Montana – Things Fall Apart PR

I always had difficulty understanding how the structure and diction could massively change the understanding of a text. Things Fall Apart has been one of the best examples from my understanding. Shifting from feminist books such as The Colour Purple, and Tess of the d’Urbervilles, to Things Fall Apart was not a smooth transition. Achebe’s simplistic phrases were on par with Hardy’s illustrious and lengthy descriptions, creating equally vibrant images. I initially found it difficult to get used to Achebe’s uncomplicated writing style, but there was never a point where it impeded my understanding of Onkonkwo’s story. Achebe’s uncomplicated diction and structure of Things Fall Apart worked together to evoke a vivid personal response for me.

Achebe’s straightforward diction toward Onkonkwo’s feelings left me in shock. Raw descriptions of Onkonkwo’s outbursts cling to my memory my brain, similar to a traumatic reoccurring event, specifically when he

ran madly into his room for the loaded gun, ran out again and aimed at [Ikemefuna] as she clambered over the dwarf wall of the barn. He pressed the trigger and there was a loud report accompanied by the wail of his wives and children. He threw down the gun and jumped into the barn, and there lay the woman, very much shaken and frightened but quite unhurt (p. 39)

Achebe presents Onkonkwo’s anger clearly, and irrefutably. The objective truth is that Onkonkwo “ran madly into his room for the loaded gun” and not for any other reason. One of the main reasons I found this so shocking is that interpretations and guesses were an integral part of analyzing previous works. There aren’t any eloquent descriptors, instead, Achebe uses stark, exact, near-elementary language you feel forced to understand.  You can’t hide behind misinterpretation, as you may be able to do in Hardy or Ibsen.

The context of the culture and spirituality of the Umuofia clan allowed the passionate expression of Ekwefi’s motherly love for her daughter to be realized in its entirety. I adored the scene of Ekwefi following her daughter and the Oracle. It was an intense humanizing moment for her, especially as a woman, which touched me deeply. Knowing her trouble with children in the past, we understand how Ekwefi feels when she says “that if she heard Ezinma cry she would rush into the cave to defend her against all the gods in the world. She would die with her” (p. 108). In the context of how important the various gods are for Umuofia, Ekwefi shows a true allegiance towards her family over her spiritual beliefs. I would love to watch this scene in a cinematic retelling, I can imagine it so clearly. The emotional impact of Ekwefi’s loyalty as a mother left me appreciative of my family, especially of my mother, as I wonder if she would stand against the gods for me too.

Spirituality and Sexuality – The Colour Purple PR

Dear God,

I don’t think I ever believed in you, never truly. I reflect on my religious experiences when I thought you were there. I was baptized, and I have a home video. I, a naked child in a church in Russia, with the distant sounds of a choir, and the mumbles of a priest blessing me. I rewatched it, not being able to connect with the child being dipped in the basin. I remember praying to you, God, as a kid, before bed every night. It didn’t suit me, but I remember the moon shining through the window, and the sight of it would help me fall asleep.  I was sent to bible camp, and I went willingly, excited to finally understand Christianity. I thought I was just ignorant—  that my lack of knowledge was what was keeping me from understanding God. I remember on one of the nights, we had chapel outside, on the lake. I don’t remember anything about what the pastor was saying, all I seem to remember is the sound of the lake, looking at the forest, and the bats that were flying overhead. None of this is to say I had a negative religious experience with Christianity. I never felt forced into believing in God. Even during Thanksgiving, when my aunts expected me and my cousins to prepare prayers to speak aloud, I found religion to be something that brought people together. But I knew, right from when I was little, that Christianity did not fit me.

I never knew what to make of these experiences. The Awakening provided some insight, but The Colour Purple was an entirely different experience for me. The spiritual and sexual journey Celie underwent was so refreshing and genuinely pleasurable. The epistolary format allowed me to really become one with Celie, and see from her point of view. One fear I have writing this PR is that it will sound similar to my response to The Awakening. I want to make it clear that while they may be alike, my response was quite different, even if I have a hard time expressing it.

There were three threads that I personally found to be the most influential while on Celie’s journey, those being her experiences with Spirituality and Sexuality.

