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“The Face of a Spider” by David Quammen

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1 “The Face of a Spider” by David Quammen
Photo copyright Maxis, Inc.

2 The Spider in Question The black widow spider (genus Latrodectus) produces the neurotoxin -latrotoxin that causes systemic effects including achiness, mild paralysis, nausea, etc. Black widow bites rarely cause death in humans. Top Photo from Bottom Photo from Encarta

3 Themes People often exaggerate nature’s ‘holiness’ (e.g. Jainism’s ahimsa, the “animal liberation” movement) We should not treat higher lifeforms any differently than we do lower lifeforms (even including plants) Eye Contact = Communication = Identity This works both ways! Front-Center Eyes, Wolf Spider ahimsa, Jainism, Ghandi, India; “animal liberation,” Jane Goodall, etc. ahimsa’s vegetarianism, mosquitoes, worms, black widow spiders “This is some mother’s darling, this is some mother’s child”; still may kill; hardest--spiders (fear, fascination, grotesqueness) tarantula’s “distrust” Photo from

4 Literary and Rhetorical Techniques
Scientific knowledge and terminology Historical and cultural knowledge Humor (and bluntness) and ‘honest’ conversation with reader Repetition of fundamental question Pseudo-rational approach to sub-issues Specific examples “chelicerae,” 8 eyes, “predator needs good eyesight” Jainism, “ahimsa,”Ghandi, etc. “can of Raid,” “I was going soft,” “godawful stupid” “How should a human behave toward the members of other living species?” eight eyes <=> eight legs, hypocrisy of ahimsa, humans cannot live without hurting other animals see all above: Ghandi and DDT, 10,000 humans die from snakebites, Darwin’s Insectivorous Plants

5 Questions Does the author really regret killing the baby spiders?
Does he answer his fundamental question? Does the author believe in eye contact? Do you think eye contact works with spiders? With larger animals? With humans? Top Photo from Bottom Photo from


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