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To my surprise, I did pass every part—except writing. How did I manage to fail writing, and by half a point, no less? Seeing my test results brought tears to my eyes. I honestly could not believe it. To make matters worse, most of my classmates, including some who were barely passing eighth-grade English, passed that part. Until that time, I loved writing just as much as I loved math. It was one of my strengths.

I was good at it, and I enjoyed it. If anything, I thought I might fail citizenship. How could I have screwed up writing? I surely spelled every word correctly, used good grammar, and even used big words in the proper context. How could I have failed? Finally I got over it and decided it was no big deal. Surely I would pass the next time. In my honors English class I worked diligently, passing with an A. By October I'd be ready to conquer that writing test. I failed the test again, again with only 4.

That time I did cry, and even went to my English teacher, Mrs. Brown, and asked, "How can I get A's in all my English classes but fail the writing part of the proficiency test twice? Even my friends and classmates were confused. I felt like a failure.

I had disappointed my family and seriously let myself down. Worst of all, I still couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong.

I decided to quit trying so hard. Apparently—I told myself—the people grading the tests didn't have the slightest clue about what constituted good writing. I continued to excel in class and passed the test on the third try.

But I never again felt the same love of reading and writing. This experience showed me just how differently my writing could be judged by various readers.

Obviously all my English teachers and many others enjoyed or at least appreciated my writing. A poem I wrote was put on television once.

I must have been a pretty good writer. Unfortunately the graders of the ninth-grade proficiency test didn't feel the same, and when students fail the test, the state of Ohio doesn't offer any explanation. After I failed the test the first time, I began to hate writing, and I started to doubt myself. I doubted my ability and the ideas I wrote about. Failing the second time made things worse, so perhaps to protect myself from my doubts, I stopped taking English seriously.

Perhaps because of that lack of seriousness, I earned a 2 on the Advanced Placement English Exam, barely passed the twelfth-grade proficiency test, and was placed in developmental writing in college.

I wish I knew why I failed that test, because then I might have written what was expected on the second try, maintained my enthusiasm for writing, and continued to do well. Nichols ' s narrative focuses on her emotional reaction to failing a test that she should have passed easily. The contrast between her demonstrated writing ability and her repeated failures creates a tension that captures readers ' attention.

We want to know what will happen to her. Magazine advertisements aimed at American women have a long history of pushing things like makeup, mouthwash, soap, and other products that reinforce men's roles in women's lives. The concept of personal hygiene has been used to convey the message that "catching" a man or becoming a wife is a woman's ultimate goal, and in advertisements from the s, s, and s this theme can be traced through verbal and visual content.

For example, a ad for Resinol soap urges women to "make that dream come true" by using Resinol see Fig.

The dream is marriage. The premise is that a bad complexion will prevent marriage even if a woman has attributes like wit and grace, which the ad identifies as positive. Blotchy skin, the ad says, will undermine all that.

The word repellent is used for emphasis and appears in the same sentence as the words neglected and humiliated, equating the look of the skin with the state of the person within. Of course, Resinol can remedy the condition, and a paragraph of redemption follows the paragraph about being repellent. A treatment program is suggested, and the look and feel of "velvety" skin are only "the first happy effects," with eventual marriage fulfillment implied as the ultimate result of using Resinol soap. Visual content supports the mostly verbal ad.

In a darkened room, a lone woman peers dreamily into a fireplace, where she sees an apparition of herself as a bride in a white veil, being fulfilled as a person by marriage to a handsome man. She lounges in a soft chair, where the glow of the image in the fireplace lights her up and warms her as much as the comforting fire itself. A smaller image shows the woman washing with Resinol, contentedly working her way toward clear skin and marriage over a water-filled basin suggestive of a vessel of holy water.

This image is reinforced by her closed eyes and serene look and by the ad's suggestion that "right living" is a source of a good complexion. A somewhat less innocent ad appeared more than a decade later, in see Fig.

That ad, for Lux soap, like the one for Resinol, prescribes a daily hygiene regimen, but it differs significantly from the Resinol message in that it never mentions marriage and uses a clearskinned movie star as proof of Lux's effectiveness. Instead of touting marriage, Lux teaches that "a girl who wants to break hearts simply must have a tea-rose complexion.

Lux's pitch is more sophisticated than Resinol's, appealing to a more emancipated woman than that of the early s and offering a kind of evidence based on science and statistics.

The text cites "9 out of 10 glamorous Hollywood stars" and scientists who explain that Lux slows aging, but it declines to cite names, except that of Irene Dunne, the ad's star.

The unnamed stars and scientists give the ad an air of untruthfulness, and this sense is deepened by the paradox of the ad's title: Like Resinol, Lux urges women to seek love and fulfillment by enhancing their outward beauty and suggests that clear skin means having "the charm men can't resist. Several demure views of Irene Dunne emphasize her "pearlysmooth skin," the top one framed by a large heart shape.

In all the photos, Dunne wears a feathery, feminine collar, giving her a birdlike appearance: At the bottom of the ad, we see a happy Dunne being cuddled and admired by a man. The visual and verbal message is that women should strive, through steps actually numbered in the ad, to attain soft, clear skin and hence charm and hence romance.

