“The Ring of Time” by E. B. White

I was impressed by how White was subversive in this essay. The premise of the story appeared to be a story about the circus. Then it transitioned to the South, and by the end the essay became polemical. I imagined White beginning to write it and thinking that he wanted people to read an essay about the current issue of segregation, but he worried that people would begin to read it and put it down as soon as they realized that it was another essay about segregation. I wonder if people grew tired of the subject; or rather, I wonder if certain people became tired of the subject, the same kind of people who would normally be interested in the circus or in the South. I think that this was a rhetorical move on White’s part, and I have never seen something like that done before. I had never been tricked by a writer. Not that I can’t be tricked, but I don’t think anyone has tried to, or I don’t think that I have come across anyone that has tried to trick me. Now, I do recognize that most of this is conjecture. Maybe there was another reason for the introduction. Maybe there is some greater connection between the narratives and ideas that he presents that I am missing; but he was being subtle and there definitely was a change in topics by the end. And I maintain my suspicion, on the account that the so called conclusion was so small and wasn’t really tying it all together, but was meant to appear to tie it all together so the reader didn’t feel so cheated into reading another polemical essay. Furthermore, he makes subtle hints earlier in the essay that prepare the reader for the writing on segregation. Earlier he talks about a man from the Lion’s Club who disagrees with segregation. And he talks about the South in such a pleasing and creative way that the reader is arrested by the imagery. Well, perhaps he could have started the essay right out and said that he wanted to talk about segregation. I guess this goes to show the benefits of not having a clear thesis statement, like the ones we are taught to put at the beginning in clear distinction and order. The fact that he leaves out mentioning segregation at the get go is proof as well to the supposition that White was trying to be subversive with his readers and subject matter. Perhaps one last point to add to this reaction is that White manages to not only record the experience, but he simultaneously records the experience of writing the experience. He add the subtle writer along with the viewer; he writes in both the eye and the handwriting. E.g.: “It has been ambitious and plucky of me to attempt to describe what is indescribable, and I have failed, as I knew I would.” What an interesting thing to put in an essay; wouldn’t you say?