Celie seems to be much more religiously dedicated than I was, for the first half of the book, her letters are dedicated to Him. For a younger, naive Celie, God was her only friend. That’s what she believed, because Alphonso told her right from the start, “You better not never tell nobody but God. It’d kill your mammy” (p. 1). Her own mother would not be able to handle Celie’s traumatic experience, so how could anyone else? Only God. Celie relied on that idea until she saw Shug Avery. Celie’s grace shifted from God to a picture of Shug quite distinctly, as she held on to it as one would a cross or a bible, “all night long I stare at [the picture of Shug]. An now when I dream, I dream of Shug Avery” (p. 6). The attachment helps Celie, creating a distance between her traumatic situation. Celie thinks of Shug as an idol, someone she can rely on, and be faithful in, despite not knowing her.  And isn’t that just the definition of a God?

Shug becomes so incredibly important to Celie. She’s in love with Shug, and that first love helps her realize that the talk of love, romance, and sex, are real, real things. Celie finds it particularly difficult to realize this, as lesbian couples do not conform to societal norms. We do not expect Celie to realize why her romantic life is dull due to the fact that she is not interested in men. It becomes easy for us, especially when we’re younger and less knowledgeable, to doubt the existence of constructs like love, because we haven’t experienced them yet. We think; “Love, Sex, Romance, they aren’t for me, they’re gross. I would never do that.” It’s not until we have those experiences that we see the pleasant reality of it. Shug helps Celie understand that while she may be married, have been pregnant and kissed her husband before; she still has not genuinely felt the joys of them—meaning she’s “still a virgin” (p. 76). Celie’s exploration of her identity and sexuality would not have been propagated if Shug had not been there to pull Celie out of conventional ideas of romance.

Part of that includes decriminalizing things like sex for Celie. The conventional idea, which is still quite common today, is that sex is a dirty, sinful act. Shug shuts that idea down,

Oh, she say. God love all them feelings. That’s some of the best stuff God did. And when you know God loves ’em you enjoys ’em a lot more. You can relax, go with everything that’s going, and praise God by liking what you like.

God don’t think it dirty? I ast.

Naw, she say. God made it. (p.195)

Celie learning to love herself, and to allow enjoyment in her life, whether sexual or not, really helped her growth. Loving herself, too, became sacred, as God was in everything, he made everything. It’s an odd twisting of normal religious beliefs— why would we ever believe that God hates his creations? It would mean that we had an evil God. Shug’s God is a lot more convincing, in my opinion. Even before this, as they’re still getting to know each other, Celie “wash[es] [Shug’s] body, it feel like I’m praying” (p. 48). Shug herself becomes God-like, in Celie’s eyes, by being the person to help facilitate her self-growth. This manifested in Celie in her womanly strength, modelling herself after Shug and Sofia.

Celie’s spiritual journey, through Shug’s help, allowed me to have a much deeper appreciation for nature, trees, stars, people, and even the colour purple. This clever novel will be a big step in my own spiritual journey. I know that the common Christianity does not suit me, but maybe something closer to Shug’s view on God and Its passion for the natural does a bit more. Like Shug, “that feeling of being part of everything, not separate at all” (p.195) is the nicest feeling, in terms of the human experience. When I think of Thanksgiving, my entire family together, I don’t care about the prayer, I care about the people around me. I cherish their presence, and that is God.


Orwell’s Essays PR

In this age of progression and activism, it’s important to look back at the past and be taught essential lessons from it. Orwell’s essay teaches us that the quality and form in which we share our information can affect the effectiveness it has on the audience.

While reading “Politics and the English Language” I became all too familiar with the use of complicated and meaningless words that plague my writing past. Growing up in a world of this “political vagueness,” my choice of words always imitated the corporate jargon that Orwell criticizes. I was under the impression that these big words made you sound much smarter, and clarified the meaning of what you were trying to say. It was quite the opposite effect. It wasn’t until these past few months that I learned to refine my vocabulary, and in turn, sharpen my assertions and thoughts. It’s a hard learning curve, but worth it in the end.

Another lesson that I’ve been trying to master is the concept of “show not tell,” and Orwell does this perfectly in all his narrative-driven essays. Getting good at this way of presenting information is much harder than it looks, and I would know as I’ve been trying to perfect it for my storytelling. I applaud Orwell’s flawless execution. In The Spike, an example of “show not tell” that struck me was the description of “so-called tea” (pg.13). Tea is, for me, one of the simplest hot drinks to make— herbs and water— and yet it’s still not possible for the Spike to make. We’re shown explicitly the horrendous treatment of the homeless within the Spike, without Orwell writing something along the lines of, “The tea wasn’t good, which was shocking considering the drink is quite easy to make.”

