The Right To Fail By William Zinsser Analysis

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What criterion defines a successful person? Who is to determine that? In “The Right to Fail,” William Zinsser disagrees with the idealistic American way of earning success. He also discusses the negative portrayal of dropouts in America. Zinsser believes that failing often leads to success and attempts to redefine the meaning of success. Although Zinsser glorifies dropping out, his examples of success, favor traditional means of achieving success. Zinsser undermines his own argument later on, by portraying the traditional means of success negatively. He suggests that the American dream focuses on materialism. He states, “Our advertisements and TV commercials are a hymn to material success, our magazine articles a toast to people who made …show more content…
He attempts to use historical figures to illustrate alternative means to success. He uses Thomas P. F. Hoving’s career as an example for his argument. Zinsser states, “Hoving was a dropout’s dropout, entering and leaving schools as if they were motels…” (Zinsser, 2014, p.190). He fails to mention that Hoving had a wealthy family to rely on during his period of dropping out of schools. Zinsser explains that Hoving eventually became a director at a museum. Although he argues Hoving achieved success by alternative means, Hoving eventually reached success in a traditional sense. In another example, Zinsser uses a literary character named Holden. He describes Holden as a failure who opposes the conventional path to success. He remarks, “Whether Holden has also reached the top of his chosen field today is one of those speculations that delight fanciers of good fiction” (Zinsser, 2014, p.190). Zinsser implies that he can only speculate that Holden became successful which damages the authority of his stance. By choosing a literary character, Zinsser further displays the lack of tangible evidence to confirm his position. Moreover, he describes Holden as reaching “the top,” which he seems to convey in a positive manner. However, Zinsser has used the same expression before to illustrate the American dream in a negative sense. This seems to contradict his views on achieving …show more content…
Although he states that success does not come without failure, his claims suggest that he does not believe that. Zinsser expresses, “Obviously it’s better to succeed than to flop…” (Zinsser, 2014, p.190). He cautiously handles the linguistics of his sentence. Zinsser uses the word “flop” as a synonym for failure because he does not desire for his readers to see the flaws in his statement. In addition, Zinsser also explains why he chooses the historical figures he does. He states, “To read their biographies is always exhilarating, not only because they beat the system, but because their system was better than the one that they beat” (Zinsser, 2014, p.190). Although Zinsser claims that his examples follow another path to success, they appear to follow the American dream. Many of his examples reached the top and obtained wealth. While he mocked the standard way to achieve success in the beginning, he seems to exonerate the same path to success found in the individuals that he

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