“Consider the Lobster” by David Foster Wallace

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In David Foster Wallace’s article “Consider the Lobster” he is not simply trying to imply that eating all meat is unethical but rather suggested to stop, think and consider what that specific species is being put through in order to be on the plate.

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““Consider the Lobster” by David Foster Wallace”

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In his article Wallace takes time to visit the Maine Lobster festival or (MLF) in Penobscot Bay, Maine. He goes through some basic details about this festival such as; the variety of lobster based foods, how many people were at attendance and the music artists performing. Wallace states, “Total paid attendance was over 80,000”. “concerts by Lee Ann Womack and Orleans”. “Also available are lobster roles, lobster turnovers, lobster sauté, down east lobster salad” (50). Wallace being present at the MLF shows the reader that he has a well-formed knowledge about the species of lobster as well as the overall credibility he transmits through the article, to the reader. Wallace goes into a more intense detail about the MLF. He touches on how the people attending the festival are just a bunch of hungry families and that are completely oblivious to the fact that 25,000 pounds of lobster is being boiled alive directly in front of them. Throughout the article Wallace gives a series of facts about lobsters to humanize them in a way the reader can pick up on.

Wallace begins to explain the overall history of lobsters and how there were an immense amount of them available back in the day. Wallace states,

“Up until sometime in the 1800’s though, lobster was literally a low-class food, eaten only by the poor and institutionalized. Even in the harsh penal environment of early America, some colonies had laws against feeding lobster to inmates more than once a week because it was thought to be cruel and unusual, like making people eat rats.” (55).

This shows that since Wallace is able to identify the proper history and uses of lobster in an accurate way. This bit of information also gives Wallace much more credibility for the reader to obtain.

Wallace begins to explain to the reader in a logical sense by stating the statistics of preparing a lobster as well as the central nerves in a lobster’s brain. Wallace clarifies that essentially there are no true preparations to cooking a lobster. In order for the lobster on the consumers plate to be the freshest quality, the lobster has to be alive up until about a quarter of the way through cooking. Essentially the chef takes the lobster out of a live tank (which is usually stored in the restaurant) and places it into a boiling pot of water. By Wallace explaining these ways of preparing a lobster is his way of informing the reader that these steps are the basic routine all chefs follow when preparing a lobster. By interpreting these facts, it is simple to comprehend that are no true ethical ways in the process of cooking a lobster. Wallace continues to talk to the reader in a logical sense by discussing the nervous system in a lobster. He begins to explain that lobsters can register pain and further on the parts in the lobster’s brain that make them do so. Wallace states, “Lobsters do not, on the other hand, appear to have the equipment for making or absorbing natural opioids like endorphins and enkephalins.” (63). He later goes on to explain that since mammalian nervous systems are absent lobsters become more vulnerable to pain. By obtaining this information it makes it clear to the reader that there is an absence in appreciation and value going into cooking a lobster.

Wallace communicates to the reader by using an emotional sense in his article by comparing boiling a lobster to boiling a human. He states “The lobster in other words, behaves very much as you or I would behave if we were plunged into boiling water” (62). Wallace makes this comparison to show the reader that lobsters have human like reactions when they are placed in boiling water. Wallace believes that by stating this quote that people will begin to realize it is somewhat cruel to boil a live animal alive that doesn’t deserve to witness extreme amounts of pain. Wallace also mentions that most chefs who cook lobster have to end up leaving the kitchen during the process. Most chefs cannot imagine the series of pain in suffering the lobster(s) are going through.

Later on, in the article Wallace continues to demonize the fact of cooking lobsters by creating an analogy to the world’s largest lobster cooker to a world’s largest slaughter fest at the Nebraska beef festival. Wallace states, “watching trucks pull up and the live cattle get driven down the ramp and slaughtered right there on the world’s largest killing floor or something” (62). He says this to show that most people who eat meat do not consider thinking about the meat on their plate was once alive.

Wallace is both effective with the message that he is trying to get across. However, this message can become very manipulated by the reader. For instance, some readers may pick up on that Wallace is condemning the overall enjoyment of hunting and that hunting is ethically wrong, as well as Wallace trying to come across the reader as abolishing meat consumption as a whole. However, that is not the idea of his argument. If the reader interprets the article with a simple logical reasoning it would not be difficult to interpret the writing as Wallace has put it. For example, Wallace simply states “I like to eat certain kinds of animals and want to be able to keep doing it” (64). Which literally means that the whole argument in this article is not aiming at the people who eat meat, Wallace is not intending to tell the reader not to consume meat. Wallace’s entire meaning in his article is that people do not necessarily value animals lives, people have no concern for the animals that are in pain in order to be processed for our consumption. Wallace is basically stating that people should be less selfish when it comes to consuming meat products.

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“Consider The Lobster” By David Foster Wallace. (2021, Jul 27). Retrieved January 27, 2023 , from

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