During the summer; reading Orwells selected essays, I was intrigued by his unique language and metaphors which were almost always original. This use of imagery created an environment in which I could picture myself standing in his shoes, either at age 7 in private school, or standing atop a hill holding a rifle; looking down on the dying elephant. Orwell used imagery in such a way, that he would vividly depict what was most important, and suggest the surroundings in such a way that your mind would fill in the rest. Orwell’s strong opinion was carried within his writing in sometimes subtle and sometimes eminent ways. Through his writing, Orwell illuminated how he thought critically of those around him. He would use descriptions of a person’s looks to produce the personality that they carried.
Doing the drjs, however monotonous at times, helped me build the skills to not only read but analyze what I was reading in different ways. One of the ways was by taking a closer look at the tone the writer was trying to convey. Orwell normally framed his writing in such a way that you could decipher the tone without too much difficulty. This being said, I still need to greatly improve this skill of analysis as it still takes great concentration, and my assertions are not always on the right track. I had more trouble finding and deciphering sound effects and diction.
Through the feedback I have received on my drjs I have been able to better understand the criteria for each way of writing. When first learning about structure, I first thought of it as the way in which paragraphs were formatted, and how many lines were in a stanza, and so on. After receiving the comments on my drjs, I have realized that it is more so about time and order, and the structure in which the author formed their writing. I have learned that tone is not so much what the writing reads, but what the author intended from their writing.
Geoffrey Wheatcroft writes about Orwell as a friend. Wheatcroft discusses both Orwell’s strengths as well as his weaknesses, and he describes how Orwell was able to gain fame in the days near and after death. Orwell is depicted as a timeless gem of literature, and Wheatcroft seems to portray how Orwell’s mystical and clever image was not sullied, despite his radical ideals and theologies. The essay starts by creating a setting where a friend would visit another friend’s grave, and he goes on to build Orwell up by calling him a “secular martyrdom” (Wheatcroft pp. 1) and calling his aura “heroic.” Wheatcroft mentioned the unique language which Orwell uses in his writing and more particularly 1984. By the fourth paragraph, Wheatcroft starts a shift from building Orwell to describing his elusiveness as a person as well as a writer. He goes further to say that Orwell was not a great novelist or journalist, instead his fame and skill are best placed in his postcards, politics, and language; only then “he enters the realm of deathless literature.” (Wheatcroft pp. 2) Wheatcroft discusses the importance of Orwell not falling into one select group of politics, and instead placing himself in the cracks between different ideologies despite his labels. His politics cannot be placed into any 1 group as they change from place to place. These points that Wheatcroft highlights in his essay, I have not thought of in the same way. It also allowed me to better understand Orwell’s personality, as well as his reasons for writing. Wheatcroft writes of Orwell in a personable way, but also creates this facade for Orwell as a mysterious and elusive person simultaneously.
What I think that I will remember most from dp1 English is Mr. MacKnights sometimes funny and always witty jokes. What I will remember academically however was our criticisms and analysis of the texts which we read. Reading analytically will consistently help me progress as a critical thinker in the future.
I have learned how to analyze and criticize a text and make my own ideas more concrete, as well as relating them to the text. I have also learned how to better read and create a deeper understanding as I read.
The Awakening by Kate Chopin, was a very interesting and analytical read. The writing itself was done very well, but I could not help disliking it because of the extent to which it described scenes and did not get to the point in a direct way. Kate Chopin instead created the characters to be real people with real feelings and actions which I could relate to in some ways. The characters contradicted themselves to an extent, but that is what made them so life like. The endless descriptions of the scenery and the characters meticulous lives made it difficult to grasp the importance rather than the overall picture.
Kate Chopin wrote the story focused mainly upon the protagonist: Edna. She was both inspirational, and looked down upon for her actions. I viewed what she did as inspirational for woman during this time; the late 1800s, however she was written to be the extreme, proven by the many men she entangled herself with outside of her marriage. I am not confounded by the prospect of moving outside of a marriage when there is no love involved, being a reader however, I cannot help but see the way she goes about this as unnecessarily hurtful to the people around her. I would hope that there would be other possibilities or ways that she could free herself of her marriage before her love story with Robert and her lust with Lycée Arobin, both betraying the other. During the time this was written, the controversiality possessed in this novel was necessary to create an impact on the standards of marriage during this time.