Not surprisingly, the ad uses the language of battle to describe the effects of clear skin: This time the target is no longer grown women but teenage girls: Stay Sweet As You Are!

The idea of staying sweet means on the surface that girls should have nice breath, but the youthful context of the ad means that for women to be attractive they must stay young and "stay adorable," preferably with the girlish innocence of a teenager.

The consequences of not staying sweet are clear: With talk of "the bacterial fermentation of proteins," research, and clinical tests, the mouthwash props up its romantic and sexual claims by proclaiming scientific facts. Listerine is "4 times better than any tooth paste," the ad proclaims "With proof like this, it's easy to see why Listerine belongs in your home.

The central image is a photo of a perky, seemingly innocent teenage girl playing records on a portable phonograph. A vision of midcentury American femininity, she wears a fitted sweater, a scarf tied at the neck like a wrapped present? She sits on the floor, her legs hidden by the skirt; she could be a cake decoration. Leaning forward slightly, she looks toward the reader, suggesting by her broad smile and submissive posture that perhaps kissing will follow when she wins the boys with her sweet breath.

The record player affirms the ad's teenage target. The intended consumers in the Resinol, Lux, and Listerine ads are women, and the message of all three ads is that the product will lead to—and is required for—romantic or matrimonial success.

Each ad implies that physical traits are paramount in achieving this success, and the ads' appearance in widely circulated magazines suggests that catching a man whether or not she marries him is the ultimate goal of every American woman. While there is a kind of progress over time, the ads' underlying assumptions remain constant.

There is evidence of women's increasing sophistication, illustrated in the later ads' use of science and "objective" proof of the products' effectiveness. Women's development as individuals can also be seen in that marriage is not presupposed in the later ads, and in the case of Lux a single woman has a successful career and apparently has her pick of many partners. Still, one theme remains constant and may be seen as a continuing debilitating factor in women's struggle for true equality in the world of sex roles: Despite apparent advances on other levels, that assumption runs through all three ads and is the main selling point.

The consumer of Resinol, Lux, and Listerine is encouraged to objectify herself, to become more physically attractive not for her own sake but for someone else's. The women in all three ads are beautifying themselves because they assume they must "make new conquests," "win the boys," and "make that dream come true.

He describes patterns of images and language in all three ads as evidence. It was first published in Etude and Techne , a journal of Ohio college writing. Tom Brokaw called the folks of the mid-twentieth century the greatest generation.

So why is the generation of my grandparents seen as this country's greatest? Perhaps the reason is not what they accomplished but what they endured. Many of the survivors feel people today "don't have the moral character to withstand a depression like that.

Roosevelt FDR announced in that the American South "represented the nation's number one economic problem. Though rich in physical and human resources, the southern states lagged behind other parts of the nation in economic development. Young children attending school became too costly for most families.

In the Bland family, "when Lucy got to the sixth grade, we had to stop her because there was too much to do. The short school terms further reduced effectiveness. Abercrombie recalls, "Me and Jon both went to school for a few months but that wa'n't enough for us to learn anything. Southern industries did not have the investment capital to turn their resources into commodities. Manufacturers were limited to producing goods in the textile and cigarette industries and relied heavily on the cash crops of cotton and tobacco for the economy.

Few facilities existed in the South for research that might lead to the development of new industries. Hampered by low wages, low tax revenue, and a high interest rate, Southerners lacked the economic resources to compete with the vast industrial strength of the North.

As Abercrombie indicates, "Penalized for being rural, and handicapped in its efforts to industrialize, the economic life of the South has been squeezed to a point where the purchasing power of the southern people does not provide an adequate market for its own industries nor an attractive market for those of the rest of the country.

However, without adequate capital, it did not have the means to profit from them. Southern industries paid their employees low wages, which led to a low cost of living. To save on the cost of clothes, families "had a lot of handmedowns from the oldest to the baby.

We did not throw them away. We patched them up and sent them down the line. Carlton and Peter A. Some of the South's credit difficulties have been slightly relieved in recent years. This New Deal measure gave jobs to those who wanted to work. Local governments benefited too. The WPA provided new roads, buildings, hospitals, and schools. Rita Beline remembers her "father came very short of money,. Warren Addis remembers that "workers were tickled to death with it because it gave so many people jobs.

It started out at eight cents an hour for common labor, and it finally went to thirty cents an hour. The concept of putting the American youth to work yielded an economic stimulus by having them send home twenty-five dollars a month. That money worked itself back into local economies as families spent the money on needed goods. Young men across the South "left home to go and do this work.

They got paid a little bit of money, which they sent home to their families. Jefferson Brock recalls, "They came and built brush poles for the fish to live in the lake near my cottage. They did a great lot of good. For instance, they built Vogel State Park and raised the wall up on the national cemetery. Just put people to work. Gave them their pride back.

A man's not going to feel very good about himself if he can't feed his family. So, that was the New Deal itself—to put people back to work and get the economy growing again. The federal action that fueled the Southern economy during the Great Depression changed the way of life for the better and helped Southerners endure a time of great despair. I still do not know if they were the greatest generation, but they did overcome tremendous obstacles to bring forth other "greatest generations.

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