Diction and the presentation of language are critical to creating a meaningful message. Without proper consideration, meaning can be ineffective or lost while writing. My writing can always improve, and these essays helped me understand more about how to formulate an essay.

Women Empowerment and Nature – The Awakening PR

        I’ve reflected and thought a lot about The Awakening while reading it in anticipation of this personal response. Like many of the other characters in the novel, I fell in love with her. There was an attractiveness to her described physicality, her contradictions and her journey. Her journey is the exploration of the nature of women, and the Nature in women. I had a fantastic realization, an awakening, from her mystic mannerisms, and honesty towards the irreplicable experiences of being a woman. 

The nature of women was the expected element of The Awakening, and it was executed very thoughtfully by presenting multiple perspectives on the complexity of women. The discussion of a women’s nature begins at the start of Chapter 7 where we are told Edna doesn’t gossip which is “a characteristic hitherto contrary to her nature” (pg. 15). Enda also is “not a mother-women” (pg. 9), she doesn’t care for her children as Madame Ratignolle does. Leonce even needs to call out “her habitual neglect of the children” (pg. 6). Her friends and family see her absence of conventional qualities instead of seeing value in her differences. There’s a black-and-white view of her situation from the people around her, which gets rid of the complexity of her character. She may not be a mother-women, but she still “wept of very pleasure when she felt their little arms clasping her” (pg. 111) when she visited them. Her motherly qualities are not completely devoted but they are not absent either. There is a middle ground, a grey to her, which I found very admirable. Women have so much depth, being confined into one definite box is not realistic, and Chopin demonstrated that complexity in Edna so well.

One aspect of our complexity, that I’ve started to find more and more important as I grow up, is Nature in women. While reviewing my notes I found the following point bulleted down, “The Isle being described as a paradise; ‘oranges + lemons trees’ pg. 16.” I realized that a description of a paradise, is completely subjective and that I personally saw this place as a paradise. The extract my notes referred to was Edna’s and Madame Ratignolle’s walk to the beach,

There were acres of yellow camomile reaching out on either hand. Further away still, vegetable gardens abounded, with frequent small plantations of orange or lemon trees intervening. The dark green clustered glistented from afar in the sun. (pg. 16)

This romantic description of this walk matches Edna’s values of taking walks, and the women who don’t “miss so much” (pg. 126). I know that I don’t go on walks often, but the times that I do, and my friends can attest to this, I become completely infatuated with nature and plants, moss, trees, etc. These consistent connections between Edna and nature, and especially her relationship with the ocean kept me engaged the entire time. There was something so freeing watching Edna’s story end in the ocean rather than something more traditional like a description of her running away with Robert. The image of her standing “naked in the open air, at the mercy of the sun, the breeze that beat upon her, and the waves that invited her” (pg. 136) is stuck in my mind. The rejection of not only her clothing, but her bathing suit too is the rejection of patriarchal societal expectations.  Even now nudity is seen as an inherently sexual thing, but aren’t we all born naked? Babies aren’t sexual in any connotation. The scene reminded me of birth, and I imagine once Edna leaves the ocean, if she ever does, this moment will act as her rebirth. She’ll be spiritually free from the biases of “unpleasant, pricking” clothes and society (pg. 136).

When I said I fell in love with Edna that was no hyperbole. I fell in love with her, and all women in my life simultaneously. I must clarify that I do not mean romantic attraction, but attraction to the natures in and of women. I love my mom is the head of my household, working hard and providing for me every day. I love my great aunt who’s been helping us around the house. I love my sisters who challenge me and allow me to self-reflect. I love my grandmas who despite language barriers continue to care for me. I love Taylor and Aneesha who always make me laugh and who are always there for me when I need a hug. I love my dance teacher, Roberta, I love Ms. Dakota,  I love my sassy cat Coco, I love my dance friends, Claire and Keeley, I love and admire and thank every woman who I’ve met. There is a spiritual beauty between all of us that Chopin let me see in all these women. There is a complex mystic bond that I am so grateful to share with every woman on the planet. It’s like an exclusive club, a sisterhood, a whisper, a loud yell, an understanding that none of us are the same, none of us are “conventional” even if we have traits that match stereotypes that we face every day.

