The Awakening – Personal Response

Reading this book, we get to learn about Edna’s awakening and her experiences with growing as an individual. We are able to see the hardships of her willingness to meet society’s standards of “motherhood” and how her relationships with not only her children but her romantic relationships expressed her awakening. Edna most often prioritized herself and her own independence over her children. This made me connect The Awakening directly with A Doll’s House, a play we had read previously. I see a strong resemblance in character between Nora and Edna. Both characters not truly knowing themselves and being dictated and forced to adhere to societal standards. Both women were not happy in their current state and had enough. The expectations for women in both pieces of literature were high. Women and mothers had to take on a large role in taking care of their family and being a good housewife. Edna and Nora are two women that disregarded these expectations and eventually had a turning point which resulted in them leaving for themselves. I don’t think it was wrong for these women to leave, I think it was strong of them to do so but I don’t think they should have abandoned their children.

The ending was shocking to me as I did not see the death of Edna coming. This raised many questions for me. What was Kate Chopin indicating with this ending? It was left ambiguous and up to the readers to interpret, which was not favorable for me. I question whether or not the death was intentional? What did Edna’s death represent? Was she leaving behind society and the high standards society had towards motherhood? What realization does Edna have before she swims out and loses strength? To me, I believe her death was intentional and she had to leave for herself. She might have come to the realization that the life she was living was not the life she wanted for herself. We learn that she has a perfect husband and many other companions that fill her needs, she has lovely children and many friends but she is still unhappy. She wanted rid of the high standards and expectations society had for her. Edna had always felt a sense of freedom and independence when swimming and perhaps she wanted to leave Grand Isle with that same sense of freedom and independence. 

Overall, this novel was interesting and raised many questions and further discussions, especially towards the end. I am curious to learn how other readers interpret the ending.

 

Personal Response to Pygmalion

After reading Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, the ending immediately grasps my attention. The end of the play leaves us with numerous scenarios and different endings. In particular I enjoy how we are able to decide what happens at the end and ultimately what happens to Eliza. This ending allows us to imagine her happy or unhappy ending and what she does with all the new skills she has acquired. This finishing of the play stood out to me because unlike other plays where there is often a happy ending, we see that in Pygmalion the ending is ambiguous. The effect this has on the reader is that it creates a sense of mystery and gives the audience something to ponder after the play is over. It also makes us question whether or not it was all worth it in the end. All of the effort Eliza put into becoming a lady, did she reach her end goal? Was she able to sell flowers at a flower shop?

The difference in characters between Higgens and Colonel Pickering caught my attention. The two of them working together everyday in efforts to help Eliza become a “lady in a flower shop” and both of them being very good friends is interesting to me as I notice how different their characters are. Higgins is upfront, brutal and often rude, whereas Colonel Pickering was shown to be kind, warmhearted and tender. The drastic differences when they spoke to Eliza was the most evident difference in characters. Colonel Pickering was polite and understanding of Eliza where Huggins was always yelling and picking fights. This made me question how Higgins and Colonel Pickering got along so well if they treated others so differently. We also see the difference in characters when Higgins and Pickering go over to Mrs. Higgins home. Pickering was polite and greeted everybody accordingly while Higgins was away in the corner speaking his mind. This particular duo was interesting to read about and discover how their relationship was despite their differences. 

The character development of Eliza also stood out to me while watching and reading the play. We see that she is introduced as a lower class flower girl with an outrageous and irritating accent. We can see that her sense of manners and her overall attitude did not depict a “lady” or someone in the upper class. With help from Higgins we see that by the end of the play she is transformed into a whole other person, but at what cost? Eliza mentions how she was happy selling flowers on the street and she mentions how she wished they had never helped her. We do not get to truly know if Eliza is happy with the transformation and if she ever became that lady in the flower shop. Her character starts off constantly complaining and very impatient and whiny but as the play goes on she develops into this confident, polite, and ladylike woman. 

 

Personal Response to A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen

After finishing A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen, some main takeaways that I noticed was the characterization of the two main characters, Nora Helmer and Torvald Helmer, the toxicity of Torvald Helmer and the character development and courage of Nora Helmer. I think a crucial understanding of the play is getting to know that Nora and Torvald are very unalike and very distinct from one another. We get to learn that Nora is a very childish person and very nonchalant when it comes to money, whereas Torvald is all about rules and morals and when it comes to money, he is very strict. Knowing these two characters Ibsen writes about a situation that seems impossible to fix between these two types of people. Nora believes she is right and nothing else could have been done except for what she did, and Torvald believes she is in the wrong. The situation and scenario is so interesting and appealing to the audience because of the characterization of Nora and Torvald and how we instantly know how much Torvald would disapprove of the situation. 

