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Lucas Pires dos Santos

Rhetorical analysis from the text “Cultural Baggage” from Barbara Ehrenreich, 1992

Finding your own heritage or at least the origins of your family is an issue considered to be of great importance for some people. These roots are usually related to the idea of carrying a legacy from the family and passing it forward to the next generation. The author, Barbara Ehrenreich, explores the idea of pursuing this legacy questioning herself the reasons why it would be relevant and always trying to make references to the way her parents raised her and the way she raised her children.

During a conversation with an acquaintance the author found herself intrigued after being questioned about her cultural heritage. She uses the word “None” to represent her nonidentity to any kind of familiar heritage, at least not long dated, and uses examples to emphasize this idea saying that she is a mix of different customs from different nationalities, that she doesn’t identify herself with any ritual regarding ancient generations.

After being put in front of such deep existential matter, the author sets as objective to define whether or not carrying a cultural baggage is truly important for her life in specific, because this is not clear for her yet.

Analyzing her family experiences the author finds a pattern to formulate her thesis. Barbara believes she is part of a group she called “Who do not believed, who do not carry on traditions, who do not do things just because someone has done them before”. She supports this conclusion exemplifying through an answer she had from her children about not believing God, just like her antecessors, and noticing that her parents always told her to look forward and think for herself, and this her true legacy, to belong to the “Race of none” as she described and proudly recognizes she

could guide her children the same way. Therefore, this idea of independence explains her non identification to any other tradition but the tradition of not having one.

“Cultural Baggage” was originally published in The New York Times Magazine, so the audience of this content is the public, the readers of the magazine.

I disagree with the author in some specific points, because claiming that she doesn’t carry a cultural tradition maybe reflects that she is just unable to see. In countries like the United States, which receive lots of immigrants, the mixing of cultures process is more intense, but in spite of this factor it is possible to identify some characteristics from older times. What I mean is that if you do not notice what you do come from a tradition (consciously), doesn’t mean that there is no tradition involved.

The idea of simply ignoring the past or the traditions as I understood that the author proposed should be more balanced in my conception. Because looking back helps not to repeat mistakes so doing it is not always a waste of time. Besides, it is important to understand certain traditions, because they exist for a reason, and maybe that reason is interesting, maybe not, but it is not possible to evaluate it if it is simply ignored.