Fresh Voices: Composition at Cal Poly


In his generational profile essay “Root of all Evil, Symbol of a Generation,” John Swanson offers a sarcastic yet thoughtful analysis of a cultural artifact—Axe Body Spray. He begins the essay discussing how we often define generations with “wars, movements, political shifts, musical trends, literary masterpieces and the like,” and then juxtaposes such weighty events with Axe Body Spray, a seemingly passé mass-produced product. How does this comparison set the tone for the essay? How does Swanson portray his generation (ex. lazy and sexualized)? As a member of the generation Swanson addresses, do you feel he accurately depicts you? This essay cannot be sufficiently examined without taking into account the influence of media. Can media tell us how to live, what is appropriate, what to buy? Do you have brand loyalty? Why? What factors contribute to brand loyalty?

What does original language such as, “The Man-Fumes of my generation” or “the real reason for the Great War on Guy Funk,” contribute to Swanson’s stylistic approach, and is such language appropriate for an argumentative profile? He uses quotations from interviews with his friends as evidence for his claim that the “Axe Effect” defines his generation. Is this evidence convincing? Why or why not? Though at first this essay may simply seem like a witty spin on generational typing, Swanson’s ideas have far-reaching and widespread implications about societal values and identity formation.