Another thing that stood out to me after reading A Dolls House was the way Ibsen wrote about Torvald and his and Nora’s relationship. This highlighted how most men treated women during the late 1800’s. How men were always under the impression that women needed to be “saved” or “helped” at all times and Torvald represented that image immensely. He was constantly controlling and directing Nora to the point where she was so influenced by his mindset and opinions that she couldn’t eat what she wanted in front of him. She hid the macaroons from Torvald because he made it a rule that she shouldn’t eat any. His pet names and phrases directed at Nora also depicted this image of an egotistical man controlling his “helpless” wife. He referred to Nora as a “Helpless confused little creature” and after Nora had declared that she was leaving him he referred to her as a “Blind inexperienced creature”. This showed how easily Torvald switched up on Nora depending on his mood. 

At the end of the play where we see Nora sit Torvald down to talk, we see incredible character development and strength from Nora. She tells Torvald how he doesn’t understand her and how their marriage isn’t really a marriage. This moment was my favourite scene in the play and to me it represented Nora’s courage and strength getting out of that relationship that made her feel small and unhappy. She mentions how she has been treated like a doll over the course of her life and that she needs to find herself and not be played with/ controlled. I felt proud of Nora for speaking up and leaving the relationship she was in and her realization of how unhealthy and toxic Torvald was to her.

 

The Merchant of Venice Personal Response

After finishing The Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare, I felt a number of different emotions. I felt sympathy but also disapproval towards Shylock and anger towards Antonio. After reading the scene where Portia (dressed up as a lawyer) enlightens Shylock of his punishment where he recieves none of the wealth (3000 ducats) he lent and has all of his estates and wealth taken away, I felt incredibly bad and sorry for Shylock. Everything was being taken away from him and the punishment worsened. I pitied Shylock because I could imagine the hurt and hopelessness he was feeling. I felt sympathy for Shylock in that moment and after watching the play, the emotion conveyed made me sympathize for Shylock even more. In addition to the punishment, it is said by Antonio that Shylock must give up being Jewish and convert to Christianity. During this scene I felt anger towards Antonio. It made me question whether or not he was the protagonist or antagonist. The Anti-semitism expressed throughout this play by not only Antonio but by the Christians was cruel and racist. I think Shylock’s speech did a good job showing his emotions and the anti-semitism he faced, to the readers and just proved how racist Antonio treated Shylock just for being Jewish. I do not believe Shylock deserved to have the ending that he did. 

Another thing I felt during this unit was the impact of both reading and watching the play. Reading the play noticeably improved my interpretation of Shakespeare’s words and language. The footnotes on the side were very useful in helping me understand what Shakespeare was trying to convey. Watching the play put all the puzzle pieces together. Any confusion or uncertainty was answered after watching the play. The emotions of the characters were well conveyed by the directors of The Merchant of Venice. I could see what reactions specific lines had on the actors. Watching the play gave an overall better understanding. Although the language was sometimes hard to understand, the overall play was fascinating to read and watch. I was surprised with how much I enjoyed it.

Personal Response to Langston Hughes

Throughout this unit, reading the selected poems written by Langston Hughes, I have grown to enjoy reading poetry and searching for patterns and messages embedded within the poems. Hughes takes a topic and writes it in a way that creates a deeper effect and meaning in the message he is trying to convey. Using metaphors, rhymes, and different poetic structures he accentuates the meaning of his poems clearly. 

Hughes raises awareness on many issues regarding racism, oppression and the everyday struggles that African American people have to endure. I was aware of the inequalities and oppression of African American people but Hughes’ poems opened up a whole new understanding for me. Through the perspectives of African American people themselves, the poems show emotion and sometimes even pain. It depicts images of unfairness and lack of respect towards African American people. The effect of this pain and image of inequality causes me to feel for them and it also broadens my knowledge and understanding of the topic Hughes is writing about. For example in The Negro Mother, Hughes describes a mother talking about her own personal experiences being a slave. When the mother says “I am the one labored as a slave, Beaten and mistreated for the work that I gave– children sold away from me, husband sold, too.” I felt sadness and sorrow towards her and couldn’t imagine going through what had happened to her. I also was not aware of how much slaves had to go through and survive, it was heartbreaking to read and even more heartbreaking to imagine a mother opening up and talking about it.

