Rhetorical Artifact: “How the Neighborhood Had Changed”

The New Yorker is one of the biggest Magazine outlets that people utilize for their weekly news coverage, provoking articles, and their daily dose of humor and poems. As I was browsing through the articles, the one that sparked my interest was “How the Neighborhood Had Changed”, by Jack Handey—in particular, the illustration that came with it, by Luci Gutiérrez. 

With one side of the building consumed by smoke and “Mafia” murder through the windows, graffiti sprayed on the garage door, and dead fish all over the floor, the man in the suit turns the corner where the other side is completely different. There is a sense of “betterness” in this side of the building, with a more neat and unblemished feel to it. There are “flowers and daisies” encapsulating the windows and almost flowing out; rather than murder, a woman is sipping on her drink with poise; instead of a fish market or garage, a bakery and a gallery for art is depicted. 

The use of Gutiérrez’s illustration was intentional. This juxtaposition of the two opposing appearances in each side of the building parallels the way Handey describes how the neighborhood has changed from dangerous and run down, yet “homey”, to one filled with a more “modern” and clean look that is suitable for people with money. 

The “Mafia torture chamber” is now a “bar catering to college students”, whereas the “junk yard” that used to crush cars has transformed into an “art gallery”. Handey juxtaposes two completely different places with each other in order to emphasize how drastic change can be for the future, in this case, the effect it has on our neighborhoods. As he describes the past in a more descriptive and bleak manner, its negative diction gives off a dismal tone; however, the future is now short and sweet to contrast the abrupt change to what the place has currently become.

Through his use of humor that may appeal to our pathos, Handey clearly depicts the underlying impacts of gentrification in the future. Many of the small businesses and stores, or even an “old man that kept a bunch of pigeons” have transfigured into these big companies that appeal to our capitalistic society, such as “Goldman Sachs” here. His humor is evident to persuade his audience, however there is a sort of Marxist lens subtext that may reveal the lack of care people have for the past homey features that made up a neighborhood or the people that have been living there. A clear example: the old “Chesterton Hotel was torn down” while people were still staying inside.

Handey takes into account his medium of the New Yorker Magazine for his use of satire and irony. The fish market once consisted of fish that were “skinny” and had “dead eyes”. Though as it transformed into a modeling agency, it simply became a contrasting profitable place with the same description, when considering the stereotypical notion of models being “skinny” and always looking “miserable”. The fact that “crime is down” is written in a newspaper for people to read is as if to reassure that there are positive effects that have been caused due to this “change”, even when it’s basically gentrification if you really look at it. Our worlds—and our neighborhoods—are changing at such a rapidly accelerating rate for both the “good” and “bad”. We imagine our futures in different ways but it is certain that it will change. People from the past did not expect the present, and people today may not be able to predict what will happen in the future—we can only imagine it as gentrification and technology intensifies and with change in mind. 

2 thoughts on “Rhetorical Artifact: “How the Neighborhood Had Changed”

  1. Hey Nazia! I actually came across that article as I was scoping The New Yorker page too and I completely understand how you interpret Gutiérrez’s illustration and its intentional use. This picture is initially what caught my attention and I agree that this image is a major component in piecing the artifact together as a whole. As I was reading, I hadn’t noticed the satire and irony the author used when describing the fish markets and modeling agency until you mentioned it in your post; I applaud you for that 🙂

  2. Hey! I wanted to say that I also agree with Fatima and wanted to say that for me personally, I enjoy reading articles that have illustrations like the one in this article because I can associate the picture with what the author is saying in the article. I also really like your take at the end of your analysis where you mention how rapidly change is happening with technology and its intensity as we process as a society. It made me stop and realize for a second how fast we are really going, granted that I know everything is progressing at such a fast pace, you never (at least me personally) really take the time to realize it as its happening!

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