The Santa Anna Winds (A "Un"natural Phenomenon)

English AP Lang Essay.

Much as Floridians dread the summer hurricane season, Santa Annan’s have their own foreboding of a natural phenomenon. The Santa Anna winds, as portrayed by famed writer Joan Didion in her essay entitled “Los Angeles Notebook”, are lesser in the direct sense than say a hurricane, but still deeply potent to Santa Annan society. In her essay, Didion portrays the virtual omnipresence of this “storm” as well as the various communal effects it has. Didion employs stylistic elements such as the use of imagery, an appeal to logos, and the use of repetition to instill in the reader a sense of uneasiness.

Imagery in writing can deeply affect the reader, enabling one to transcend the text and become very involved in the play of things. Didion describes the annual cycle of the winds very elaborately and sensually. Primarily, the reader’s sense of sight and nerve are stimulated. For example, the first and second paragraphs envelop the reader in a local’s sense of foreboding and apprehension in the calm before the storm. The “unnatural stillness” and descriptions of natural anomalies like the “yellow cast of light” and the “ominous sheen of the sea” vividly portray one’s warped senses in trepidation of the imminent winds.

Furthermore, Didion, as a resident of Santa Anna, notes the effects of the winds on herself as well as her community. She depicts a number of circumstances “gone wrong” because of the winds. The fact that “every booze party ends in a fight” and that the suicide rate hikes during an occurrence appeals to the readers’ logos. Scientific findings are mentioned: Doctors report that blood does not clot normally during a foehn, the Santa Anna of Austria and Switzerland, and physicists have discovered that the air contains an unusually high ratio of positive to negative ions, simply causing unhappiness. Didion uses factual mallacies to sway the more dubious of readers to grow to empathize with the Santa Annans.

Another rhetorical effect employed by Didion to convey this sense of uneasiness and apprehension to the reader is the use of artful diction. Didion employs repetition (for emphasis) of the phrase “the winds have a deeply mechanistic impact” on human behavior twice; that to live with the Santa Anna is to have a subconscious connection to the winds to the extent that every occurrence triggers a mechanical response in humans, a direct input to output relationship. This relationship explains the warped effects it has on the general population; that once “meek little wives” biding their times would soon be studying their husbands’ necks while feeling the sharp tips of knives. The repetition of this phrase transforms the text entirely, and if Didion had not repeated this phrase, this text’s thesis could have been utterly unrelated.

 After reading this text, a Floridian would shut their word-hoard and quit complaining of the summer hurricane season. Even if the Santa Anna winds are not actually much to be feared, Didion makes them to be. Her application of imagery, appeal to logos, and thetical transformation of the text using repetition of phrase greatly augments her essay. Santa Anna is surely not the place to be when the winds start to blow.

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