David and Goliath, They Say by Malcom Gladwell: Critical Analysis

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The introduction to Malcolm Gladwell’s book is aptly titled “Goliath”. That is to say, the author retells the famous legend in his own way here, mixing the biblical facts with nuggets of historically accurate (as Gladwell claims) facts to show that the moral of the story is not as it appears to be at the first glance. The “extended” version supplied by Gladwell includes references to the types of warriors both David and Goliath belonged to; the author insists that what really happened there was a hopeless (for Goliath) stand-off between a “projectile” warrior (a slinger) and an infantryman. David saw this, recognized the possible advantage he could have if he broke the rules of the fair close combat, and seized the opportunity, thus beating the enemy on his (David’s) own terms. Gladwell uses this as an example of how a man can defeat a “giant” if that said man refuses to be blinded into stupidity by fear. The central thesis of the introduction is that “defeating a giant” (completing a task that seems impossible) can be done if a person analyzes the task first, disregarding its enormity to keep a cool head, and then rejects obvious solutions that make the task look so difficult.

Gladwell starts off by retelling the original legend in a way that suggests some sort of criticism. The author conveys the worldwide known plot in a dry, almost journalist-like manner. He then proceeds to make several witty remarks about the customs described in the Bible and how these customs were challenged when David faced Goliath with a sling. An important note to make here is that the smoothness of the transition between dry facts and the author’s opinionated conclusions renders the whole piece surprisingly credible. That is, Gladwell makes several rather far-fetched suggestions (such as Goliath’s illness) which would probably make a critic frown in disbelief (or, rather, in concern for the author’s mental health), but these suggestions are predeceased by certain arguments which make the following claims look logical within the metaphorical significance of the relayed story.

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Gladwell bases his “They Say” component on three pillars or, rather, sources of information. Firstly, the author, obviously, uses the original story and even cites certain passages. Secondly, Gladwell utilizes the knowledge of ancient warfare, albeit in an overly simplified and abridged manner. Finally, the author uses the opinions of certain “experts” who put some muscle on the skeleton of the biblical story (namely, the author reveals some facts about the usage of ancient slings, their power, and utilization on the battlefield): “Eitan Hirsch, a ballistics expert with the Israel Defense Force, recently did a series of calculations…” (Gladwell 8). An important note to make here is that Gladwell does not add unnecessary complicity into background information: for example, the author tells that ancient warfare was, basically a bloody version of the modern “rock-paper-scissors” game with only three types of units for a general to choose from.

The overall simplicity of Gladwell’s factoids that he bases his reasoning upon can be justified if one is not entitled to view them in direct practical terms. That is, the author wants to convey the message related to the cunning approach of David versus the bulky and ponderous simple-mindedness of Goliath. In order to do it, Gladwell constructs an argument that can only be the fruit of the author’s imagination – the author says that, in accordance with the rules of ancient warfare and universally acknowledged prowess of a slinger, Goliath was supposed to be “terrified” with the approaching David rather than feel insulted and assured in his victory (Gladwell 12). Moreover, Gladwell continues this line of reasoning, stating that, since Goliath was professed to be the mightiest (the most experienced) warrior, he was expected to assess the situation much faster than he did; in Gladwell’s views it implies that Goliath suffered from some kind of disease that involved brain tumors, vision impairment, and near-senility. It is up to discussion whether such matters even bothered the people who wrote the original story down, but, but this way it suits the author’s intent well enough. That is, the whole point of the author’s chain of thought is to prove that even the scariest task at hand can be approached differently because it is not as scary and impregnable as it might seem at first glance.

The introduction to Gladwell’s book retells the old story in a new and slightly ridiculous way. Despite certain logical flaws in the “They Say” part and unobvious conclusions made in “I Say” section, Gladwell manages to fuse these parts together to create a persuasive argument with enough attention-getters to prove the point. “Giants”, apparently, are not always ultimate undisputable challenges – that is, not when one attempts to seek ways around their advantages toward victory. In other words, the obvious solution to a difficult problem is not always the best one, similarly to the fact that a person trying to “beat a Giant” on their terms is less likely to succeed than a person thinking creatively.

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David and Goliath, They Say by Malcom Gladwell: Critical Analysis. (2022, March 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 26, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/david-and-goliath-they-say-by-malcom-gladwell-critical-analysis/
“David and Goliath, They Say by Malcom Gladwell: Critical Analysis.” Edubirdie, 18 Mar. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/david-and-goliath-they-say-by-malcom-gladwell-critical-analysis/
David and Goliath, They Say by Malcom Gladwell: Critical Analysis. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/david-and-goliath-they-say-by-malcom-gladwell-critical-analysis/> [Accessed 26 May 2024].
David and Goliath, They Say by Malcom Gladwell: Critical Analysis [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Mar 18 [cited 2024 May 26]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/david-and-goliath-they-say-by-malcom-gladwell-critical-analysis/
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