Most significantly, I love myself. I want to run with Edna Pontellier in her childhood field, I want to walk with her around Grand Isle, and I want to strip with her into the ocean, and swim.

(Ironically, I don’t particularly enjoy swimming.)

Pygmalion PR – Neutrality

Pygmalion is a play that I read. It was a read, that’s for sure. I did not hate consuming it, nor did I particularly enjoy either. I don’t think there’s ever been a book that I’ve felt so little towards in my literary history. So when it comes to writing out my personal feelings toward it, I’m stuck. As I’m writing this late, I read some of the other responses from my classmates. Some compared it to A Doll’s House and I thought maybe I’d write about that. I even began to plan out a discussion about the inherent power of men, and how Mr. Higgins has no respect for the people around him. These texts I could write would not be very personal though, and I’d get caught up in the analytical practices of writing, which isn’t the goal. After reflecting over a couple of days, I think I know why I didn’t have much of an opinion on it; there wasn’t time for me to collect my thoughts.

The time skip that cuts Eliza’s vocal process out of the story bothered me. If Shaw wanted to show portray a story of mistreatment and lack of cultural respect, then he should’ve shown her training. The sudden change to already testing her skills at Mrs. Higgins’s at-home day left no room for deliberation, and it felt like I had a chapter or two missing. The lack of directly seeing Eliza being taught, and the rude nature Henry approaches her with really left me confused. In their argument they toss around the importance of Eliza’s clothes and her ring, these objects had meaning to Eliza as we watch her and Higgins ramble on, “HIGGINS: Hand them over. If these belonged to me instead of to the jeweller, I’d ram them down your ungrateful throat. / LIZA: This ring isnt the jeweller’s: it’s the one you bought me in Brighton. I don’t want it now” (pg. 53). On a stage, how could we have known that out of the various rings Eliza was wearing that one of them had special significance? I’d be more invested in these discussions if perhaps we’d been shown these moments of Higgins buying her the ring, and then that could provide more emotional depth to the fact that he chucks it in the fire, and then subsequently how Eliza goes to desperately retrieve it. It just felt like the story was incomplete while I was reading it.

I had no bonds with the world of Pygmalion. Which left me an uncaring reader. I couldn’t relate to Eliza, nor could I relate to Henry or anyone. I understand there are certain timeframes that are expected for plays, and maybe I’m completely in the wrong while writing this. All I know is, Pygmalion didn’t have much of an impact on me personally, and that I’m excited for the next book and set of excerpts that we get to read.

A Doll’s House PR – The uncomfortable reality of relating to Nora.

I’ve rewritten this introduction 3 times. None of them correctly reflect how I feel. In one iteration of this opener, I described my feelings as uncomfortable. In another, I said that I was angry. Why can’t I put my emotions for A Doll’s House into words? I slowly realized that the reason I was so confused and conflicted was that I saw myself in Nora. And even now I don’t like that concept. New questions were raised, about myself, about Nora, about my friends and family, and I didn’t want to think about them. I’d seen how A Doll’s House unfolded, and I had created this barrier between myself and the content. Here, I’ll try to explain how I feel, how I resemble Nora, and how that is a sickening thought.

Nora and I are both, non-confrontational people pleasers. Nora has a tendency to turn to pleasing Torvald instead of standing her ground, or being direct with what she wants, “Nora: If your little squirrel asked you ever so prettily, for just one thing–? / Helmer: Well? / Nora: Would you do it? / Helmer: I’d need to know what it is first, naturally. / Nora: Your squirrel would run about and do tricks, if you were nice and gave in to her” (p. 146). This act of entertainment comes from the fear of disapproval or essentially any negative action from Torvald. Knowing I act the same way; Nora has already weighed all the options, considered all the outcomes, and decided that this is the path that will cause the least amount of damage to Torvald, and raise her chances of him agreeing. And while Nora is not incredibly smart or educated, we know that she is knowledgeable enough to consider these kinds of things. In her conversation with Kristine, we find evidence for this,

“MRS LINDE: And you’ve not confided in your husband since?  NORA: No, for heaven’s sake, how can you think that? When he’s so strict on the issue of borrowing! And besides, just think how awkward and humiliating it would be for Torvald – with his manly self-esteem – to know he owed me something. It would upset the entire balance of our relationship; our beautiful, happy home would no longer be what it is.” (p. 122).