The novel written by Kate Chopin (1899) reminded me of Pygmalion (1912), because of the like protagonists and the concept of middle class morality. Both Mrs. Pontellier (Edna) and Ms. Doolittle (Eliza) are constricted by the society which they live in. Eliza Doolittle coming from the lower class requests language lessons, and eventually over succeeds these language lessons becoming that of royalty in the way she speaks. “You think I like you to say that. But I haven’t forgot what you said a minute ago; and I won’t be coaxed round as if I was a baby or a puppy. If I can’t have kindness, I’ll have independence” (Shaw p. 70). These words spoken from Eliza Doolittle when Higgins tells her she can marry a prince really rung a bell for me, because this is exactly the predicament that Edna ended up in. She married a rich man which she lacks any form of love for. Eliza and Edna are two sides of the same coin, except Edna is married and Eliza is free of marriage.
All in all, I enjoyed analyzing the novel: The Awakening, but the pacing was slow and the descriptions were tedious. The novel has also lost some amount of relevance because of the feminist movements that are currently happening and the rate of divorces spiking. That said, there is still situations like this still happening.
I enjoyed the play Pygmalion by George Shaw, but it was somewhat slow paced. The characters were well written and had distinct personalities which made it interesting for me to read. The questions that were brought to the surface for me when reading the play, is it right for Eliza to leave Mr. Higgins without such a notice after what he did for her, and secondly, does Mr. Higgins overstep his boundaries when she leaves him.
Eliza was in the right to leave as she was paying him as a tutor (through Mr. Pickering), and because Higgins did not own her in any way, it should not be his problem that she left. It does get more complicated when you think about things politely. It was rude for Eliza to leave Higgins without a notice or a “thank you” for how he helped her, because she was the one who came to him and asked him for language lessons. Higgins accepted this and also housed Eliza and fed her for the length of her lessons. No, I do not believe that it was right for Eliza to leave Higgins without saying goodbye or “thank you,” even if she was fuming.
Higgins oversteps his control over Eliza when he sends the police after her to retrieve Eliza when she leaves. Eliza was only studying under Higgins, which means Higgins has no right to do something as dramatic as sending the police after Eliza. Unlike in the original written by Ovid, which Pygmalion is based off. The reason for Higgins freaking out, was because he believes that he does have ownership of Liza, because he made her into what she is. “She doesn’t belong to him. I paid him five pounds for her.” (v.7) This is Mr. Higgins speaking when he is talking to Mr. Doolittle. He says that Liza belongs to him because of the five pounds Henry gave Doolittle. The reality of this is that Eliza does not belong to Mr. Higgins, and Mr. Doolittle was only trying to make money off rich people like Higgins.
A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen, was an exaggerated playwright of a classic white middle-class family during the late eighteen hundreds. I thoroughly enjoyed this piece because of the controversies, and the writing. The play started off by creating the setting of a couple with kids and a weirdly intimate relationship. As the play progressed, the reasoning comes forth and it allowed the reader (me), to see why Nora acted the way she did, and what kind of person Torvald; or as he liked to be addressed, Mr. Helmer. This play prompts important questions and answers. In A Doll’s house, Ibsen makes it clear that marrying for money never works out, both Nora and Mrs. Line married for financial stability; in both cases, it did not work out. This leads me to believe that when finding someone to marry, you should base the decision on how you feel about the person, and not if it will be financially beneficial.
In all honesty, Torvald creeped me out by the way that he addressed Nora like he owned her, or had possession of her. These convoluted ideas of his seemed to derive from him giving her money as if it was some sort of allowance. Torvald described Nora as “his” little songbird and told her how to dress and act and even dance. This was to be expected because it was in the name A Doll’s House; she was his little plaything and show toy until she came to the realization that he only liked her for how she looked to others, and how it helped his name, and honor, and how it made his perfect house look. “Bought you say? All that? Has my little spending-bird been out frittering money again?” (Ibsen, Act 1, scene 1, page 2). At the very start of the play, Torvalds condescending tone is brought forth. Ibsen does a good job to set the scene an show the relationship: Nora hiding the macaroons from her “father” (Torvald) and Torvald questioning his “daughter”. Of course they are not actually father and daughter but without a little background knowledge and critical thinking, this scene could be easily mistaken for a father and daughter conversation.
I do think that Nora’s predicament was caused by her poor decision making and childish behavior, but this play more brings to light how messed up relationships can be. This play was exceedingly unpopular during its time, because people could relate to it, and it did not make them look like good people. The reason why this play is so well known today is because of its controversial ideas and its perfect writing which ties the beginning to the end and visa versa. This was an enjoyable read and I would be likely to recommend this book to someone else.
After reading the playwright The Merchant of Venice, written by William Shakespear, I felt somewhat broken by my different opinions. William Shakespeare creates conflicting ideas which lead the reader to ponder: is Shylock justified to take a pound of Antonio’s flesh? I think he is justified.
Shylock is justified to take a pound of Antonio’s flesh because both parties agreed previously upon the contract. If Antonio was not willing to give Shylock a pound of flesh from wherever he desired then he would not have signed the contract. Antonio knowing the rudeness he exacted on Shylock, would know the type of revenge that Shylock wants.