I enjoyed the rhyme schemes Hughes included in some of his poems. The effect of the rhymes was that it was so smooth and satisfying to read. The rhymes created momentum in the poetry and reading it was enjoyable. Another thing I particularly liked while reading the selected poems was that there was a distinguishable optimistic or pessimistic ending. I personally liked the ones with the optimistic endings and thought it was more eye opening when the ending left you open minded. For example an optimistic ending would be like from the poem Montage of a Dream Deferred, “I’d like to take up Bach. Montage of a dream deferred. Buddy, have you heard?” It showed a hopeful and positive ending which leads me to imagine a happy ending. 

 

Personal Response to Candide

After reading Candide by Voltaire, I thoroughly enjoyed the chaos and mischiefs that occurred in the book the most. I found the content and stories to be most interesting and enjoyable to read. The book was filled with action and conflict and reading how the characters develop throughout the book was fascinating as well. When describing Candide’s adventures, Voltaire did an exceptional job. The diction used was very easy to comprehend and made it easier to read. So much content is explained and described in very few pages which made the book fast paced and straightforward. The topics Voltaire refers to and writes about in Candide is eye-opening. It shines light on many major issues and he describes these topics in his own way. 

I found that when reading Candide by Voltaire, I disliked the offensive satire. Satirical writing I feel can be humorous and funny to an extent and it can be used as a way to raise serious issues. It can be a way to talk about serious topics in a lighter, less heavy context. Satire is a good way to bring up significant topics in a humorous way and can be used in a positive way to create a positive impact. But, when writers cross the line and are writing offensive and racist comments, that is where it stops being humorous. Voltaire made comments that crossed the line in this book which I personally did not find enjoyable to read.

The philosophical questions brought into the story were very effective in making me question my own beliefs. It made me think of the different views and beliefs I follow and how it affects my day to day life. Pangloss’ philosophy “Best of all possible worlds” was interesting to think about because I did not agree with him. Especially with the context and events in the book and all the suffering and injustices that are mentioned, I would definitely disagree with Pangloss’ belief.

 

Personal Response to Homer’s Odyssey

What did you enjoy the most about The Odyssey, and why?

While reading The Odyssey, I found that I thoroughly enjoyed discovering Odysseus’ character. We see him through many perspectives which gives us insight on who he really is and the type of person Odysseus is. We read about his successes, his downfalls, his suffering and at last, his peace and how he came to finally being king again. Furthermore, seeing Odysseus’ hardships and how he adapted and persevered, made me like his character more. For example, looking back at the moment Odysseus’ men opened the bag of winds, Odysseus wanted to give up and stated “Should I go overside for a quick finish or clench my teeth and stay among the living?” After suffering so much Odysseus still kept going and showed utmost strength. This showed what kind of character Odysseus really was and showed his endurance and determination. I also enjoyed analyzing the book in class and getting the full picture. It allowed a more in depth analysis which led to a deeper understanding of The Odyssey.

 

What did you enjoy the least about The Odyssey, and why?

I did not enjoy the beginning of the book (around 1-3) where least action and adventure took place. It was more about assembling a crew/ship to find lost Odysseus and Telemachus going to the Red Haired King for advice. I find these parts less interesting because I found Odysseus’ adventures and stories throughout the middle and rest of the book to be most enjoyable and compelling to read. Additionally, during the first couple of books I was still unfamiliar with the characters which made me question many roles and their purpose in the book. 

 

What surprised you the most about The Odyssey?

What surprised me the most was definitely Odysseus’ adventures and the characters involved, as well as understanding how gods and mortals existed among each other, since I had not read anything like The Odyssey before. There were some concepts between gods and mortals that I had questioned. An example would be how the mortal characters would know a god that showed up in the form of a human was interacting with them? Like they just had a feeling and knew it was a god sending them a message in mortal form. The one eyed Kyklops, the witch “Kirke ”, the ship swallowing whirlpool “Charybdis’ ‘, and the sea monster “Scylla” were all characters that appeared in Odysseus’ adventures that surprised me and I did not expect those characters to appear. They all had interesting parts in the story and most created conflict and obstacles for Odysseus in returning to Ithaka.

