Writing By Choice, Third Edition. Eric Hendersen. Oxford University Press. Don Mills Ontario. Page 96-96
- Briefly analyze the essay’s introduction. Consider the effectiveness of the opening and the thesis statement. Is Halperin successful in establishing his approach to the topic of dog versus houseplants?
“They’re barking money pits, these dogs, and for too long we’ve been under the false impression that they’re better than houseplants.”
Yes. Halperin’s opening and thesis statement are effective–finally, a writer addresses the crucial issue of “dogs versus houseplants,” for so long neglected by the Mainstream Media.
- How could you characterize the writer’s tone? Give specific examples. How could awareness of tone affect your reading of the essay?
Halperin’s tone is fearless. Resolute. Some writers are glib in the face of society’s most dire crises, relying on humour as a crutch because the grimmest truths are too uncomfortable.
“Unlike dogs, plants will forever maintain their poise no matter how many times you ring the doorbell…Dogs, on the other hand, are famous for attacking mailmen—an obvious sign of class warfare.”
In an era where mafia states infiltrate Western countries, where the planet’s ecology is systematically destroyed and sold, and global economic disparity is increasing grotesquely in an age of post-scarcity, these are dark times and it is comforting to find a writer as serious and perceptive as Halperin.
- Analyze one of the body paragraphs, using criteria discussed in this and/or previous chapters.
“Finally, after years of attachment, your plant will grow and so will your pleasure with it. With casual care, your plant can actually outlive you. No matter how much you care for your dog, it will end up dead in a crumpled heap on the floor…”
Here, Halperin’s overflowing optimism is balanced against his aversion to sentimentality. Without being mawkish Halperin manages to describe love’s unfathomable ability to survive death, so long as the heart in which it resides is true.
The world has not seen metaphysical musings combining cosmic seriousness with comic playfulness since John Donne, 1572-1631. Of course, no criterion in this university textbook can sufficiently describe the lofty heights reached in this paragraph or any other.
- Identify the compare and contrast method Halperin uses and the bases for comparison. You can use the appropriate diagrammatic model on page 95, above, to show method and bases for comparison.
“It’s not all economics. Plants give back oxygen without even being asked. This is a real kindness because you can’t overestimate the importance of oxygen…dogs only give you something with the understanding that you’ll throw it back to them in an endlessly futile cycle.”
Halperin uses the compare/contrast method in body paragraph 5 to denounce the way capitalistic societies have become totally transactional—where the commercial pay-or-be-paid ethos filters down to inner lives, so that even personal relationships are conducted like bookkeeping where every positive and negative action/remark is kept inside a ledger, where all existence is reduced to a realm where altruism by definition does not and cannot exist. This is definitely what Halperin is really getting at.
House Plants Are Better Than Dogs
 Some people believe that a home isn’t a home without a dog. To hear these people talk, you’d think that shedded hair, sharp fangs and crap on carpets are trivial matters. They’re barking money pits, these dogs, and for too long we’ve been under the false impression that they’re better than houseplants. Let’s investigate.
 Unlike dogs, plants will forever maintain their poise no matter how many times you ring the doorbell. Calm, cool and collected, the houseplant is a model of patience and even temperament. They bow down to nobody, see no race or class. Perfectly reflecting the modern zeitgeist, plants represent the highest ideal of egalitarian tolerance. Dogs, on the other hand, are famous for attacking mailmen–an obvious gesture of class warfare.
 You can be sure plants won’t harass the company at your next dinner party, but don’t be fooled into thinking they’re entirely dormant. They grow in response to Bach fugues, which would be a compliment to their ear, if they had one.
 In light of nuclear disaster and the rising cost of gas, there’s a big hubbub about how best to harness the sun’s energy. But plants settled this millions of years ago. Living off the sun’s rays, plants are their own solar panels. Scientifically way ahead of us and financially more responsible, plants don’t need government handouts for their energy exchange program. Shame dogs don’t eat rain and sunshine, eh?
 It’s not all economics. Plants give back oxygen without even being asked. That is a real kindness because you can hardly overstate the importance of oxygen. Plants can’t help but be givers. In comparison, dogs only give you something with the understanding that you’ll throw it back to them over and over in an endlessly futile cycle. Also, dogs need to go to school just to figure out how to sit down or play dead. Plants don’t need to be taught how to play dead. They’re autodidacts
 Admittedly there’s something to be said for a dog that quietly nestles on your lap after a hard day’s work. But ask yourself: has your dog signed a contract indicating he won’t revert to pissy pre-housebroken days? What if some horrible canine violence on TV suddenly provokes him and he becomes a biter? Plants offer unrivalled peace of mind. You can take plants at their word. Nothing can make them bite you or crap under your bed.
 Finally, after years of attachment, your plant will grow and so will your pleasure with it. With casual care, your plant can actually outlive you. No matter how you care for your dog, it will end up dead in a crumpled heap on the floor. If you have kids, they’ll cry. All’s well that ends well, but it never ends well with dogs.
 Yes, dogs can be sweet, cuddly and affectionate–they aren’t wholly without commendable traits, even though it’s much, much better to get a houseplant. But in all fairness, at least dogs are a cheaper, lower maintenance, and cuter alternative to getting a baby.