The Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan

The first strand of Pollan’s argument comes from the history of corn. It has played an important part in the rise and fall of many civilizations, starting with those in Mexico and other South American peoples whose populations were nourished on the locally abundant corn plants. Secondly, modern science has since found out that corn can mutate extremely easy to adapt to changing weather and soil conditions. Corn is also a much more efficient use of resources than other staple species such as wheat. Finally, in the third section particularly, Pollan shows how the superior qualities of corn have sparked many inventions, not only in food applications but also in other areas such as fuel and fabrics as well. A large number of users that can be made of corn have contributed towards the rise of capitalism in North America.
These three opening sections of the book make use of well-documented facts, such as the spread of species across the territory, and the experience of early settlers who had no previous knowledge of corn. These facts are woven into an argument using also some advanced information from the field of genetics and plant cultivation. In this way Pollan demonstrates not only what happened, but why people were so keen to adopt corn instead of less profitable grains. The fact that even husks and stalks could be put to good use is a good argument for the adoption of corn because waste is reduced and the raw material can provide jobs and income for many people. Again and again, good evidence is cited, and this meets the expectations of the reader in terms of the sustained argument, while many examples prove that the argument is logical.
One weakness of the section under discussion is that the author tends to make use of rather overblown imagery, such as his description of corn growing in the “bright sun of capitalism” (p. 30). At this stage in the book, it is not yet clear whether such statements are intended literally, or ironically, and this is a weakness since it could quite possibly mislead an unwary reader. This weakness means that the author does not quite match the expectation of reaching logical conclusions.
In summary, therefore, it is clear that the author fully meets the initial expectations of providing plenty of facts, and of consistently arguing his case. The third expectation, however, is only partially met, since the conclusions about corn being a major source of capitalism seem, at this stage in the book, rather extreme, and couched in figurative language which the reader may not be able to understand without reading further into the book.

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