“I am as like to call thee so again, To spit on thee again, to spurn thee too. If thou wilt lend this money, lend it not As to thy friends, for when friendship take A breed for barren metal of his friend? But lent it rather to thine enemy, Who if he break, thou mayst with better face Exact the penalty.” (Shakespear, Act 1, Scene 3, Line 125-132).
This quote of Antonio demonstrates how he is fully aware of the consequences and he knows Shylock’s motives. Even though the contract is very harsh, it must be followed because if not, then Venice (where the play takes place) will lose all sense of order, and the Jewish people who already have less power than the Christians, will have no protection.
Shylock was justified to demand a pound of Antonio’s flesh because it was stated in their contract that Antonio knew the consequences of not following the contract. Antonio was willing to risk his “life” for the money to fund Bassanios’ excursion to find a wife. Shylock was mistreated during the trial, as Portia turned the tides against Shylock by specifying a drop of blood must not be shed. However, Shylock should have been allowed to take a pound of flesh because in doing this, it would be a given that blood would be spilled. The bond insinuates that with flesh comes blood and it would be common knowledge for Antonio to be aware of these consequences. Shylock is wrongly convicted of practicing usury because the rates were agreed upon and at the time which the play first took place, people being killed by one another for petty things, was seen as more common.
Langston Hughes was a star poet as well as an activist during the 19th century. His poems were inspired by Walt Whitman and were free verse which was unusual for the times. Langston Hughes was also known as being inspired by the blues and wrote on behalf of the African American community in the USA. His writing took on a more ecologically valid point of view later on as he started vouching for all repressed people.
Harlem Sweeties is an example of Hughes’s writing, which comes to life and moves people to think a certain way. The poem Harlem Sweeties caused people around the world but mainly in America to adapt their beauty standard and instead find beauty in women of color as well as in white women during the mid-19th century. “Pale, almost translucent skin, rosy cheeks, crimson lips, white teeth, and sparkling eyes.” As said by Jessica Cale when describing the beauty standard of the 19th century. Harlem Sweeties triggers people’s beauty standards to change and accept a broader beauty. Harlem Sweeties makes use of imagery in the sense that it describes people as candy and dessert, “Brown sugar lassie, Caramel treat, Honey-gold baby”. (Line 5-7). The sweetness of these types of foods figures as the beauty of the woman that Hughes sees in Harlem.
Goodbye Christ is one of Hughes’s more popular poems which brings out his personal opinions never seen. The mood of Goodbye Christ is angry and sad, it is like he is losing hope in the future of the world and becoming depressed. “Marx Communist Lenin Peasant Stalin Worker ME–”. (Line 24). His view in politics is announced. During this time many intellectuals saw hope in Communism and the public did not know of the many millions that had died at Stalin’s hands. To them, Communism was an ideal society in which property is publicly owned and everyone works and is paid due to their ability and needs. Today we see that the ideal world of Communism is nearly impossible, and that is why people no longer strive for it in the United States of America.
I enjoyed reading Langston Hughes’s poems because of his use of imagery and the lack of structure. The lack of structure made the poems more entertaining to read and kept me interested. Langston Hughes wrote in order to promote equality and fight against repression. This made me more interested in his writing, and is another reason why these poems became so famous.
Drop dead gorgeous: 19th century beauty tips for the aspiring consumptive. Dirty, Sexy History. (2018, December 5). Retrieved January 31, 2022, from https://dirtysexyhistory.com/2018/05/16/drop-dead-gorgeous-19th-century-beauty-tips-for-the-aspiring-consumptive/
Selected Poems by Langston Hughes:IB English A Literature Mr. Macknight.
One thing I enjoyed during my reading of Candide, was the use of Satire. It especially stuck out to me later on in the novel as I became more used to Voltaire’s style of writing. It is crazy for me to think of Voltaire, living in those times, and having such an advanced perspective on the world. He was way ahead of his times, and in the novel Candide, Voltaire made sure that his opinion would be clear. He wrote the novel in a silly satirical way which I enjoyed reading.
I disliked how freely Voltaire made fun of people during this time, as he was one of those people that he made fun of. Candide almost set Voltaire out of the playing field on a pedestal of his own, without people disliking him. As he was the writer of this novel, he was allowed to do this, but it was done in such a way that it showed his ego through the writing.
Voltaire wrote about awful things that were happening around the world, and he used them to try to create change, but people also saw this as a joke and it made people laugh which should not be done over such trivial topics.
The thing that I enjoyed most when reading The Odyssey was the way they created Odyyseus to not necessarily be all good, but be cunning and sly as well. The creativity of the general poem was very entertaining and interesting to read as well. The reason why the poem was so entertaining, was because of the use of different figures of speech that added more life to the writing.