She worries so much about what other people will feel, and the consequences of their emotions that she forgets that their own emotions and needs are equally important to anyone else’s.

This connection with Nora was very disconcerting. I didn’t like it, I didn’t like seeing aspects I didn’t like about myself in a book. So I refused to acknowledge it, or even think about it. I read the book in a very distant manner. But now, writing this PR, I need to face some of the questions that A Doll’s House brought up for me through Nora. Do people only show me love because I act as they want? If I unmasked, showing my “true self” (whatever that is) would my friends and family still stay? Or would they act like Torvald, furious at the change? Unconditional love is what I hope the people that surround me feel, no requirements are needed from me for them to enjoy my presence. But I honestly don’t know. Nora said, “I realized that the man I’d lived here with for eight years was a stranger and that I’d borne him three children -” (p. 187). That other side of people, the unknown conditions of their love, is something you can never truly know. Nora thought she knew Torvald, was married to him for eight years and knew him before then too. Yet she never thought that he would treat her in such a way that would reveal his conditional love for her. To relate to Nora’s tendencies automatically opens up the terrifying thought that the same might happen to me.

The Merchant of Venice Play PR

The depth of Shakespeare’s characters and the cleverness he uses in their dialogue makes reading The Merchant of Venice all more enjoyable. It is between Bassanio and Portia’s dialogues that we see most of these witty moments. The two are a dynamic couple, and we watch how they play, speak and act with each other in a very witty way. Shakespeare himself was very bright as he used Bassanio’s and Portia’s relationship and how they complement one another is used as a device to detail Antonio’s depression and loneliness.

There are many moments in The Merchant of Venice where we see Bassanio and Portia act either in comparison or in contrast to each other. When Bassanio debates which casket to choose, he talks about looks versus reality. The first example he brings up is that of law and courts, “In law, what plea so tainted and corrupt / But, being season’d with a gracious voice, / Obscures the show of evil?” (p. 51, ll. 75). Later during the trial Portia not only obscures her true self acting as a man but also allows her personal biases to corrupt the verdict. This connection of talks and acts of corruption and deception between the couple draws a direct line between them. This concept can be further strung when you look at their places of living. Bassanio comes from Venice, a place of business, money, and justice. Portia contradicts this, as Belmont is full of art, poetry and music, “Come, ho! and wake Diana with a hymn. / With sweetest touches pierce your mistress’ ear, / And draw her home with music” (p. 90, ll. 66-68). These dualities between Bassanio and Portia are made clear to the audience so when we see Antonio we see his depression and loneliness amplified.

From the start of the play, we understand that Antonio is lonely. It is clear that he’s depressed but we see it alleviated with the presence of Bassanio. It is no surprise that once Bassanio is gone, no matter what interpretation of the relationship between the two men, Antonio becomes even more lonely. We hear Salarino recount how Antonio said goodbye to Bassanio, “Slubber not business for my sake, Bassanio, / But stay the very riping of the time;” (p. 41, ll. 40-41). Antonio must reassure that he will be fine, yet even then Salarino describes, “And even there, his eye being big with tears / Turning his face, he put his hand behind him, / And with affection wondrous sensible / He wrung Bassanio’s hand, and so they parted” (p. 41, ll. 47-50). Antonio cries as Bassanio leaves him. This depression over their separation would only worsen with time, and it’s likely to assume that had the trial not happened, he would’ve stayed longer in Belmont.

This distinct connection between Antonio and Bassanio being replaced by Bassanio and Portia was super enjoyable for me, especially so if you’re interpretation of Bassanio and Antonio is in a more romantic direction. It can create this other layer of longing and forbidden love. I can find myself in the future referencing The Merchant of Venice, and I would be very interested in watching it performed at a theatre.

The Merchant of Venice Movie- Personal Response

I enjoyed The Merchant of Venice. It wasn’t predictable like many stories today and its movie adaptation helped me comprehend the story and visuals without going out to the theatre. The film was cleverly directed, keeping the original play’s verbal essence and rhythms while providing a different take on specific relationships between characters. These factors, along with the incredible acting by all the actors involved, made the film version of The Merchant of Venice so captivating.

