The Box Man: A Rhetorical Analysis

The Box Man is a short story written by Barbara Ascher. From the perspective of the narrator, the “box man” is a mysterious being who no one knows a lot of. However, he still finds happiness and is satisfied with his way of living: being separated from the rest of society.

Through the use of allusion and diction, Ascher can amplify the purpose of this piece, which is that everybody has a different perspective and viewpoints on life and those perspectives and viewpoints must be taken into consideration.

With the use of allusions in her piece, Ascher can create a sort of personal aspect, and create a closer tie between her and the reader. When Ascher tells the audience that “When I was little, my favorite book was the Boxcar Children” (Ascher), the reader will likely take Ascher more seriously, as they know her a little better. This is important because she mentions that in The Boxcar Children, these orphaned children run away from their family members to go live out in the woods where they are much happier. There are many similarities between the Boxcar Children and the Box Man, as both have decided to live away from society, rather than live within society, with the narrator saying near the end of the piece that the “Box Man knows that loneliness chosen loses its sting and claims no victims” (Ascher 3). This reference to the past is very important in making the reader notice the main purpose, as in no way does the box man ever seem sad at all. He just prefers a different way of life and likes living with a sense of freedom, which people need to understand before making assumptions about him.

Through diction, how other people see the box man becomes much more clear. When the author says “His collar was pulled so high that he appeared headless as he shuffled across the street” (Ascher 1), the audience gets the impression that the box man is trying to hide something, or is ashamed of something; maybe something he did once in the past explains this behavior. Of course, the reader will learn later in this piece that the box man is not sad, but this is a pretty good representation of how he seems to the rest of society. After this sentence, the narrator says “he shuffled across the street like a man who must feel Earth with his toes to know that he walks there” (Ascher 1). His way of walking also signifies a lot. Shuffling is mostly associated with elder people or fragile people who have already lived through most of their life, and are having trouble getting around efficiently. This implies that the box man is old, and maybe his choice of living like this comes from nostalgia or longing for the past. Such is important since different generations have different perspectives and different thoughts on life, but not everyone seems to understand that. It is no secret that a sixteen-year-old would be better equipped with a smartphone than a seventy-year-old, which is a huge difference, as smartphones are such a large part of our society today. However, the seventy-year-old may tell the sixteen-year-old that he or she is on their phone way too much and has to go out for a walk and enjoy nature. This difference in perspective between generations has caused a conflict, which is unfortunate for both parties. 

If people can understand both sides of the story and consider everyone’s perspective, people would be nicer and more loving towards each other. Everybody has a different perspective and ideas on how their life should be lived, and no two people have the same preference for everything in life.

-Jeremy L.

2 thoughts on “The Box Man: A Rhetorical Analysis

  1. I’ll make sure to check out “The Box Man;” it sounds really interesting! In particular I think the theme you described is such an important message for people to understand because, you’re right, the world would be a better place if people could simply learn to understand each other and get along.

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