28 March 2007

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

Authors/Illustrators: Everybody and their mother

An all-star cast of picture book artists converge in this book to provide their answers to this age old riddle. Some artists get creative with their illustrations--like the one where the cops interrogate the chicken using techniques that only Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (or Jack Bauer) would approve of. Others are not so creative. I mean, seriously... a picnic? Is that really the best you could come up with? We've been beating our heads against the wall for all these years only to find out that the chicken crossed the road for a freakin' picnic?!

From the Archives: I also tackled this question for my college essay in 1997 (you can read it in the comments section below). For the Dartmouth application, they asked you to come up with your own question and answer it. So, in a show of either incredible guts or great stupidity, I chose the question, "Why Did The Chicken Cross the Road?" for my essay. Luckily for me, the gamble appeared to pay off because they let me in despite my solidly unspectacular transcript. Suckas!

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the following essay by the 1997 Minh do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the 2007 Minh. Keep in mind that he was young, because the essay is written with an air of pretension that is unique to high school seniors (and recent college graduates writing cover letters). On the plus side, the 1997 Minh did not have lines shaved into the side of his head... unlike the (mercifully) short-lived 1991 version.


Minh said...

Here is the (unedited) essay:


Why did the chicken cross the road? Formulate a response and discuss it in depth.


Everyone knows that the chicken crossed the road to get to the other side, but what was its motivation? What compelled this particular chicken to venture across this mysterious road? Though there may never be a definite answer, it is possible to generate theories and possible answers to this timeless riddle.

To better understand the plight of the chicken, it may help to put yourself in the shoes (figuratively speaking) of the chicken itself. For our purposes, let’s assume that this chicken is a male, even thought that goes against all the conventions of nature. If I were a chicken, what would make me want to cross the road? Maybe there is an attractive hen strolling down the other side of the road or maybe I was being chased by a pack of hungry wolves. These theories, while practical, are not altogether interesting, so I’ll set those off to the side. Maybe the answer is wrong’ maybe the chicken didn’t cross the road to get to the other side. Maybe he was feeling particularly downhearted and ventured into the road hoping to be struck down by the oncoming traffic. I have never been this depressed, however, so I can’t really relate. That hypothesis is a little too pessimistic for me anyway.

Perhaps I am approaching this from the wrong angle. Maybe within the riddle lies some symbolic meaning, something greater and more meaningful than the exploits of a wayward chicken. Maybe the road symbolizes the road of political belief (left, right, or middle of the road) and the chicken represents public opinion. In that case, the answer to the riddle would be the reason why the public shifts from conservative to liberal and back again every few decades or so. Or maybe it is something more universal. The road could represent the threshold separating childhood from adulthood. The chicken represents the child and the road is his right of passage into adulthood. In my case the right of passage would be filling out the college application. It forces me to take a long look at my life and my accomplishments. It also gives me the opportunity to think further ahead into my future. And by doing so I feel as if I have at least begun my journey into adulthood.

There is another possible explanation. Putting myself in the place of the chicken once again, maybe I crossed the road simply for the sake of crossing the road. Sometimes the journey is also one’s destination. When I go skiing, I don’t ski to get to the bottom of the mountain, I ski to experience the act of skiing. Another example is our school newspaper. Our staff spends a lot of time putting the paper together, and as a result we have an award-winning publication. I am, however, less interested in the resulting product than I am with the process of creating the paper. It gives everyone involved valuable experience which can be useful later in life—which is more important than being able to say that I was a member of the best scholastic paper in Connecticut. So maybe the chicken wanted to cross the road just to be able to say that he has experienced the crossing, and that he survived.

If I had to find a specific situation in my life right now that fits the description of the riddle, I would have to choose the college application process. I am the chicken, daring to cross the highly competitive road, and on the other side lies Dartmouth College. To get there, I must clear the hurdle of the admissions process by exposing myself to the scrutiny of the admissions officers. If that is the case, the riddle would have to be altered a bit. In this new version, the chicken walks out into the road, plucks out all of his feathers and stands there while he is closely examined by the oncoming traffic. Standing in the middle of the road, totally exposed to the probing eyes of the oncoming cars, he awaits his fate. If the onslaught of vehicles approve, then the chicken will be allowed to pass freely to the other side of the road ready to face the next challenge. Because even though the riddle ends with the chicken crossing the road, a whole world awaits him’ full of new challenges and more roads to cross. Even if he doesn’t make it to the other side, the naked chicken will then simply gather up his feathers and go in search of another road to cross.

vi said...

Finally! I've been waiting years for this to resurface.

Anonymous said...

Wow! That was an amazing essay! I absolutely loved it!


Unknown said...

do you feel like a naked chicken as everyone in the world now scrutinizes your college essay and book choices? or does the chicken eventually become an exhibitionist who enjoys wearing pink girl sweatshirts and prancing around using a baseball cap as a prop?

Minh said...

First of all: I was wearing that pink hoodie to make a sociopolitical/cultural statement.

Second of all: it looked damn good on me.

And lastly: I have only pranced once in my life... and that was only because I was at a Willie Nelson concert and had to pee really, really bad.