Natural Disasters: An Example of Different Scopes

The post below is a short commentary on two articles regarding natural disasters. Both articles are written in different scopes. This is mentioned and examples of how one is able to tell which scope is being used are given.

“The Story of an Eyewitness,” by Jack London and “Letter from New Orleans; Leaving Desire,” by Jon Lee Anderson are articles covering two different natural disasters. When some people read the articles, they might notice that, aside from the disasters themselves, the articles vary in their scopes, people, places, and events as well as how they present those subjects.

Jack London, the author of “The Story of an Eyewitness,” wrote of the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 using a broad scope format. He speaks of, “…Japanese, Italians, Chinese, and negroes…” as well as “…shopkeepers and soft members of the middle class…” and working men. Also, Mr. London describes the entire “…modern imperial city…” from Union Square to nearly deserted side streets. While Mr. London walked on these streets, he saw “…street clothing and treasures…” that some victims had flung away after carrying them for miles. Another sight he saw was located “Before the march of the flames…” and the sight seen was “…picket lines of soldiers. And a block at a time, as the flames advanced, these pickets retreated.”

There wasn’t, however, a picket line of soldiers forcing people out of the danger zone during Hurricane Katrina, but – according to “Letter from New Orleans; Leaving Desire,” written in narrow scope format by Jon Lee Anderson – rescues were attempted. Mr. Anderson mainly focuses on Lionel Petrie – an African American – and Lionel’s family. Also correlating with the narrow scope format is Mr. Anderson’s focus on “…one of the poorest and worst-hit parts of the city, the Ninth Ward, in eastern New Orleans.” Mr. Anderson wrote of the terrible flood as well as Lionel Petrie’s rescue, during which Mr. Petrie had to leave his dog, house, and life behind.

Both of the articles reiterated in different ways the losses that the victims of the hurricane and earthquake had to sustain as well as the horrible damage the natural disasters did. However, “The Story of an Eyewitness” chronicles a wider, broader scope of the damage when compared to “Letter from New Orleans; Leaving Desire.” The latter provides more detail and facilitates a connection to one of the victims while the former describes one victim after another. Neither scope has a significant advantage over the other in general, though the usefulness of each depends on the purpose of the article. 


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