In Tom Folger’s “Waves of Destruction,” he uses a story to captivate the reader before educating the audience about the fury of earthquakes and their younger brother: the tsunami.
Throughout his piece, he uses imagery extremely well to captivate the reader, and this is done from the very beginning of his essay. In the first paragraph, he states, “The sound came from the keel of their boat, which had just scraped the bottom in a harbor normally more than 20 feet deep,” (Folger, 514). But even before sharing that vivid detail, he grabs the reader’s attention when he describes the date, time and location of a mild earthquake. This causes the reader to want to continue on to see what happened after the earthquake struck.
Throughout the narrative, the author uses dialogue to further capture the interest of his readers. It adds to the excitement of what happened at the beginning of the story when the boat scraped the bottom of the ocean: “We heard a slam … I started running, but I didn’t even get out of the restaurant when the waves hit,” (Folger, 514). The visual elements added by Folger to set the scene, are complimented by the dialogue, which is the emotion of the piece.
The vivid event is brought into perspective when it is explained what the newspaper was reporting and how big the waves actually were. The devastation was so severe that it caused restaurants to be swept away and people were left reeling in the water, trying to survive 100 yards from shore. Approximately 170 people were killed from the tsunami and 13,000 were left homeless. By telling the story from the perspective of a couple of people on a boat, to taking it to the restaurant scene and then what happened throughout the entire country, it is like Folger starts extremely focused and then does a slow pan out from the heart of the carnage. This is very effective and it puts the reader right into the action. Folger then takes the reader into the perspective of what generally happens around the world: “Destructive tsunamis strike somewhere in the world an average of once a year,” (Folger, 515). This shows what a severe hit this tsunamis was and how rare it was. I can see Folger’s magazine reporting skills really taking over and it is evident that this piece was included in one of the magazines he worked for, either Discovery or Science Digest.
Folger clearly spent a lot of time researching the piece, as he has crafted into his story information about the number of destructive tsunamis that usually strike. Throughout the world, there is an average of one destructive tsunami strike each year, he notes. He then goes into detail about where some of the recent tsunamis hit and he talks about the destruction that was caused there. This puts the scale of the 1992 Nicaraguan tsunami into perspective.
He not only researched the history books about information on tsunamis, he also spoke to an oceanographer, which added quotes just as the piece was getting relatively boring when talking about the science behind earthquakes – particularly about tectonic plates. The oceanographer discusses the process of plate tectonics and what happens to the land and the seafloor.
Folger also uses analogies to add to the excitement. For example, he describes waves as being like airplanes and the ocean being tiny compared to the size of these waves, “tsunamis can race through the ocean at jetliner speeds … The outsize scale of a tsunami makes an ocean seem like a pond,” (Folger, 516, 517).
I thought the article did a good job at transforming what could have been boring material into an interesting and educational look at what causes earthquakes. It also provides a lot of information about the history of tsunamis throughout the world and how common they are. The story style of delivering information is much more effective than some of the bland writing that is riddled throughout textbooks, particularly books in high school. This magazine style of writing, which utilizes adjectives rather than simple-form writing with not much description at all, is effective in a learning environment. However, while Folger’s writing is strong, it doesn’t express the type of genius that would be found in a writer such as Hunter S. Thompson, who would take the bone-crushing imagery that is fueled by the vicious nature of tsunamis and earthquakes and turn it into a heart-pounding, eye-popping adrenaline ride that would crawl up a person’s spine before exploding into an impromptu jaw drop. Incidentally, Thompson was also a journalist, and I believe many of these types of writers would be effective at writing textbooks –they are trained to research like scholars, and they know how to structure a story. However, only a few of them have mastery over adjectives that aren’t exactly riddled throughout newspapers, though magazines do use more description.