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Kim White

Dr. Pitard
English 331
Reflection of Ong
I found the characteristics of an oral culture to be very interesting because, as Ong points
out, we cannot fully understand what it means to be from a purely oral culture. As class time
went on and the discussions about orality and literacy continued, I realized that I had seen many
examples of oral residue in literature my entire life without recognizing it. In my mind I couldnt
help but metaphorically link the characteristics of an oral culture to archeological digs. Like an
archeological find, oral cultures have left behind deposits for us to find in many of the old texts
we still have today. Many of these examples can be found in scriptural texts, namely the Old
In the Old Testament there are many examples of orally based thought and expression.
For example, the book of Numbers has many lists of genealogies; this is an example of additives
rather than subordinatives characteristic that Ong mentions. Also, in the first few books of the
bible when people were readying for sacrifices, they had specific steps and actions they did to
prepare for that sacrifice; this is an example of the aggregative rather than analytic characteristic
that Ong gives in his book. Other characteristics of Ong that can apply are redundancy and the
support of conservatism and traditionalism.
Since I have seen examples of orally based thought and expression before reading Ongs
book, I found it easier to understand what he was explaining and describing. Ive always thought
the reason for the redundancy and lack of stylistic metaphors was that the writers were simply

not interested in style and flair; however, from learning about the characteristics Ong presents, I
understand a little more about the Bible and that the stories must have been preserved orally for
some time. Likewise, the Bible has helped me to understand Ongs explanations of orality and
literacy in a greater way. There are definite differences between writing in literature and writing
that is based from what was once an oral culture/story. These are just some of the thoughts that I
had while learning and reading Ong.