AP Rhetorical Writing Practice
Read the passage carefully. Then write an essay in which you analyze how Price crafts the text to reveal her view of United States culture.
Annotate the Essay with the PROMPT and ESSAY TYPE in mind.
When the pink flamingo splashed into the fifties market, it staked two major claims to boldness. First, it was a flamingo. Since the 1930s, vacationing Americans had been flocking to Florida and returning home with flamingo souvenirs. In the 1910s and 1920s, Miami Beach’s first grand hotel, the Flamingo, had made the bird synonymous with wealth and pizzazz. . . . [Later], developers built hundreds of more modest hotels to cater to an eager middle class served by new train lines — and in South Beach, especially, architects employed the playful Art Deco style, replete with bright pinks and flamingo motifs.
This was a little ironic, since Americans had hunted flamingos to extinction in Florida in the late 1800s, for plumes and meat. But no matter.In the 1950s, the new interstates would draw working-class tourists down, too.Back in New Jersey, the Union Products flamingo inscribed one’s lawn emphatically with Florida’s cachet of leisure and extravagance.The bird acquired an extra fillip of boldness, too, from the direction of Las Vegas — the flamboyant oasis of instant riches that the gangster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel had conjured from the desert in 1946 with his Flamingo Hotel. Anyone who has seen Las Vegas knows that a flamingo stands out in a desert even more strikingly than on a lawn. In the 1950s, namesake Flamingo motels, restaurants, and lounges cropped up across the country like a line of semiotic sprouts.
And the flamingo was pink— a second and commensurate claim to boldness. The plastics industries of the fifties favored flashy colors, which Tom Wolfe called “the new electrochemical pastels of the Florida littoral: tangerine, broiling magenta, livid pink, incarnadine, fuchsia demure, Congo ruby, methyl green.” The hues were forward-looking rather than old-fashioned, just right for a generation, raised in the Depression, that was ready to celebrate its new affluence. And as Karal Ann Marling has written, the
“sassy pinks” were “the hottest color of the decade.” Washing machines, cars, and kitchen counters proliferated in passion pink, sunset pink, and Bermuda pink. In 1956, right after he signed his first recording contract, Elvis Presley bought a pink Cadillac.
Why, after all, call the birds “pink flamingos” — as if they could be blue or green? The plastic flamingo is a hotter pink than a real flamingo, and even a real flamingo is brighter than anything else around it. There are five species, all of which feed in flocks on algae and invertebrates in saline and alkaline lakes in mostly warm habitats around the world. The people who have lived near these places have always singled out the flamingo as special. Early Christians associated it with the red phoenix. In ancient Egypt, it symbolized the sun god Ra. In Mexico and the Caribbean, it remains a major motif in art, dance, and literature.No wonder that the subtropical species stood out so loudly when Americans in temperate New England reproduced it, brightened it, and sent it wading across an inland sea of grass.
The American Scholar, Spring 1999
In “The Plastic Pink Flamingo: A Natural History.” author Jennifer Price explains that the lifeless bird symbolizes Americans are lead on by the media and will purchase just about anything to prove their wealthiness.
In Price’s view the United States is consumed with flashy displays of wealth. Americans will partake in anything that is bold or bright. In the first half of the essay, the author discusses the fact that the new popular item on the market is a plastic flamingo, which represents “wealth and pizzazz.” Price’s blunt sentence “But no matter”, after explaining that flamingos had been hunted to extinction in Florida shows, in reality, she is ashamed and angered by this fact, which represents how our old, poor society has died. Even worse she explains how businesses succeeded off of selling flamingo products or naming businesses after flamingos. Flamingos “stand out” in one’s lawn which shows “extravagance and “boldness” in analogizing for the generation raised in the Depression. People spent money on a useless plastic bird – a foolish action none would have thought to do before this. Jennifer Price use of such emphatic words let readers imagine strong or rather bold nature or American culture.
The 1950s was definitely a time of change for many Americans. These people had overcome a great hardship and were ready for a new start. Jennifer Price relates in her essay that American culture was very strong and powerful at the time. Price makes Americans of the 1950s seem frivolous Price continues this effect by further explaining Americans’ obsession with the color pink, describing their sense of style has grown bolder and noticeable. Americans “brighten” things to make them attractive and to make profits. Price gives examples of household items that come in all shades of pink, including Elvis Presley’s pink Cadillac.
The author begins the last paragraph with yet another sarcastic remark, by asking “Why, after all, call the birds pink flamingos as if they could be blue or green?” because this statement was toward the end of the essay some may think that Price is making a final statement. She supports her idea by further explaining that the color of the plastic flamingo was not even accurate to that of the real flamingos. Price, it can be assumed, dislikes society carefree attitude shown through how Americans have not respected the flamingo, as Egyptians, early Christians, Mexicans, and Caribbean people did. Perhaps we do not think of the pink flamingo today when the word “wealth” pops in mind, but the need to show is still with us. It may be the cell phones flashed by every teenager or even the designer clothes worn by one. Jennifer Price has criticized American’s culture and belief. Regardless, Price explains how she views today’s society through the example of the pink plastic flamingo.