Summary of the Project on David Foster Wallace, Adichie, Yamada

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Project One Outline

1.) David Foster Wallace, Keyon College Commencement Address

  • It is important to view the world around you not just as it pertains to you, you are not the center of the universe.
  • Do not live your life on auto-pilot because it will lead to a sense of dread for everyday activities that could be seen in a positive light.
  • You are the only person that can dictate what is meaningful in your life. You do not have to conform to society’s views of a successful life to be happy and fulfilled.
  • It is necessary to live in the present and apply discipline break the natural habit of constantly living in our heads and not being conscious of the life around us.

2.) Adichie: The Danger of a Single Story

  • Representing people as only entity in a broad spectrum of diversity leads to a disconnect from individuals own identity.
  • The ability not just to tell the story to another person but also make it the definitive story of that person, is the power that supports the single story.
  • We could go through a mental shift in our perception of literature if we are exposed to culturally diverse characters and storylines.
  • There is never a single version to any story and is essential to be open-minded and seek out every version possible to impede clouded judgment.
  • It is everyone’s responsibility to combat the Western driven lack of cultural diversity in society’s portrayal of the world.

3.) Yamada: To the Lady

  • Illustrates individual activism throughout history
  • Prodigious responses to injustices are often left ignored by the public.
  • Everyone is accountable for not taking a stand against the internment of Japanese Americans.

Project One Summary

1.) David Foster Wallace emphasizes the importance of conscious awareness towards the people around you and life itself in his Kenyon College Commencement Speech. Wallace makes the point that it is humans’ natural default to pay attention only to their inner dialogue instead of the world outside their mind. This natural human behavior often leads to close-mindedness, a lack of empathy, and a sense of dread for everyday life. Wallace addresses that it is incredibly difficult to break this habit, however it is essential to put in a daily effort to limit this behavior in order to live a more meaningful and fulfilled life. An example of this that Wallace presents is how routine it is to have a negative outlook on mundane activities such as going to the grocery store after a long day at work or getting stuck in traffic. It is normal to see everyone else around you in these situations as “in your way” instead of seeing them as individuals with complex lives different than your own. A second point that Wallace makes is that only individuals have the power to dictate what is meaningful in their life. This counters the standard American societal path to living a successful life which includes attaining a college degree and working non-stop until retirement. Wallace emphasizes that the degree you earn is not as valuable as the knowledge you have acquired. Lastly, it is recognized in Wallace’s speech that every individual has the conscious decision to choose how they think and what they pay attention to, therefore at the end of the day it is essentially one’s choice of the meaningfulness gained from their life.

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2.) Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “The Danger of a Single Story” provides a new perspective on literature to make the argument that one version of a story can not represent the entire culturally diverse globe. Adichie presents the argument that there is a danger of feeling a disconnect between one’s own identity by growing up with only one version of a story. Adichie uses the example of growing up in Nigeria being exposed to only British and American literature which made her vulnerable to believe that her culture did not deserve representation in literature. There is a power that comes from over representing culturally dominant groups in many stories that puts underrepresented groups at danger of becoming stereotyped. Providing only one story to represent a vast and diverse group of people puts the public at a disadvantage and leads to ignorance. Individuals will see only one side of things until they are shown differently which is what makes it essential to represent as many paradigms of life as possible to combat stereotypes. Adichie ends her speech by illustrating the importance of everyone from all walks of life having the opportunity to have their story heard.

3.) Mitsuye Yamada’s poem “To the Lady” answers a question from an anonymous woman who had asked why most Japanese Americans did not resist internment in United States concentration camps during World War II. Yamada approaches this question in her poem by providing an ironic portrayal of historical events and their correlation to the public’s involvement. The main point made by Mitsuye Yamada in her work To the Lady is that in America, drastic occurrences are often over looked when the victims are minorities. More specifically, she argues that too many people, including the Japanese-Americans, did nothing to stop the internment of all those people during World War II. She writes, 'But we didn't draw the line anywhere law and order Executive Order 9066 social order moral order internal order. You let'm I let'm All are punished.' (page 41) Here, she is saying that it wasn't one person or groups responsibility to speak up, it was everyone’s and everyone has suffered for it. In conclusion, it is Yamada's belief that too many people went on with their lives, disregarding the internment of so many Japanese-Americans.


  1. Is there a better way I could phrase the last sentence of my first summary?
  2. Are there any main points I may have left out from some of the readings?
  3. Do I need to provide more evidence to back the author’s arguments?


  1. Wallace, David Foster. “This Is Water by David Foster Wallace (Full Transcript and Audio).” Farnam Street, 18 May 2018,
  2. Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. “The Danger of a Single Story.” Ted, Ted,
  3. “To the Lady .” Camp Notes and Other Writings: Mitsuye Yamada, by Mitsuye Yamada, Rutgers University Press, 1998.
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