Pink: Flamingo and Price

In her essay “The Plastic Pink Flamingo: A Natural History,” Jennifer Price examines the strange popularity of the popular lawn accessory of the 1950s. In discussing the history of flamingos and the color pink, Price criticizes Americans and American culture for its frivolity and ignorance.

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Price begins the passage by describing the relevance of flamingos pre-50s. She begins this paragraph with a slightly critical tone, exemplified by the use of italics in the sentence, “First, it was a flamingo.” Italicizing part of this sentence gives the impression of saying, “Of all things, it was a flamingo.” Prices on to use litotes in stating that “this was a little ironic …” Moreover, Price makes a sarcastic remark when she tells us it was “no matter” immediately after stating that Americans had hunted flamingos to extinction 150 years prior. These remarks criticize the ignorance of American culture.

Price goes on to describe the flamingo’s association with “leisure and extravagance” due to its synonmity with the city of Las Vegas (which is metaphorically called an oasis). Prices makes another critical remark when she states that “[a]nyone who has seen Las Vegas … on a lawn” by touching on the ridiculousness of flamingos as lawn decorations. Furthermore, Price compares the plastic flamingos to a “line of semiotic sprouts,” insinuating that the popularity of the flamingos is like a patch of weeds: annoying and unsightly. Again, Price uses italics in the third paragraph to create the same effect as in paragraph one: to express how bizarre an aspect of the plastic flamingos were. Price juxtaposes this negative opening statements with cheerful quotes about that “flashy” plastics industry of the 1950s. By this juxtaposition, Price makes Americans of the 1950s seem frivolous and silly. Price continues this effect by further explaining Americans’ obsession with the color pink by giving examples of household items that come in all shades of pink, including Elvis Presley’s pink Cadillac. By using this specific structure, Price is able to effectively expand her criticism. Price begins her final paragraph with yet another sarcastic remark; this time, in the form of a rhetorical questions. By asking “[w]hy, after all … or green?”, Price explains the foolishness of Americans in calling flamingos “pink” flamingos. Because this statement is near the end of the essay, one can infer that Price is making a final statement; that the 1950s American culture was simply foolish. Price supports this claim by further explaining that the color of the plastic flamingos was not even accurate to that of real flamingos. Price then makes multiple historical allusions to the importance of flamingos in other cultures, including ancient Christian cultures, ancient Egypt, Mexico, and the Caribbean, then sarcastically insinuates that Americans tried to reproduce this cultural importance of flamingos in their own homeland, where it did not belong by saying that Americans “reproduced it … into a sea of inland grass.” Again, Price touches on the ignorance of Americans.

In conclusion, Price used careful sentence structure and a number of rhetorical devices to criticize the foolishness, frivolity, and ignorance of 1950s American culture as exemplified by the plastic pink flamingo.

Sample #2
In “The Plastic Pink Flamingo: A Natural History,” author Jennifer Price explains the history of the iconic pink figure that is widely popular across the United States. Through her article, the author’s irony and use of rhetorical strategies reveals her true criticism: American culture is too preoccupied with material goods and vanity rather than appreciating genuine beauty.

In the first paragraph of her article, Price uses strong juxtaposition using contrary diction. She opens using verbs that can be associated with flamingos, like “splashed,” and “flocking,” creating an image of the birds and of nature. This is abruptly followed by urban, city- and industry-related diction like “wealth,” “pizzazz,” “built,” “motels,” “middle class,” and “train lines” that shift the reader’s image to one of a thriving metropolis. This sudden shift from nature-filled imagery to city-focused imagery represents the hastiness with which Americans overlook nature’s beauty and concentrate on wealth.

In paragraph two, Price uses heavy irony to further criticize American culture. By saying “[b]ut no matter,” Price, through parody, mimics the dismissive attitude of those she is criticizing, as if hunting flamingoes to extinction is of little importance in comparison to the plastic flamingo’s gaining popularity. She continues to describe, in extensive detail, the popularity and aesthetic effects of the plastic flamingo, without returning to the subject of the real birds. She gives false importance to the role of the fake flamingo to highlight the forgotten importance of the living one.

To enhance the image of frivolous attention to materialism, Price also uses alliteration when describing the history of plastic flamingos. By saying that the “fifties favored flashy colors” and various appliances “proliferated in passion pink,” Price conveys a sense of playfulness and frivolity. This is intended not to entertain the reader, but to expose the frivoloity of the description itself. Price is communicating that it is ridiculous to be focusing on a decoration’s history when its inspiration deserves real appreciation. In her final paragraph, Price prompts the reader to understand her purpose by first using a rhetorical question, asking, “Why, after all, call the birds ‘pink flamingos’ – as if they could be blue or green?” This question guides the reader to the conclusion desired by the author: the attention should be shifted to the real animal. At the end of the article, Price juxtaposes the ways in which other cultures valued the flamingo, appreciating its beauty and wonder, with the American way, “reproduc[ing] it, brighten[ing] it, and send[ing] it.” Here, the reader notices the sharp contrast in values and recognizes the fault which American have for placing more importance on materialism than appreciation of natural beauty.


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