Analysis and Interpretation “Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley”

“Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley” is an essay written by David Foster Wallace that demonstrates how geometry has affected his childhood life, especially the tennis aspects of it. In an excerpt of his writing, Wallace demonstrates a certain aspect of balance. His sentences include both positive and negative, both right and wrong, which can be described as antithesis. “Tornadoes were, in our part of Central Illinois, the dimensionless point at which parallel lines met and whirled and blew up. They made no sense. Houses blew not out but in. Brothels were spared while orphanages next door bought it. Dead cattle were found three miles from their silage without a scratch on them. Tornadoes are omnipotent and obey no law. Force without law has no shape, only tendency and duration. I believe now that I knew all this without knowing it, as a kid.” This sentence includes both the negative and the positive side of the situation, even though Wallace is only trying to introduce one of the two. He includes the other to add a type of contrast to the sentence and ultimately to the whole paragraph. In this part of the story, Wallace is explaining how tornadoes were portrayed when he was young and still in school. He said that “they made no sense” because they did not follow the normal rules of physics, or any rule for that matter. Wallace found that the best way to introduce the difference, is to state what tornadoes actually do in terms of the normal basic rules that every other object or thing follows. “Houses blew not out but in.” The reason behind adding the “not out” part is to have a contrast between the basic rules and the rules that the tornado follows. This type of method is effective because it instructs the audience about why tornadoes “make no sense” instead of just stating what they do and have it not contrast with anything. Antitheses are effective because they contain both the positive and negative aspects of something, which creates balance and equality in the sentence. There are a lot of contrasting words, like “but”, “only”, “without” and “not”. These words will create the type of comparison that Wallace wants to introduce to the audience.

            This type of contrast can be related to well-known traditional yin and yang symbol that is supposed to demonstrate peace and order within any community. It is the primary symbol of peace between two contrasts. The symbol is a circle with a curve that cuts it in half. This curve demonstrates the difference or contrast between two individuals. However, the symbol also represents equality within two individuals, the ball in each of the curved parts demonstrates that both individuals have a part of each other. For example, when white contrasts with black, there will always be a little part of white in black (As shown in the picture). The yin and yang symbol best illustrates difference while having similarity between two things. This is why I chose the yin and yang symbol to represent the antithesis used by Wallace in the specific passage. 


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