The Road Less Traveled

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 "All trees look alike to [J.]" (19) is just one of the observations that J. makes through his off the beaten path trip to the hotel he's staying at in West Virginia. I thought the whole section, pages 18- 23, illustrates a lot of background information on J. that would have been difficult to bring up otherwise. J. doesn't exactly seem very thrilled to be there writing about a postage stamp, but he's there because he's going for the record. Also that's where the story is that Time Warner wants him to do. It seems only fitting that traffic is blocking the road that would be easier to go on than the back ways, especially after thinking, "But a postage stamp? It seemed ridiculous even by their degraded standards. In West Virginia yet. J. just wanted to know if the world had progressed to the point where such a thing was possible. He just wanted to know" (20).

J.'s view on West Virginia is further backed up by the driver who says, "'the most northern of the southern, the most southern of the northern, the most western of the eastern, and the most eastern of the western" (21). It was at that point that I began to believe that J. was probably right about West Virginia. Maybe really nothing does happen there if that's the way the people from that area were going to describe it.

While the driver and J. are still winding around and "all J. can think [about] is content. It sounds so honest. Not stories, not articles, but content. Like it is a mineral. It is so honest of them" (21).  The use of the word "content" really made me stop and think about why he was so hung up on the word all of a sudden. Shouldn't he be honest in a news story? It kind of seemed that J. was a little out of his element for the piece he was going to do for Time Warner, which is further shown when he says, "Content is king, they say. Rape and pillage time for the junketeer willing to put in the time to make the contacts. A whole new scale" (22). It further enhanced the fact that J. was completely out of his element not only when it came to actually writing something honest, but also the fact that he was in West Virginia. Ultimately though, the whole car ride over to the hotel shows some of J.'s worries and helps develop his character further than just briefly what he's thinking about, but also through some of his views on writing and past events he's written about.


Cody Naylor said:

I think I disagree with you, respectfully of course, about J. being out of his element. It's not like journalists get to pick and choose the stories they are assigned. So, the fact that J. is there in West Virginia to cover a story pretty much puts him right in his element. I did notice though, that you also pointed out some of J.'s cynicism which, unfortunately, is something that has come to be stereotypically associated with journalists... after writing about so many deaths, so many rapes, so many natural disasters, it all starts to become sort of "old hat"... i guess you could say that journalists eventually become sort of "jaded"... However, I don't think his concern for content is anything that a good journalist wouldn't have... content is what sells a paper (or website, or magazine) and it is what keeps the reader interested and coming back to that particular news source for more... it's not that he doesn't want to write an honest story, it's just that he wants to make sure that the story he was assigned (about a postage stamp) is newsworthy and interesting enough for the readers...

Melissa Schwenk said:

As far as the job goes, it may have been just because he was trying to make the story appeal to readers, but at the same time he seemed hard pressed to figure out what to do to make people want to read it. Yes, a hard challenge considering he was talking about a postage stamp, but I just felt that maybe he would be able to come up with a better angle or way to sell the story. I mean, I don't even like stamps, but I could see where he could use different angles to get the reader wanting to read his article.

Regardless of the assignment, J. was still completely out of his element because he is practically the only black person in the area. There's the girl on the bus that's black, and eventually the singer comes in later (that he didn't notice), but aside from that there are very few black people in the area. He also makes it a point, at the very end of the section, to say, "They know how to watch a nigger die" (79). Suggesting that he was feeling uncomfortable, not only because he was choking, but because of the color of his skin.

Cody Naylor said:

Good point, Melissa. He was, unfortunately to say, probably assigned the story about the John Henry stamp only because he was one of the only black reporters on the paper... which I guess would be an uncomfortable situation for anyone...

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Cody Naylor on The Road Less Traveled: Good point, Melissa. He was, u
Melissa Schwenk on The Road Less Traveled: As far as the job goes, it may
Cody Naylor on The Road Less Traveled: I think I disagree with you, r