stark contrast. As we know Elsie to be Deborah’s sister, and the Hospital of the Negro Insane to be very discriminatory, disgust turns to pity or Elsie. This pity also carries over to Deborah, who has to hear, and bear, this terrible news. In this, Skloot gracefully developed her pathos appeal and a sense of pity and distress in the reader. While at the Hospital for the Negro Insane, Skloot finds a Washington Post article on the Hospital for the Negro Insane, where Elsie had lived for the majority of her life. Deborah asks her to read it aloud, so Skloot says, “The Washington Post article quoted him saying, ‘The worst thing you can do to a sick person is close the door and forget about him.’ When I read that line out loud, Deborah whispered, ‘We didn’t forget about her. My mother died… nobody told me. I would have got her out.”’ (Skloot 276) Skloot just so happens to provide the detail of Deborah whispering her statement. Whispering may be done in times of extreme shock, emotional distress, sadness, or hurt. This tiny detail provides insight into how heartbroken Deborah is because of the loss of her
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