Persuasive Essay 2011 Winner

Brent Sohn, grade 5
Hale Kula Elementary

Word Choice at Work

       We are told that “sticks and stones will break our bones, but words will never hurt us” but does this mean words are meaningless?  Words do have meaning.  Words make us feel emotional.  Words can brighten up our day.  The written word has this same power.  In The Missing Book 1: Found, Margaret Peterson Haddix draws out the characters and conflict with word choice.

       Margaret Peterson Haddix heightens conflict with word choice.   When Jonah got the first letter,  “He knew it was just a prank--it had to be--but for just a second, staring at the words, You are one of the missing, he’d almost believed them”(22).    When Jonah thinks, “…it had to be…” he is trying to convince himself that it is a prank, but he knows secretly that it is not.  He tries to hide the evidence:  he “…crammed the letter into his jeans pocket” (22).    “Crammed,” means shoving quickly with force.  Jonah is trying to get the letter out of his mind; to further convince himself that it is only a prank.  This starts the conflict that leads to everything else: the library meeting, Mr. Reardon’s office, and the time hollow. The word choice of how he knew it had to be but it wasn’t a prank. The way the grammar and the words are used, this is amplifying.

       Margaret Peterson Haddix chooses words that convey emotion and draws the reader in.  When Chip realizes he’s adopted, “…Jonah felt the anger boiling up inside him.  Jonah didn’t get mad often…But right now he wanted to stalk over to Chip’s house, swing his best punch and hit Chip’s dad right in the mouth” (35). Like a liquid at a very high temperature, Jonah is boiling.   Because his parents have always been open to him about adoption, he is furious that Chip’s parents kept his adoption secret.  He is so mad that he wants to express his anger irrationally.   He wants to “stalk” over to Chip’s house.  “Stalk” in this context means to stride to Chip’s house.   Stalk has a sinister connotation.  Swing has momentum and lots of force.  We know Jonah is usually calm, but these words show his extreme anger.

       Word choice also amplifies characters’ actions.   When JB appeared at the meeting with Angela Dupre as the tackler he called out: “You can't do this! The tackler was screaming. No not exactly screaming. He was keeping his voice down, barely above a whisper, but his words still echoed with fury”(176).  This shows that JB is very serious.  “Fury” suggests extreme rage, J.B. but won't recklessly lose control.  He is mad, yet he keeps from shouting; he controls his voice so it is “barely above a whisper.” 

       The word choice in Found hooks the readers’ attention and pulls them in, imprisoning them in a realm of action, danger, and excitement.