The Odyssey was an overall enjoyable read, but it could get confusing at times. The writing is a translation so at times it was difficult to make sense of. Also, the poem: The Odyssey, is a higher level of writing than I typically read and am used to. Another thing that bugged me while reading this translation of The Odyssey, is that it took upon an opinion of religion, mostly Christianity.
Something that surprised me while reading The Odyssey was the use of the gods. An instance for this would be Athena following Odysseus around during the poem, but during those times, the Greeks would see someone that is wise, as somebody well-liked by Athena. This brings back how the Greeks thought and their interpretations of people being super strong, smart, athletic, fast, etc…
At such a time the boy found out for certain, that this space filling with people was an intersection where new roads met; and that Jacob was just the friend in his head, and Greg was never there and never real; and that the boy in my dreams, with the fancy shoes, and nice white T, did not exist, and never will, and that the black asphalt roads stretching on incessantly, weaving and winding, illuminated only by street lamps and stop lights, with cars of all shapes and sizes zooming and zipping on the black asphalt; and the storefronts flanking either side, and people busying themselves with wants and desires, walking to and fro without a thought for the young boy of only ten; looking up to the sky with his hands outstretched, he wished for a better life or a helping hand.
A frightened boy, missing the clothing to suit his torso, with nothing but hunks on his feet. A boy whose hair was mangled and knotted, and a face without a set of teeth, and a façade of 40, and the eyes of a boy of ten, and a crusty rag falling round his collar. A boy who had been tossed in rubbish, and bathed in the sun, and dozed on cement, and avoided by eyes, and looked down on by stilettos; a boy who hunched, and baked, and pleaded, and groaned; and whose mind dreamt of a life without struggle as he raised his hands and asked for a penny.
Antigone matches Aristotle’s description of a tragedy. Antigone was just a normal girl that was neither extremely unfortunate nor fortunate. She loses everything because of her brothers’ deaths, which were both out of her control. Aristotle’s version of a tragedy is the worst thing happening to a normal person without a reason or cause, and the story Antigone is the perfect fit. “The power of fate is a wonder, dark, terrible wonder— neither wealth nor armies towered walls nor ships black hulls lashed by the salt can save us from that force.” (pg. 108 Sophocles). This proves that Antigone was not all that special and was instead just like any other person. She could relate to anyone. Another example is the story of Antigone is king Creon, who at the end of the play ends up losing everything he loves. “…god came down and struck me—a great weight shattering, driving me down that wild savage path, ruining, trampling down my joy. Oh the agony, the heartbreaking agonies of our lives.” (pg. 124 Sophocles). This is after Creon’s son dies, it is another example of Aristotle’s description of a tragedy, Creon being a semi-normal person ends up losing all he loves because of an uncontrollable prophecy. Antigone meets Aristotle’s description of a tragedy because of the way in which both Creon and Antigone suffer from tragedies that could not be changed.
Oedipus retells Apollo’s words “Death for the father-killer, the curse—…” (pg. 246 Sophocles). Reading this, I couldn’t help but realize the irony of the statement. Apollo was the creator of the prophecy and he is now sentencing him to be killed. The story portrays the cruelty of the greek gods in the way they mold humans to do certain things; only to have them killed. I was slightly perturbed by the use of language, seaming as it was very informal and unlike the time it took place. It is a translation so that does affect the language but even still, I believe that it should sound like older English considering how old the story really is. On the note of age, I was somewhat surprised by the ease in which the story told of a mother and son relationship because it shocked, surprised, and even made me feel uncomfortable to talk about. It leads me to wonder if the times were so different, or if Sophocles was the type of person to think of crooked stories like this. Reading the end of Oedipus the King, it finally dawned on me. Oedipus was a coward, from the start of the story to the end. In the beginning of the story, he gets told that he will kill his father and marry his mother. Instead of facing his parents and telling him what had happened with the oracle, he instead runs away. Oedipus was so caught up in fear, that he failed to realize; his foster parents might not be his real ones. Then again, when Creon accuses him of being the cities downfall, he fights back out of pure fear for his own life. In the end, he begs Creon to spare him and let him live in exile.
I knew of the story of Abraham and Isaac beforehand, having heard it from my parents and from the Jewish community that I went to back in California where I used to live. Re-reading this story I now remember that it was a test from God on Abraham to find out if he was faithful enough, or in the text’s words, “now I know that you fear god,-“ (12). The story of Abraham and Isaac may sound cruel however the old testament never made God out to be kind but instead the all-powerful and all-knowing who did what had to be done for the Israelites. Although there are many different interpretations on why God would make Abraham do such a horrific act. One interpretation is that it was a test and a statement showing that Judaism would stop the sacrifice of firstborns, unlike some other religions at the time.