Causal Arguments: Examining the Chain

Cause and effect are examined in what Faigley and Selzer formulate as “Causal Arguments:” (page 137)

Cause “A” leads to Cause “B” to Cause “C” and ultimately, to a certain Effect.

But the formula works in both directions–a reader (or a writer) can take an effect and work backwards, sorting out the causes and examining them with an eye toward the effect, asking the question, “is this really the cause?”

Read this essay from the April 1, 2010 Chicago Tribune, then answer the following questions (use the Leave a Reply block):

1. What “effect” are we trying to find the cause of?

2. What “causes” does the author focus on?

3. What visualizations does the author create in your mind?

4. Where does the author attempt to break the link in the chain of causes?

5. What parallel argument does the author use?

Note: you may want to write your answers in MS-Word, then paste them into the “Leave a reply” block and click “Submit Comment” when you’re finished.

1. Subjective essay: write your own epitaph (look it up), using as much simile and metaphor as possible. Use these literary devices to conjure both an image (physical senses) and a feeling (emotional and intellectual perception) in readers. See the section below “Developing Powerful Prose with Similes.”

2. Objective essay: using any of the 5 prompts under “Examples” on page 153 (“Steps to Writing a Causal Argument”), write a causal essay.

Essay Specifications:

1. Create EACH essay as a new blog entry in YOUR blog.

2. All sources must be properly cited at the end of the essay.

3. The objective essay must have at least 2 sources.

4. Essay length: not less than 2 pages (500 words on your blog word count) but no larger than 800 words.

5. First draft is due by midnight Thursday, April 8th. Final draft will be graded on April 12th.

Developing Powerful Prose with Similes:

One of the most colorful descriptive devices that can be useful in both subjective and objective essays is the simile.

An easy way to create similes is to collect a list of concrete objects (see below) juxtaposed with abstract things. Then, create a relationship between them. For example, #1 and #6:

Creating Similes

Abstract Concept            Concrete Object

1. Life 1. Tree
2. Anger 2. Sunset
3. Happiness 3. Race horse
4. Friendship 4. Gold mine
5. Justice 5. Puppy
6. Beauty 6. Mailbox
7. Jealousy 7. Water
8. Honesty 8. Sand
9. Faith 9. Fire
10. Courage 10. Fresh air

If I were trying to say something about life–say the surprises in it–I might pair them up like this:

“Life is like a mailbox–there’s something new in it every day.”

That’s a positive connection. A negative connection might be:

“Life is just one big mailbox–full of bills and obligation that will overflow if you don’t keep up daily.”

Now you try. Pick any five concrete objects and match them up one by one with the abstract ideas. If you can’t decide which to match up, pick the first five with the last five. Then decide if you want to express positive, negative or neutral relationships–and go for it.

For your epitaph:

Decide on the abstract descriptors that you feel describe you (e.g., faithful, funny). Then think of concrete nouns that have those characteristics (e.g., “faithful as the the sunrise;” “funny as a Volkswagen filled with clowns”).

Use a table (copy and paste or just use two lists) to create five potential relationships. Don’t be afraid to mix and match!

1. 1.
2. 2.
3. 3.
4. 4.
5. 5.

You probably won’t need all of the similes in one essay–but you might. Also, a simile is a great device to introduce a topic in a subjective paper as well.

Write your five similes and email them to: mannoc@erau.edu

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17 comments so far

  1. Dave Amann on

    1. What “effect” are we trying to find the cause of? Kids being FAT

    2. What “causes” does the author focus on? I feel that he believes that it is not the clowns fault for FAT kids but the parents. I agree

    3. What visualizations does the author create in your mind? Fat little kids crying because Chicago people are idiots.

    4. Where does the author attempt to break the link in the chain of causes? He breaks the chain of causes when he talks about the parents driving the FAT bastards to McDonalds for a burger and shake while they eat carrot sticks.

