Voice in “Roger Ebert: The Essential Man”

Chris Jones wrote the short story of “Roger Ebert” for Esquire Magazine to give the audience an up-close and personal view of a film-critic who has suffered from cancer, but in many ways, overcome it.

The general mood of this text is hope-filled. Although some parts of the story seem grim, it is actually joyful. The story shows that even a man who has gone through hell and back can find joy and peace. Jones states, “And his wide and expressive eyes, despite everything, are almost always smiling” (228). A very touching and hopeful moment in the story is when Ebert’s wife, Chaz, sends out her “prayer to the universe.” Then, “Ebert raises his arms into the sky behind her” (225). The author shows that even though Ebert is facing an extensive battle, he has not let it defeat him. In this way, Jones gains respect and admiration for Ebert.

Jones’ language in the story could be described as informative, yet personal. Jones has a way of adding key facts into the descriptions of Ebert’s everyday life. For example, Jones uses calendar year several times to give the audience a sense of orientation. We learn that Ebert’s first surgery took place in 2002 and that in 2006, Ebert took his last “bite and sip”, and “spoke his last word” (222). Jones also emphasizes the importance of Ebert’s internet-life in a somewhat amusing way, adding relief to the seriousness of the story. When Ebert’s internet has been down for three days, it is “the equivalent of being buried alive…”(223). When the story seems to be getting too serious, Jones breaks it up a little to relieve the audience.

As for sentence structure, most of the sentences are longer. However, the story still moves along at a decent pace because it is written mostly in the present tense. There are a few shorter sentences placed into the story to break up the lengthier ones.

The arrangement is mostly chronological, although Ebert thinks back to past years several times, to give the audience some background. The opening of the story is engaging because it begins with action. “For the 281st time in the last ten months, Roger Ebert is sitting down to watch a movie in the Lake Street Screening Room” (220). The opening makes the reader want to continue because it is witty and detailed. It ties into the conclusion because in the beginning of the story, Ebert is setting up to watch the movie, and at the end, he is giving his review. Everything in between is information about Ebert’s life and character. This is a good technique, because the reader is so drawn in to the story that he forgets about the opening scene until the very end, when he is brought back to it.

If written for another publication, the story may have been strictly informative, focusing on Ebert’s life and achievements. The way it was actually written makes the reader feel as if he almost knows the character personally.

Synthesis questions:

1. Do you agree that the general mood of the story is hopeful, or do you feel it is more melancholy?

2. What were your feelings toward Ebert? Did you find him to be an inspirational character?

3. At the end, Jones adds in an excerpt of Ebert’s own writing. Do you feel this enhances the story?

4. How do you feel about the detailed descriptions and images of Ebert’s sickness? Did they add to, or take away from the story?

M. Bacallao

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