“Choking and Beating Patients” by Nellie Bly

The lede in “Choking and Beating Patients” is decent, but could be improved. I like that the lede includes Miss Tillie “suffered greatly”, because suffering is a strong word that brings about emotion from the reader and greatly stresses the level of her condition. I also found it smart for the author to say “she sat on the bench next to me”, because it gives the author credibility that she knows Miss Mayard. It also makes Miss Mayard feel closer to the reader, since the author knows the subject, and you are hearing about her from the author, you are only one step away from knowing Miss Mayard. She also stresses how harshly Miss Mayard is being treated by saying, “Her limbs shook and her teeth chattered.” In the lede, I would include that Miss Mayard was suffering in a building that was supposed to be helping her, because I think that is one of the most dramatic and ironic parts of the story that makes the reader want to read and find out what went wrong.

I think that the author uses quotes throughout the work with much skill. She uses them to dramatize the situation and show how roughly and seriously the people in this work were being treated. For example, she includes a quote from a nurse, “Let her fall on the floor and it will teach her a lesson”, showing the general attitude of the institution. She also uses quotation very effectively when she quotes: “For God sake, ladies, don’t let them beat me.” This quote shows the desperation of the patient and the rough treatment by the nurses. Miss Grady later says about her that she had “settled the old fool for awhile”, leaving the reader feeling sorry for the old gray-haired woman. However, the quotes may be unreliable since it is based off of her word and she has an obvious agenda from this piece.

The author also uses description quite well, illustrating the treatment and condition of the patients, attitude of the people within the institution, as well as the general layout of the institution. For example, she says, “he caught her roughly between the eyebrows or thereabouts, and pinched until her face was crimson from the rush of blood to the head” and through this quote the reader can imagine this rough treatment of this poor woman having a fit. When the author describes the treatment of Urena, it makes the reader sympathize with Urena: “Then they dragged her out to the closet, and I heard her terrified cries hush into smothered ones. After several hours’ absence she returned to the sitting-room, and I plainly saw the marks of their fingers on her throat for the entire day.” The author’s description here is particularly moving, because it describes the smothering of her cries and her lengthy absence, showing how long she was torturously treated. The marks on her neck confirm the author’s auditory accounts and make the reader sympathize with Urena even more. Her writing is filled with description so that the reader can better imagine the institution and how the patients felt.

The author was bias, though, because she was aiming to influence the conditions of the mental institutions, showing the cruelty of them. She does not show the possible reasons for the people being treated the way they are. Overall, the author used the lede, quotation, and description effectively. However, I think her strongest points were the quotation and description, while the lede was decent. The lede was interesting, but not as interesting as it could have been. The lede may have kept many readers, but in the end, it was forgettable.

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