Whenever someone performs a task, he/she can labor over it carefully, or do a rushed job. A student writing an essay describing the causes of the American Revolution, or a president proposing ways to end World War II illustrate two situations where both simple and complicated ways to address a problem exist. Writing a non-analytical response to the essay question would be easy to do. Likewise, dropping atomic bombs over cities, razing them and eliminating many people would not be entirely morally correct.
H.L. Mencken^s assertion that ^for every problem there is one solution which is simple, neat, and wrong^ is excellent for assessing the literary elements in two works: Fences by August Wilson and Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson. Fences is filled with difficulties between characters, and many of these were not reconciled in a proper manner. One problem involved Cory, a high school student and his father, Troy. Cory, an accomplished football player wanted to focus on his team and play in college. However, his father was against Cory^s goals, insisting he prioritize his work and house chores over the football. Ordinarily, there is nothing wrong with a parent making major decisions for his/her children, but in this case, Troy^s solution to the problem was simply to go behind Cory^s back and revoke his membership on the team. Going behind one^s back is an easy way out of resolving a problem^the person was plainly too indolent to spend the time to find a more mutually acceptable solution.
Troy^s demeanor is unacceptable not only with Cory, but also with other characters in the book. For example, when Lyons asks him for a small amount of money, Troy creates a big scene, detailing problems he had had in the past with getting credit, such as paying for furniture through ten-dollar monthly installments. It is clear that Troy is rather selfish, for he tries to keep what little amount of money he has for himself. In Snow Falling on Cedars, readers observe different types of problems.
While those in Fences tend to be between two people, those in Guterson^s book usually involve a large group of people, often the entire town of San Piedro. The principal question throughout the novel centers around who killed Carl Heine. The entire town seems to show prejudice against Kabuo, primarily because he is Japanese. This prejudice is obvious even in affairs unrelated to Kabuo^s trial.
In a descriptive paragraph about life in San Piedro, readers learn that Japanese workers at the Port Jefferson mill were referred to as ^Jap Number 1, Jap Number 2, Jap Number 3, Japan Charlie, Old Jap Sam^ and so on (75). Actually, Japanese people are curtly referred to as ^Japs^ throughout the entire story. One of the most poignant parts of the book describes in meticulous detail the setup of the Japanese internment camps. The United States in confining the Japanese was executing a simple, neat, and wrong ! solution, since it really had no justification for doing so besides fear of Japanese spies with World War II. Looking at literature from different viewpoints can be very interesting. Instead of analyzing tone, style, diction, and plot elements as in traditional English papers, in a critical lens essay, one searches through the works trying to find ways they can be interpreted through a specified perspective. Not only is literature studied, but also the lens.
A positive consequence is that it becomes easier to integrate outside information into a critical-lens style essay. One can select various applications to real life, ranging from important decisions of a country in foreign policy to how to approach a writing task can be in order to strengthen the piece.