An Examination Of PJ O'Rourke's "How To Explain Conservatism To Your Squishy Liberal Friends"

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate July 2001

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In "How to Explain Conservatism to your Squishy Liberal Friends: Individualism "˜R' Us," political writer P. J. O'Rourke does an amazingly funny, yet thoroughly competent job of explaining the nature of conservatism and how it directly relates to individual freedom. This is a very entertaining essay, and O'Rourke uses a lively grab bag of rhetorical techniques to make his ideas clear. Opting for an informal, slightly irreverent and humorous tone, O'Rourke explains why individualism is at the heart of conservatism and why big government can lead to big corruption.

The informal tone used in "How to Explain Conservatism to your Squishy Liberal Friends: Individualism "˜R' Us" starts with that hilarious title. He keeps the informal tone throughout the piece by enlisting simple diction, informal punctuation, and by keeping his paragraphs short. These techniques give the essay a nice flow. They also rhythmically punctuate the humor and irreverence that follows.

O'Rourke does a splendid job of being irreverent on a bipartisan basis.

Newt Gingrich, Pat Shroeder, Albert Gore, Norman Schwartzkopf, George Stephanonpoulos, Donna Shalala, and Oliver North are all given lip service here on a dryly-humorous level. The fact that the examples that O'Rourke used show extremes in both political parties demonstrates that O'Rourke is defending conservatism, not Republicans or Democrats. This lends considerable credibility to his argument, while at the same time entertaining the reader.

As effectively as O'Rourke's points serve at supporting his explanation of conservatism, the style with which they are written perhaps equally serve to make the reader laugh. Humor is found throughout this essay. Referring to the title again, "How to Explain conservatism to your Squishy Liberal Friends: Individualism "˜R' Us" definitely suggest that O'Rourke's intent is to make the reader chuckle. O'Rourke pokes fun at himself early on when he notes that while Ethan Hawke...