Chapter 6 of Outsmart Your Brain

Reading the sixth chapter of Daniel Willingham’s Outsmart Your Brain was incredibly intriguing. His points made about memory offered me a new perspective on the familiar concept. Although the phrase “probing memory improves memory” appears simple at first glance, upon rereading, it provided new insight regarding the memorization techniques I currently use. Fallen victim to revising for exams by rereading notes, Willingham’s compelling arguments convinced me to turn towards a new technique. Retrieval practice is the ideal study method proposed by Willingham. As this is my first exposure to retrieval practice, the promise of a new method of studying, being more effective and practical in the long run, interested me. Willingham recommends making a comprehensive study guide, increasing the efficacy of studying. The importance of ensuring that the whole syllabus is contained within the pages of the study guide is also emphasized. Along with this, Willingham raises a fascinating point about the properties of memory, that it is easier to remember meaningful content than meaningless content. While this is a familiar concept to me, the explained study strategy utilizing this property is especially useful. Interestingly, Willingham ignores the idea of an individual’s studying style, stating that no evidence has proven that theory. He suggests that people should neglect their specific learning style, utilizing the strategy earlier mentioned.

In short, I was able to gain a lot of knowledge about the most effective ways of studying. Additionally, I now know the methods to fully capitalize on the memory function of the brain. I’m confident that what I learnt from reading would prove useful in revising for both the mocks and the final exams.

Byerman’s “Walker’s Blues”

In contrast to Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple”, Byerman’s essay, “Walker’s Blues” was an underwhelming and disappointing read. Byerman’s attempt to retell the novel was not only a simple recollection of the plot, but was also inaccurate. With the essay lacking any dept in Byerman’s analysis, his arguments were less than convincing. Moreover, I strongly disagreed with Byerman’s effort to minimize the horrific experiences lived by African American women to fairy tales. Byerman’s understatement continues with him writing that Celie and her companions, like the princesses in fairy tales, “live happily ever after”. Personally, Byerman’s reference to fairy tales feels as though he did not fully grasp the idea of the novel and thus, the reason as to why his essay lacks any compelling arguments.

Personal Response to The Awakening

In Kate Chopin’s, The Awakening, she presents a radicalized idea of society through the viewpoint of Edna Pontellier. Chopin contrasts Edna with two others feminine characters, Adele Ratignolle and Mademoiselle Reisz, constructing a spectrum of “Victorian femininity”.

Adele falls on one extreme side of the spectrum. She is presented as the opposite of Edna, the Victorian feminine ideal. An embodiment of the perfect women, Adele has no desires or real identity outside her role as a mother and wife. She centers her life around her family and domestic duties, prioritizing their wants and needs. By introducing Adele as a close friend of Edna, Chopin provides readers with a clear and striking contrast. This emphasizes the conflicting views of the characters, increasing the significance of Edna’s refusal to conform to societal norms. On the other side of the spectrum, Mademoiselle Reisz is characterized as a rude and ill-tempered woman. She rejects the socially accepted lifestyle of Adele, opting for a life solitude and independence. Mademoiselle serves as a muse and inspiration to Edna, the catalyst of Edna’s radicalization. The relationship between Mademoiselle Reisz and Edna acts as an eye-opener for Edna, allowing Edna to seek an unknown side of her identity, exploring her new-found emotional dept and spiritual freedom.

Throughout the novel, Edna is presented with a dilemma. She could either conform to the socially accepted identity of a Victorian women, living a boring albeit comfortable life, or break away from society’s fixed boundaries, prioritizing her own wants and needs. Choosing the latter, she is immediately met with criticism, stemming from both within and outside the bounds of the novel. Edna is frequently described as “selfish,” a word I find unfitting. The word “selfish” has a negative connotation, portraying Edna in bad light. In my opinion, Edna brings up an intriguing discussion about society.

The concept of society has always been present. However, I question the extent to which society should play a role in dictating the lives of its community. While society is natural and essential for continual of human life, it creates rigid boundaries for its community. Anything that falls outside these margins is automatically rejected and condemned, whereas actions that conform to these norms are accepted and praised. Although society is beneficial to some, to others it acts as a handcuff, restraining their true passions and desires. This realization made me question the true purpose of society, whether society may be what is holding us back from becoming the best versions of ourselves. A difference in opinion has led to the change in norms
and radicalization has made progress throughout time. Ideas that were previously seen as unacceptable are more prone to acceptance in the current time. Nevertheless, change is a long and frustrating process, and I wonder whether the concept of society is source of problems, whether it would warrant systemic change.

Personal Response to Antigone

Reading Antigone, a play written by Sophocles, really made me admire Antigone’s courage and fearlessness in the face of adversity. While first reading the book, I did originally dismiss Ismene, finding her to be cowardice and weak, but as I read more into the play, I quickly realized how apparent the inequality between men and women actually was. I took for granted the improvement of gender equality in the present time, assuming and relating my own experiences back to the play. The lack of equality is made obvious by Creon, “Therefore we must defend the men who live by law, never let some woman triumph over us. Better to fall from power, if we fall, we must, at the hands of a man – never be rated inferior to a woman, never.” (pg.94) These lines reveal Creon’s blatant sexism and his complete denial of women’s right to equality under his law. Creon frequent and casual misogyny, the constantly degradation of women in the play, lead me to see the social conditioning women in the play went through daily.

This new understanding made me grasp Ismene’s decision making and thoughts, her fear of defying Creon and her decision to stand back and Antigone.

Personal Response to Oedipus

Personally, Oedipus, a play written by Sophocles, is an intriguing read. What originally stuck out and caught my attention was a psychological concept named after the play. The Oedipus complex is a Freudian term describing a child’s desire for their opposite-sex parent and jealously and hatred towards their same-sex parent. Although the complex has very little evidence to support its theory and is likely to be made up, throughout reading Oedipus, it unsettled me. The idea of something that happened to Oedipus, him killing his father and falling in love with his mother, or something as traumatizing and as unnerving happening to me triggered the recollection of many childhood and current memories, desperate in trying not to find any similarities between the two storylines. The idea itself disgusted and repulsed me, but towards the end of the play, it really made me empathize with Oedipus. It allowed me to connect and understand Oedipus and his choices on a deeper level, as well as evoke a sense of sympathy from me towards his unfortunate fate.

This new revelation made me reflect on my attitudes first reading the play and it can be said that I did have an arrogant and self-centered view, criticizing, looking down upon and belittling Oedipus’ choices and decisions, only really empathizing with Oedipus when imagining the same scenario happening to myself.


Response to: Enough is Enough

Reading this passage made me relate back to my own experience with insecurity. It began when I was around twelve, the toxic world of social media sank its claws into me and refused to relent, dragging me deeper and deeper into its unescapable void. It was then that I quickly realised that other girls who were gaining traction all had something in common, something that I did not have. A small seed planted inside my head started feeding on little moments of vulnerability. The tiny seed tucked away in the back of my head started growing, its roots forcing their way into every thought and moment, thriving on the feelings of shame and embarrassment. Only finding joy in my apparent downfall. So blinded by my own self-deprecating thoughts, I was subjecting myself to an altered reality. Feelings of insecurity and self-consciousness constantly itch the back of my mind, desperate in finding moments to make themselves known. It took me a long time to break away from the harmful cycle, finding confidence in my own self. Every now and then the remnants fight to surface, but with enough self-reassurance, they stay buried down. Having talked to many other teenage girls, I believe that my experiences with insecurity is shared among many. The current beauty standard being pushed onto young girls is extremely harmful for one’s self-image, promoting unattainable standards and unrealistic expectations.