    5. What parallel argument does the author use? Uses the example of Charles Barkley.

  2. tpate on

    1. What “effect” are we trying to find the cause of? obesity

    2. What “causes” does the author focus on? parents driving kids to McDonalds

    3. What visualizations does the author create in your mind? cartoon characters, tony the tiger, mcdonalds

    4. Where does the author attempt to break the link in the chain of causes? kids need action, get fit

    5. What parallel argument does the author use? that parents are raising your kids not mcdonalds, Charles Barkley

  3. slusser224 on

    1. What “effect” are we trying to find the cause of?

    We are trying to find out why the kids are getting fat.

    2. What “causes” does the author focus on?

    The author focuses on the parents for the cause not Ronald.

    3. What visualizations does the author create in your mind?

    He uses breakfast cereals characters to show how kids are attracted to them.

    4. Where does the author attempt to break the link in the chain of causes?

    He does it when he states “Preteen kids don’t drive themselves to McDonald’s. They don’t splurge on extra large fries while their parents nibble on carrot sticks.”

    5. What parallel argument does the author use?

    He uses the statement from Charles Barkley “I’m not a role model … Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.”

  4. khans6 on

    1. What “effect” are we trying to find the cause of?
    Childhood obesity

    2. What “causes” does the author focus on?
    Preteen kids don’t drive themselves to McDonald’s.

    3. What visualizations does the author create in your mind?
    Tony the Tiger. Or Cap’n Crunch. Or the bird that’s cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.

    4. Where does the author attempt to break the link in the chain of causes?
    We support efforts to help kids get fit with more exercise and better nutrition.

    5. What parallel argument does the author use?
    In other words, it’s not their fault when kids get a steady diet of burgers and sugary cereals. Bouncing Ronald McDonald won’t make the McNuggets less appealing.
    Basketball legend Charles Barkley famously said: “I’m not a role model … Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.”
    Ronald McDonald isn’t raising your kids either. You are.

  5. Jimmy Hank on

    1. What “effect” are we trying to find the cause of? obesity
    2. What “causes” does the author focus on? Parents
    3. What visualizations does the author create in your mind?a party with health food for the retirement of ronald.
    4. Where does the author attempt to break the link in the chain of causes?saying ronald is not a role model the parent should be.
    5. What parallel argument does the author use?he talks about captain crunch, tony the tiger, and other food icons that sell food.

  6. bowlingp on

    The effect the writer is referring to is childhood obesity and the cause of this would be Ronald McDonald’s influence on children and McDonald’s ad campaign that specifically targets children. The author uses examples of other food characters that have successfully marketed themselves to children, such as Tony the Tiger. The author makes us visualize that Ronald McDonald is somehow stuffing hamburgers and fries down kids’ throats while their parents are eating healthy foods. The author breaks the chain by using the fact that kids cannot drive themselves to McDonald’s and that ultimately the responsibility is in the hands of the parents, not Ronald McDonald. The author uses the parallel argument that parents just have to say no…it’s as simple as that.

    • bowlingp on

      The parallel argument is using Charles Barkley’s quote that just because he’s famous does not make him a role model, the parents should be.

  7. Maurice Williams on

    1. What “effect” are we trying to find the cause of?
    Obesity

    2. What “causes” does the author focus on?
    He focuses on the foods offered at McDonalds

    3. What visualizations does the author create in your mind?
    Kids rushing to McDonalds all the time and its making them fat

    4. Where does the author attempt to break the link in the chain of causes?
    By saying the parents can say no and not take the kids to McDonalds

    5. What parallel argument does the author use?
    Parents need to do better

  8. mdd100 on

    1. What “effect” are we trying to find the cause of?
    Childhood obesity
    2. What “causes” does the author focus on?
    Ronald McDonald influence on kids.
    3. What visualizations does the author create in your mind?
    A funny one where a clown has to hang up floppy shoes
    4. Where does the author attempt to break the link in the chain of causes?
    By useing the parents as a cause
    5. What parallel argument does the author use?
    Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids

  9. johnsdl5 on

    1. What “effect” are we trying to find the cause of? Childhood obesity

    2. What “causes” does the author focus on? Children eating at McDonalds and parents not providing children with best eating habits.

