Said’s States

His style of writing does not follow a specific pattern, nor does it follow anything that is conventional in a normal essay. Said uses this unique style of writing in hopes to show the characteristics of the life as a Palestinian. However, this style of writing is extremely difficult to follow. The essay jumps from place to place, which makes it hard for the reader to keep track of what is being talked about. Said believes that his use of unconventional writing is necessary in order to establish the “hybrid” style of Palestinian culture.

Styles discussed will include things like the use of photos, lack of transitions, multiple genres, lack of and introduction and conclusion, and most importantly, no logical organization. Through the use of unconventional writing characteristics, Said takes the reader on a complicated journey to establish Palestinian “hybrid” way of life. In “States,” Said includes multiple genres. The typical, conventional way of writing includes a focus on one genre. Said tends to switch back and forth between history and autobiography. When more than one genre is expressed, the reader may become confused by too much jumping around.

For example, on page 548, Said is in the genre of history. He explains facts about the war of 1967 saying, “The 1967 war was followed shortly after by the Arab oil boom. For the first time, Palestinian nationalism arose as an independent force in the Middle East. Never did our future seem more hopeful” (548). In this quote, Said explains an important event in Palestinian life. This was important, because a glimmer of hope was beginning to show for Palestinian life. However, the start of the next paragraph just abandons what was being said in the previous quote. Said suddenly jumps into Palestinian life as being controlled and abandoned.

He says, The stability of geography and the continuity of land—these have completely disappeared from my life and the life of all Palestinians. If we are not stopped at borders, or herded into new camps, or denied reentry and residence, or barred from travel from one place to another, more of our land is taken, our lives are interfered with arbitrarily, our voices are prevented from reaching each other, our identity is confined to frightened little islands in an inhospitable environment of superior military force sanitized by the clinical jargon of pure administration (548).

Said is in a darker tone here. He is saying that Palestinians no longer have a value or worth. Everything that they do or will do is now in the hands of another higher power. This example of genre switch may confuse the reader, therefor making them unhappy. That is exactly what Said is trying to do. This, however, is not the only unconventional style used in this essay. One of the biggest, and most obvious unconventional characteristics is the use of pictures in the essay. Unless this was a children’s book, the reader should not expect to see more than one picture throughout an essay.

However, Said manages to use 29 photos throughout “States. ” Said believes that these photos will help give the reader a better understanding of how life is a Palestinian. Furthermore, he says, The multifaceted vision is essential to any representation of us. Stateless, dispossessed, decentered, we are frequently unable either to speak the “truth” of our experience or to make it heard. We do not usually control the images that represent us; we have been confined to spaces designed to reduce or stunt us; and we have often been distorted by pressures and powers that have been too much for us. (p. ) In the preceding quote, Said explains how the use of pictures can aid in the translation of emotion. He believes that the way in which the pictures are taken is key. In each picture, the photographer, Jean Mohr, has placed the reader at an angle that makes them feel as if they are in first person contact with the individuals in the picture. Though unconventional, the use of pictures in this essay makes the understanding a little easier for the reader. However, there are a few parts that get to be a bit confusing. For example, Said is talking about the picture on page 574 while the reader is on page 570.

In this case, the unconventional order comes into play. While reading “States,” the reader will notice that there is no logical order. The typical essay usually has a particular order or structure. More often than not, that order is chronological order. In “States” Said jumps from place to place and from genre to genre. Said knows that there is no logical order in his essay and makes it clear to the reader saying, “The story of Palestine cannot be told smoothly. Instead, the past, like the present, offers only occurrences and coincidences. Random” (557).

Said believes that this is best for the reader while explaining Palestinian life, because this style does describe Palestinian life. He elaborates on this saying, Its style and method—the interplay of text and photos, the mixture of genres, modes, styles—do not tell a consecutive story, nor do they constitute a political essay. Since the main features of our present existence are dispossession, dispersion, and yet also a kind of power incommensurate with our stateless exile, I believe that essentially unconventional, hybrid, and fragmentary forms of expression should be used to represent us.

What I have quite consciously designed, then, is an alternative mode of expression to the one usually encountered in the media, in works of social science, in popular fiction. (p. 6) Said is trying to tell the reader that his use of a hybrid style is necessary. He believes that the only way to get the true emotions across to the reader is to use this style, because Palestinians themselves are hybrid. Their emotions are so different, and can change at any moment. One great example of this would be the picture on page 541. In this photo, a wedding party is displayed.

The couple that has just been married are getting into a car, that is very atypical to Palestinian life. They seem to have an upset emotion on their faces. While they seem upset, the children in the back are very playful and happy. This displays a prime example of the social disorder in Palestinian culture. The picture on page 541 also represents another unconventional topic of interest. The essay “States” has no introduction or conclusion. An introduction is important in an essay, because it sets up the story for the reader by giving them an insight to what the essay will be about.

Instead, Said begins with the following quote. “Caught in a meager, anonymous space outside a drab Arab city, outside a refugee camp, outside the crushing time of one disaster after another, a wedding party stands, surprised, sad, slightly uncomfortable” (541). This quote does nothing to set up the essay for the reader. It simply just explains what is happening in the picture on the page. Without the use of an introduction, the reader is immediately searching for answers that may not be answered. The conclusion is also missing from the essay.

Without the support of a textual wrap-up, the reader is left questioning whether their interpretation is correct or not. However, this is exactly what Said wants. His whole goal was to confuse the readers, because that is what Palestinian life is. In order to explain the confusion, the reader must be confused. Therefor, by not including the conclusion in the essay, Said leaves the reader questioning the events that just transpired. In “States,” Said simply wraps up the essay with a final explanation of a picture. There is no satisfaction or sense of closure for the reader.

This unconventional way of writing leads to confusion for the reader, just like Said had planned it. While reading a piece of writing, the reader tends to find comfort in being able to follow along with the writing. However when one topic is not clearly transferred to another, attention may be lost. This brings us to the next topic of interest. In “States,” there are no transitions. The reader becomes confused, because Said is constantly jumping from one place to another. This does not just occur in certain parts of the essay, but rather throughout the entire essay.

For example, on page 543, the second full paragraph is describing the reactions Palestinian people have when approached by someone of another culture. Then, in the next paragraph, Said totally abandons this topic. He begins to talk about a man’s father who was dying. This simply just confuses the reader, which, once again, is the goal of Said. There is a lack of closure from one point to another. After reading “States,” I am left confused. Immediately I did not understand why Said wrote this the way he did. However, after I analyzed what I read nd then read it again, I understood his reason for writing it this way. He wanted the reader to become confused. By confusing the reader, it is the only way he can possibly get the truth across about Palestinian life. By abandoning all conventional ways of writing, he risks a lot. If he were to simply stick to one or two conventional ways of writing, the other unconventional ways would not stand out so bad. This essay, as previously explained, is confusing for the reader. The lack of order and form is just ridiculous.

The reader can expect to have difficulty when reading this essay, but through discussion and a second reading, it may be able to be interpreted. Said’s methods and form are necessary. In conclusion, Said’s way of unconventional writing is somewhat outlawed by many. In general, the writer will typically stick to a conventional style of writing with a well-structured order. However, this use of writing is necessary, in his eyes, to give a real life insight to Palestinian life. Said uses things like multiple pictures, no transitions, no conclusion, no introduction, multiple genres, and lack of chronological order for a specific reason.