Pastiches on Charles Dickens, “Great expectations”

Passage 1:
At such a time I knew for certain, that this laughter filled boat was a moment I wanted to remember; and that Alyssa Powell, happily taking film photos, and Brooke Gardner being captured in the photos were all smiling and joyous; and that Reina, Alex, Coen, Cameron, and Brandon, were intertwined in the moment conversing contently with one another; and that the sound of the swaying water beyond the boat, intersected with docks and sails, with the bright moon shining down at us, was Lake Cowichan; and that the bright scatter of glitter in the dark sky, were stars; and that even with the cool dusk air, the feeling of warmth, was happiness.

Passage 2:
A joyful girl, all in baby pink, with pigtails in her hair. A girl with butterfly clips, and with fuzzy slippers, and with a lollipop in her hand. A girl who was amazed by fairytales, and frightened by monsters, and confused with multiplication, and excited for Santa to come, and saddened when dropped off on her first day of school, and delighted by snacks; who sang, and played, and cried, and smiled; and whose world was lit up whenever she’d receive a hug from her mother.

Personal Response to Antigone

Who was the main character in the play Antigone? After reading the play, I believe the main character is Creon. The name of the play leads us to believe the protagonist is Antigone and that the story would be about her, but in my opinion, the main character was actually Creon. I think this because although a part of the story is about Antigone and how she handles the death of her brothers, most of the play is about the aftermath and reaction of Creon when Antigone doesn’t obey his rules. How he assesses the situation and the series of events that take place after make me conclude that he is the lead character. The play revolves around him, he is the king, the ruler, and to me Antigone is seen as the troublemaker, the person Creon has to deal with. At the end of the play after Antigone is taken away, Creon finds out about the death of his son and his wife. The play was always happening around Creon and what he was doing and it ended with the people closest to him dead. He was the play’s focus and core. Without the role of Creon in this play not much would happen as Creon was often the one creating conflict and emotion. You can see the conflict that Creon caused and the frustration of Antigone when she says,

“Hasn’t Creon graced one with all the rites, disgraced the other? Eteocles, they say, has been given full military honours, rightly so—Creon has laid him in the earth and he goes with glory down among the dead. But with the body of Polynices, who died miserably—why, a city-wide proclamation, rumour has it, forbids anyone to bury him, even mourn him. He’s left to be unwept, unburied, a lovely treasure for birds that scan the field and feast to their heart’s content.”

The conflict and emotion Creon produced throughout the whole play and his role as the play’s focus, leads me to believe that he is the true main character of the story. 

 

Oedipus the King – Personal Response

When reading the story Oedipus the King, my feelings and thoughts about this play were always changing. I felt confused or a bit lost at parts where I needed clarity (mostly when the chorus spoke), and I felt intrigued at parts where I was eager to find out how the character would respond to certain events. 

Oedipus, the main character in this story, was a character I had many different emotions towards. I did not like his character and personality because of his arrogance and the way he thought so highly of himself. He definitely had a superiority complex, which caused me to think he was just a self centered and pompous human being. Although arrogant, he did seem considerate and compassionate. He cared deeply for Jocasta and for the citizens of Thebes. He still was attentive to his wife/mother and seemed genuine towards her. Also at times, I did feel bad for Oedipus. I could imagine how devastated he would be when he finally put the puzzle pieces together, but this led me to want to continue on reading to see how he would behave when the truth was finally revealed that he was the murderer. 

I really enjoyed the irony in this story, Sophocles uses this irony to build tension because it makes the audience fully aware of what is going to occur, so they keep wanting to watch/read to find out what happens next. The audience wants to see how the characters will react. The effect of this irony was that it allowed me to have the sensation and satisfaction of already knowing how the story will unfold before the characters do. 

 

 

Summer Reading – Enough is Enough

In an article from a blog, “Enough is enough” by Laura Bates, she shines light on a major problem that every woman faces, sexism. She explains how many unacceptable things happen to women and how they are are now seen as such little instances; she also describes how little significance they now hold. She expresses how women today often look the other way and don’t complain, they’re often just expected to view it as nothing. She states how normalised it is and how every woman has a different experience/story when it comes to sexism. Bates talks about her website and different social media platforms where other women can share their stories. Girls as young as five years old were starting to worry about their appearances. Girls that young should not have to care that deeply about their physical appearance. But, especially now, teen girls are constantly being over-sexualized and put into stereotypes. Social media is impacting and making girls feel as if they need to look a certain way to be considered beautiful or that their worth and value is only about their appeal.

Bates message in the end is the importance of changing the mindsets of people. This makes me think of how important it is to raise awareness on this issue. People often brush it off or say “you’re overreacting” when in reality, it is a real issue.