“The Future Is Now” by Katherine Anne Porter
“The Future Is Now” is an essay written in the 1950s a period of fear and uncertainty because of the over-arching shadow of atomic bombs. The essay was written to present reasons to be progressive and have a new perspective to view destiny. During the time it was written, the people’s view of the world was shaped by mutually assured destruction. At the time of writing “The Future Is Now” Katherine Anne Porter was in her middle age years which made her to be already used to the geopolitical warfare threats that existed during this period. In this essay, despite Porter having experienced two world wars, she brings to the society’s development a fresh perspective, as she questions whether the human race could not simply do much good for itself. The argument that Porter brings out in this essay is strong considering that various strategies adopted such as anecdotes to support it were successful.
The style of writing in this essay is that of the author taking a moment and sitting back, to observe and realize the evolvement of human beings. In countless times, the author refers to the atomic bomb that she uses as a symbol for the deliberate inclination by mankind for self-destruction. Porter concludes that life should be lived right now rather than the future. Porter was a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, political activist and essayist. Her writing prowess was top notch as evident in many of her short stories and essays. In this essay on “The Future Is Now” , her purpose was opening people’s eyes by showing them another angle to view the society. Her aim is to have people change their style of living. Porter successfully does this through the endless strategies that she employs in her writing.
First, the entire introduction of the essay is an anecdote. Porter starts her story with a personal anecdote that had taken place in her place of work. This strategy helped her capture her original thoughts on the atomic bomb. She states that she came into realization “ that the only real safety seems to lie in simply being somewhere else at the time [ of the bombing].” Porter found comfort in being told the harsh truth and the only thing that she would have to do is live her life. To prove this point, Porter looks at window to spot a man polishing a table for reasons unknown to her. At this point Porter takes a nihilist approach as she ponders what a table that was clearly polished do if there was an atomic bomb. However, she later learns that the man was restoring a beautiful surface that he would put his papers and books on. Thus, the man was doing something he felt was worth and according to her this was no small thing. The table in this case serves as a metaphor that is extended and brings Porter’s essay into its original thesis: “The Future is Now” and the society should honor the present and ignore future fears. Apart from this, the entire essay is paradoxical which also fully utilizes rhetorical devices. She uses illusions in many of the essay’s sentences to demonstrate and give emphasis to her viewpoints. The author uses these strategies to encourage doubtful individuals of a brighter future. The article is an intricate philosophical reflection of Porter’s puzzlement on the depression caused by various events in the society such as the creation of mass weapons.
Porter uses the theme of fear overshadowing security as she brings out her personal dread of the globe being instantly obliterated. In this essay, the use of figurative language is common as the author raises her concern about the doom in the world as “the lurking Foul Fiend,” a consternation that shapes Porter’s pessimistic outlook. To come to terms with her existence on earth, Porter uses paradoxes such as “the future is now.” The future cannot definitely be now and the purpose of this paradox was shedding light on the fact that the average citizen at the time should accept the possibility of not being able to see another day because of the atomic warfare. Porter discusses a “paradoxical creature” referring to the atomic bomb as the creator of all sufferings and dangers in a quest she refers to for security and peace. Porter’s insertion of a tone that was doubtful suggests that the paradox was unequal in terms of not achieving the envisioned peace and security. Additionally, Porter uses allusions as she refers to biblical characters such as Eve and Adam to make an argument of how humankind has outreached to a point where he is not able to control his inventions or understand his science (Oates, and Robert, 196). Porter inserts some ironic twists highlighting human’s absurd obsession with developing objects that destroys life rather than inventions which are simple. The rhetoric in Porter’s essay is a representation of the apprehensive mindset that is in the society. Moreover, the use of dread instead of the benefits provided by the economy Porter proves post-war age paradox is dominated by fear instead of pleasure.
In the essay, Porter uses hortative sentences, which is a strategy, defined as the correct choice of words to encourage action. For instance one sentence in the essay states “”The Future is Now” when she says, “‘Give yourself time,’ I said ‘ the future will take care of itself'” (Oates, and Robert). In this sense, though Porter was talking to a young woman, she tells the reader that there is need to live in the present and ignore the future. Porter uses many strategies to convince her audience that there is no need to plan for future because we are always in the present. To express this point the essay has employed many historical conceptualizations and theories that generally show that civilization will progress as time goes on. Thus, while the world is busy devising new ways to destroy the human life, the actual killing from the made weapons continues to be worse. According to Porter, this might be the reason why people neglect the present and focus on worrying on the future terming it as a mistake. Porter states that individuals who worry about the future will at one point suffer the same losses as individuals who strived to honor the present and make the world better. In this sense, polishing the table is the best choice one can make provided that it brings joy despite the fact that chances are it will be destroyed in the future (Oates, and Robert, 195).
What makes Porter’s essay a success is not only her message but also the strategies that she employed when conveying it. Being an award-winning author, Porter wrote this essay to near perfection if not perfect. The fame of Porter being a renowned author adds the trustworthiness and sincerity to her insightful thoughts. Porter has been able to convince her audience that she knows of the silent suffering that they faced because of the fear of uncertainty. She does this through a wide range of strategies which she inserts the essay to provide a clear relation between her thoughts and the events in the society. Porter knew of the horror living during the atomic age “real safety seems to lie simply in being somewhere else at the time, the farther away the better (Oates, and Robert, 193) .” This uncertainty was washed away by a simple anecdote of a man cleaning his table. While the action can be seen as trivial, the power of men have their focus on the present and have trust that future rewards will be received because of the actions done during the present day. The table will not be simply used as a bomb shelter but a company that is faithful to the man. The insight by Porter is that the trivial actions being done every now and then will be critical to the future.
This essay by Porter communicates a powerful argument to the audience mainly because of the commitment she employs in writing it. Porter’s credibility was high considering she had won prestigious awards to acknowledge her writing prowess. Her background enabled her to insert a wide range of strategies to the essay, “The Future Is Now” such as metaphors and anecdotes. The use of these strategies makes the essay worth of reading. There is overwhelming evidence from the essay to state that Porter accomplished her intended purpose that of changing the mindset of the reader on how to live in the society.
Oates, Joyce Carol, and Robert Atwan. The Best American essays of the century. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2000.