    3. What visualizations does the author create in your mind? Obese kids eating fast food.

    4. Where does the author attempt to break the link in the chain of causes? Blaming the clown for kids who chow down too much.

    5. What parallel argument does the author use? Charles Barkley not being a role model

  10. lummus45 on

    1. Obesity is the effect we are trying to find the cause of.

    2. The author focuses on Ronald Mcdonald enticing children by making appearances, then follows it up with parents not telling the children no.

    3. The author creates the visualization of a little fat kid all happy and excited waving to a person dressed as ronald mcdonald. The kid then wants a large chocolate milk shake to wash his double cheeseburger down, and mom says “ok whatever you want”

    4.He breaks the chain when he goes from talking about retiring Ronny McD, to hounding parents for allowing children to eat like that.

    5. The parallel argument is using charles barkley. It doenst realy have anything to do with his point, but it still gives you an idea of what he is getting at.

  11. hernaj25 on

    1. What “effect” are we trying to find the cause of?
    childhood obesity

    2. What “causes” does the author focus on? That parents raise the kids.

    3. What visualizations does the author create in your mind?
    Ronald Mcdonald pushing the kids in line to purcahase a big mac.

    4. Where does the author attempt to break the link in the chain of causes? When the author starts talking about that the parents are the ones that take them there.

    5. What parallel argument does the author use? Talks about Barkley

  12. kolinski on

    1. What “effect” are we trying to find the cause of?
    Childhood Obesity by eating at McDonalds

    2. What “causes” does the author focus on?
    Parents, not enough exerise, TV, little jokes or cheating

    3. What visualizations does the author create in your mind?
    how ads make your kids want what to eat, tony the tiger (etc on the ceral
    4. Where does the author attempt to break the link in the chain of causes?
    By adding the good type foods, like cereal
    5. What parallel argument does the author use?
    The steady diet of buger, which the kids did not buy. Basketball star is not raising your kid

  13. Kevin on

    1. What “effect” are we trying to find the cause of? Child obesity
    2. What “causes” does the author focus on? Too much fast food and sugary cereals
    3. What visualizations does the author create in your mind? Little fat kids, and their parents complaining about them being fat.
    4. Where does the author attempt to break the link in the chain of causes? When he starts talking about the retirement party.
    5. What parallel argument does the author use? That the parents are more to blame for their children’s diet.

  14. nigel on

    1. What “effect” are we trying to find the cause of? -Over weight kids
    2. What “causes” does the author focus on? – Bad nutrition habits
    3. What visualizations does the author create in your mind? – I’m visualizing an over weight child demanding for unhealthy foods with the urge of cartoon characters.
    4. Where does the author attempt to break the link in the chain of causes?
    – he breaks the chain by stating that the food products are not the primary cause, kids are not responsible to them selves it’s the parents who should enforce proper nutrition habits on their child.
    5. What parallel argument does the author use? – That parents should take responsibility for raising their kids stop passing the blame on TV or celebrities. “I’m not a role model … Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.” Charles Barkley.

  15. Sitchler on

    1. What “effect” are we trying to find the cause of? Obesity in children
    2. What “causes” does the author focus on? Parents not being held responsible for their child’s obesity.
    3. What visualizations does the author create in your mind? The muffling of the Pillsbury Doughboy’s giggle or lifting the Lucky Charms leprechaun’s license to peddle.
    4. Where does the author attempt to break the link in the chain of causes? When he states that parents are responsible.
    5. What parallel argument does the author use? When he talks about Charles Barkley saying: “I’m not a role model … Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.”

  16. atcgoddess on

    1. What “effect” are we trying to find the cause of?
    Childhood Obesity
    2. What “causes” does the author focus on?
    The false claims that Ronald and other icons are responsible
    3. What visualizations does the author create in your mind?
    Ronald McDonald stuffing cheeseburgers in little fat kids faces
    4. Where does the author attempt to break the link in the chain of causes?
    He points out that parents won’t say no and the advertising used to sell the kids
    5. What parallel argument does the author use?
    Charles Barkley quote and pointing out the responsibility does NOT lie with the icons


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