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What is the right stuff essay

michaelfrye1970 9 / 21  
Apr 18, 2009   #1
Please provide grammer and content feedback on my essay below:

In 1973, Tom Wolfe wrote the story of the American military pilots that pioneered the space program. These men put their lives, careers, and families on the line in pursuit of this goal. Their journey from test pilots to breaking the earth's gravity into space gave Wolfe the inspiration to chronicle this path. Wolfe shows how these seven men were not just pilots but men with "the right stuff."

The dictionary explains the right stuff as essential qualities such as self-confidence, dependability, and knowledge, necessary for success in a given field or situation. Wolfe describes "the right stuff" as an unspoken almost indefinable set of virtues and abilities that only a few will ever achieve. Arrogance, conditioning and bravery are the steps of the ziggurat to the pinnacle of the pyramid that all pilots aspire to conquer.

Why does it take arrogance to move up the steps to success? In order stay above the rest of ones peers, a pilot must have arrogance. Wolfe displays this trait throughout his depictions of "The Right Stuff." The pilots given the choice to accept the orders to the space program have one thought on their mind, "I must not get . . . left behind."(Wolfe 66) Wolfe points out that it is never mentioned but this factor is required, "Manliness, manhood, manly courage . . . there was something ancient, primordial. . . no matter what a sophisticated and rational age one might think he lived in."(Wolfe 21) The test pilots arrogant nature is pointed out in the way their anger is portrayed, when an outsider attempts to speak their language, "coming from the lips of this ant that was left behind the moment Jenkins made his first step up the pyramid long, long ago."(Wolfe 47)

"The Right Stuff" means not being satisfied with mediocrity and having arrogance will motivate you to move to the top.
The trait that these pilots could not be born with was the years of training and skills that gave them the conditioning they needed to show they had "The Right Stuff."

How else could a pilot get in the cockpit of a test aircraft and run into most know airfoil problems and still be convinced that can be overcome.(Wolfe 40) Why else would a man get in these aircraft knowing he would encounter things, no other pilot has yet to experience? Wolfe explains that the pilots knew when they lost one of their own, one of the brotherhood. They would sit and listen to the last moments of a man tumbling to his inherent death, this man would not scream for God but would continue to go through his checklists until the bitter end and they would look at each other with that unspoken message "Too bad!. There was a man with the right stuff." (49) The conditioning of these test pilots continues every minute of every flight they take and adds to their ability to posses the title of "The Right Stuff."

Bravery brings to mind a great deal of individuals who put themselves in harms way. Wolfe speaks of a fighter pilot from the Second World War and Korea and his eagerness to confront the enemy, "Lances and plumes! I am a knight! Come on up and fight! Why hold back! Knights of the Right Stuff!"(31) Wolfe expands on his definition of bravery by stating, "Not all the wealth in the world or all the sophisticated nuclear weapons and radar and missile systems it could buy would take the place of those who had the uncritical willingness to face danger, those who, in short, had the right stuff."(30) The bravery that makes up "The Right Stuff" is not just the willingness to die but the ability to do so consistently.

The individual qualities are not enough to make a man have "The Right Stuff." The combination of these traits gives these pilots the unspoken title. The conditioning gives the pilots the ability to fly these aircraft. The arrogance pushes them to want to lead the pack. Bravery allows them to put themselves in dangers path. Wolfe explains that all pilots understood, "that a man should have the ability to go up in a hurtling piece of machinery and put his hide on the line and have the moxie, the reflexes, the experience, the coolness, to pull it back at the last yawning moment."(148)
silverystars 14 / 105  
Apr 19, 2009   #2

I have to go ahead and reply, if only because of this:

the steps of the ziggurat to the pinnacle of the pyramid

Personally, in terms of metaphor and descriptive language, I would use only that which is most necessary. In terms of a thesis, though, it is probably easiest to comprehend without metaphor: "Arrogance, conditioning and bravery are the characters traits that all pilots require to achieve their goals ."

Also, I'm not sure if "arrogance" would be the word I would choose. "Ambition" seems like a more accurate word, since it's a term that encompasses a lot of characteristics: a drive for success, a strong desire, and intense emotions.

Hope this helps!
OP michaelfrye1970 9 / 21  
Apr 19, 2009   #3
I think I will rephrase the steps sentence. I was trying to use metaphors that Wolfe used in the book but seeing them alone here I think you are right and should go without. As far as the arrogance, I am trying to portray that there is some ego to go along with the ambition. Thanks for you comments.
silverystars 14 / 105  
Apr 19, 2009   #4
If you do choose to paraphrase Wolfe, that can work great, though it should be done in a way that makes sense regardless of whether the reader has or hasn't read the book. By making your thesis a straightforward embodiment of what you are saying, however, it can give you a lot of room to be creative in your writing elsewhere in your essay.

The idea of trying to convey both ego and ambition is great, but I don't feel arrogance is the most effective word for describing that combination. There are always plenty of words, such as aspiring, cavalier, cocky, conniving, cunning, devious, domineering, enterprising, high-and-mighty, hustling, insolent, lofty, pretentious, shrewd, sly, and wily!
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Apr 21, 2009   #5
Instead of "arrogance," you could just say that they needed a robust ego, and let the reader decide for themselves if the pilots lapsed into arrogance or not. That would solve one of the problems mentioned by a previous poster.

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