The verbal rhythms of the play can be hard to understand when just reading The Merchant of Venice. A play’s entire script is meant to be heard and read aloud, therefore if you were just reading it it’s clear that even the most perceptive reader would miss some of Shakespeare’s cleverness. Watching The Merchant of Venice, however, shows us these beats and melodies in the speech. For example, on page 95 of the book, there is an argument between Portia and Bassanio over the lost ring. There is so much power in having this epistrophe dialogue audibilized, “If you did know to whom I gave the ring, / If you did know for whom I gave the ring, / And would conceive for what I gave the ring, / And how unwillingly I left the ring,” (l. 193-195). It had me appreciating Shakespeare’s ingenuity. And the directing decision of having it go from Bassanio’s whispers to then Portia’s near-yelling tone along with choosing to skip the 4 lines that break up the repetition helps to shove the importance of the ring into the viewers’ faces. It puts us in this uncomfortable spot where we realize how much it must’ve hurt for Portia to have asked for the ring as the doctor and receive it from Bassanio who gave it up for Antonio.

This decision by Bassanio also adds to another relationship that is purely interpreted by the director. The homosexual tones between Antonio and Bassanio was a very smart decision to help portray loneliness of Antonio. The start and end of The Merchant of Venice were the same, with a depressed Antonio. This comparison would not be the same had Bassanio and Antonio’s relationship not been as close. As homosexuality wasn’t acceptable at the time, the two could not have married. But that does not stop them from sharing secret tender moments. It’s during these moments that we see Antonio happy. Bassanio alleviates his loneliness and depression, and we understand that from the first moment when Bassanio enters the scene. But over the course of the play, Bassanio goes and courts Portia and they are to be wed. Antonio helps Bassanio with this endeavour because it’s what he wants, showing us Antonio’s love for Bassanio. But when Portia and Bassanio become a couple, Antonio is left alone, just as he was at the start, and it’s the director’s answer to the question “In sooth I know not why I am so sad” (p. 1, l. 1).

In the end, watching the film was very helpful in visualization and audibilizing the play. As someone who enjoys film, I found that it was overall very well shot with great cinematography choices, which made it much easier to appreciate the story. The storyline itself I found to be very fun while also eliciting deep emotions and powerful thoughts, and I can see myself watching the movie again in the future.

Bullying and Snowflakes

Both are at fault, but the bullies in my eye should be given more punishments than the victim. As someone who has been bullied, and pushed near the point of breaking, I have sympathy for the victim. That’s not the say that he should not have any consequences, however, they will be less than the bullies.

The analogy I’ve been seeing this as is that it’s the snowflakes on a branch. This branch is enduring many snowflakes, staying straight and upright as long as possible. A group of big snowflakes keeps deciding to land on this branch over and over and over again, until the branch snaps. Would you blame the branch for snapping? Would you blame the snowflakes who knew that this branch would eventually snap from the weight? I would blame the snowflakes (the bullies) more than I would blame the branch (the victim).

Langston Hughes – Personal Response

Growing to like poetry is angering. Something you never expected yourself to “get” is finally starting to make sense, and I’m asking myself, like in Theme for English B by Langston Hughes, “I wonder if it’s that simple?” (l. 6). We’ve covered poetry with a variety of themes, but no repertoire of poems have really stuck with me the same way I know Hughes’ poems will. He raises questions and sparks ideas that continue to be revolutionary. And as a newly found poem enjoyer, I got excited to come to class and dig into the poems we were assigned to read. These poems answer questions, and in their place raise new ones. What do we need to change? Why do we need to change it?

We need to change our past, so we can create a better future. Hughes presents the past of Black people, the mistreatment and injustice they face, and he notably does this in his poem N-gro, “I’ve been a slave: / Caesar told me to keep his door-steps clean. I brushed the boots of Washington” (ll. 4-6) and “I’ve been a victim: / The Belgians cut off my hands in the Congo. / They lynch me still in Mississippi” (ll. 14-16). He’s presenting their history of being slaves and using the word “still” he tells us the continuation of this abuse. This presents to the reader what they need to change. But why do we need to change our future? Huges answers this in another poem Deferred, he presents all these scenarios of black people who want different things relating to education, “This year, maybe, do you think I can graduate? I’m already two years late” (l. 1), money, “Someday, / I’m gonna buy two new suits at once!” (ll. 27-28) and love, “All I want is a wife who will / work with me and not against me” (ll. 32-33). These dreams of black Americans everywhere are consistently deferred and put aside because of the racism engrained within the American system and white Americans.

