On Letter Writing

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate April 2001

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In Vivian Gornick's essay "On Letter Writing" Gornick looks back and appreciates the old way of communication-- by letter writing. She has varied feelings about the world and its new technology- the telephone and how it has destroyed the old way of classic communication. I can agree with Gornick's view on letter writing, and the way it helps one to put thoughts on a piece of paper for the other to see and cherish.

"Receiving a letter was an excitement . . . I treasured these hours between the time I got the letter and the time I answered it." Gornick recalled that in the past receiving a letter was one of the best things in that could happen. For Gornick the time spent after receiving the letter was the time to gather up personal thoughts and collect them on " . . . an atmosphere on a page larger than the facts."

She is saying that in letter writing the thoughts that we are feeling are articulated, that things are not just said, they are expressed with a deeper inner meaning, whereas in today's society people only say what they feel has any meaning on the phone, even though they might be wrong. People just do not display any affection on the phone. Most of the time people just call one another and say the facts and do not reflect on the personal thoughts and feelings.

Today people do not have time for letter writing; it is simply unreasonable. However, I make time for myself to sit down and write a letter to my brother at least twice a week. My case is different though: this is my only way of communication with him because he is in the navy. It would be different if the only way of communication was through letter writing. My brother is in Great Lakes, Illinois, so he cannot call me on the telephone. There are rules and regulations that state, "no recruit shall use the telephone." The time that they spend using the telephone is considered a privilege. The only way the sailors are allowed to use the phone is if they have succeeded a task with much honor and respect.

We take the phone for granted, that is what Gornick expresses in her essay. People do not have to write letters anymore to converse with people they wish to speak with. In society today people are so lazy or they simply do not care to take the extra time to put their pen on paper. People are also too nervous to express their feelings in words on the phone; Gornick believes that letter writing can help express oneself.

Gornick helped to let me see how times have changed from the time of "Mr. Levinson . . . a hundred years ago" and "Laura's phone call . . . of twentieth- century minimalism." Mr. Levinson enjoyed the time he spent writing a letter, but for him it was the most common way of communication other than talking. Laura's phone call had no inner personal reflection. She just said what she thought was vital, and nothing else about her life and how she felt. People just do not get all of their personal feelings out on the phone. It takes time to piece them out individually and interpret them. Yet, seriously who has time to write everyone they speak with on the phone?