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Paper #12

Kismet's picture

Environmental issues must be addressed, although they are extremely difficult to discuss.  In a conversation about it in person it is hard to engage other people.  In writing, it is even harder to get (and then, keep) the reader’s attention.  This explains why there are so many individuals who lack even a basic understanding of the harm that is being done to the planet, and continue to contribute to said harm.  The only way to have an impact on these issues is to educate the masses in a way that is both accessible and digestible.  The novel The Collapse of Western Civilization and the graphic novel As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Stay in Denial both were written as attempts to reach this goal.  Each attempt took a different approach to attracting an audience; The Collapse of Western Civilization is a short novel that is packed with ideas and information, while As the World Burns presents ideas through illustration and basic yet complex dialogue.  Because As the World Burns is illustrated, it helps to keep the reader interested and also functions to make the read a more emotionally touching experience.  Also, the simple format makes it a quick and relatively easy read.  These factors make the graphic novel more effective in its goal of reaching a wider audience than The Collapse of Western Civilization.

Although both of these novels clearly were intended to reach as broad of an audience as possible, they each seem to have a specific audience.  Although The Collapse of Western Civilization would probably not interest people under the age of twenty as much as As the World Burns, it still is accessible to this age group.  The briefness of the novel increases the readability for the younger audience, and may even be fit for a high school tradebook.  The importance of the novel’s message and the points made throughout the text would make it an excellent complex read for students that lends itself to a lot of constructive project and classwork options for the teacher to assign.  

Also, there is evidence in the text that suggests that the book is geared toward this audience.  In the novel, it is written that Western Civilization collapsed in the year 2093.  This year hints at being a call to action for the younger generation.  Essentially, by strategically assigning this date to the collapse, the authors are implying that it is up to the people roughly under the age of twenty to save the world.  Also, the year 2093 seems shockingly soon, especially considering that the media’s coverage of environmental issues tends to downplay their urgency.  Although the closeness of this deadline (no pun intended) produces an immediate feeling of panic and dismay, it is far enough away to give the reader hope that there is still time to redeem ourselves.  This date implies that the younger generation has our entire lives to make the changes we need to make in order to save Western Civilization.  Between this call to action and the briefness of the novel, it is easy to conclude that the intended audience is the younger generation.

As previously stated, As the World Burns appeals to younger people more effectively than The Collapse of Western Civilization does.  The most obvious and important aspect of the graphic novel that makes this difference is the illustration.  Solely from looking at the covers of the two books, As the World Burns is clearly the more appealing of the two.  Reading the summaries on the back covers produce the same result.  Although both novels are fiction (despite the fact that they contain ideas and information that are very important in reality) the stories are told in two very distinct styles.  The style of the graphic novel is much more interesting to read, especially through the eyes of a younger person.  The short, segmented dialogues in the graphic novel make it easy to pick it up, put it down when one is busy, and pick it up again later without missing a beat.  This quality adds to the readability of the book; it can be read deeply and experienced fully even if one doesn’t have time to read large sections of it in a single sitting.  

The impact that the illustrations have on the accessibility of the graphic novel cannot be overstated.  It makes the content, which is packed with critical ideas, fully digestible regardless of the reader’s age.  A child as young as eleven or twelve would be able to read and understand the vast majority of this graphic novel, despite some of the explicit content.  This is vital to the achievement of the point of it - educating the generation that needs to make the changes that could save the environment.  

Although the two novels communicate their ideas in vastly different ways, their focus and purpose is the same.  Both of these books are intended to educate and inspire readers.  It is important to note that both of them also recognize the importance of the younger generation.  The role that younger people play may very well decide the fate of our planet.  The authors of both books clearly understand this, and this is why they target this audience.  The Collapse of Western Civilization and As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Stay in Denial use different writing styles to communicate the same basic point; it is up to the youth to save our planet.


Works Cited


Jensen, Derrick, and Stephanie McMillan. As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Stay in Denial. New York: Seven Stories, 2007. Print.


Oreskes, Naomi, and Erik M. Conway. The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future. New York: Columbia UP, 2014. Print.