Now we ask, how can we change this future? Another poem from Hughes provides some ideas for white Americans. For example, Theme for English B describes education for black Americans and the alienation between black and white. “[I go to school] here, / to this college on the hill above Harlem. / I am the only coloured student in my class” (ll. 8-10). We see the physical separation of educational facilities and understand in turn how difficult it must be as a black person to attend college not only because of the unequal opportunities but also the amount of money needed to enroll. So Hughes here is inadvertently promoting the right to easily accessible education. Once more in this poem, Hughes combats the common separation and segregation between white and black people, “Well I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love. / I like to work, read, learn, and understand life. / I like a pipe for a Christmas present, / or records—Bessie, bop, or Bach. / I guess being colored doesn’t make me not like / the same things other folks who are other races” (ll. 21-27). Here, he presents a concept similar to his poem Deferred, by showing that black people can have the same wants, needs and feelings as any white folk could. He pushes back against the dehumanization of his race.

These are just some of the ideas presented by Hughes, and though he might’ve provided some answers to these difficult questions through his poetry, these questions of ‘How can we change? How do we progress towards equality?” are still very prevalent today. With the Black Lives Matter movement which is becoming increasingly popular and significant, especially in America, I believe knowing this history of retaliation against racism is very important to know. I would not be surprised if we see more poems by Langston Hughes begin to be used more commonly in protests. It’s good to know your history so we can move on to a better future.

“Outsmart Your Brain” doesn’t sound very smart to me.

I admit the title is somewhat of a hyperbole. I did think certain aspects of Daniel Willingham’s Outsmart Your Brain gave good advice, but the majority of it I found amusingly absurd. Upon doing some quick research on Willingham, I understand his specialty is cognitive psychology from kindergarten to 12th grade. But something about how he talks about learning and education makes me feel like someone who is detached from the real world, disassociated from the actual people and students he’s talking about and just seeing numbers and facts as they are without consideration of life.

This detachment I felt as a reader and a student. It wasn’t immediate and didn’t make itself known at first. The more I read, the more off I felt. There were a few significant quotes by Willingham that really struck me the wrong way.

In college you’ll often hear “three hours of preparation for each hour in class.” A typical college course load calls for 12.5 hours of class time per week, so that rule of thumb means around another 37 hours of preparations outside class (which breaks down to 5.5 hours a day), totaling about 50 hours of work per week total. So a lot, but nothing outrageous (p. 102).

Presenting this system wouldn’t have been an issue, had it not been for the fact that Willingham had described it as “nothing outrageous”. Seeing as he’s a college professor, and has been one for half of his life, it’s clear the bias he has toward it. It’s safe to assume that he believes in this workload amount, or at least doesn’t see the issue with it. Well, I did, to me, this was something outrageous, and I decided to see if I was insane to think this way. I applied this math to our own IB course structure, and the structure here at Brookes to see what the hours would look like according to this system. In short, one IB course at Brookes is roughly 4h per week of in-class time, 4h x 3 (the recommended amount of time spent studying per hour in a course) = 12 hours outside of school studying. This totals 16h per week.

Now that doesn’t sound too bad. But what David Willingham doesn’t seem to mention is the fact that college students often take more than one course at a time, and so do we here at Brookes. 16h per week x 6.5 (6 IB courses + TOK) = 104 hours dedicated only to school. There are 168 hours in a week, 168-104= 64 hours not dedicated to school. But wait, there’s more. Assuming (and hoping) the student gets the recommended 9 hours of sleep each night (9×7)=63, 64-63= we as students are left with exactly ONE HOUR to ourselves every week. These calculations don’t account for eating, taking care of hygiene, jobs, socializing, and taking breaks, which under this system, would all fall into that single hour. This also doesn’t even bring up any issues in terms of mental health and learning disabilities.

Yes, I admit that this was overkill and that it wasn’t the only piece of advice given in this text, but the fact that it was one at all is absurd to me. Yes, some of the other advice Willingham gave was useful, like “Speed reading is not a thing” (p. 101) and “think about your goal for reading before your start and connect the pieces of the reading” (p. 97). But, is it? A lot of what I read felt like common sense to me. Tips that you kinda already know but quite frankly don’t have the energy to apply, at least for me. This brings up an entirely other topic about the exhaustion from school and the current Mental Health crisis our new generations are facing.

I don’t speak for everyone but to me reading Outsmart Your Brain didn’t provide me with any insight for my studying other than to not highlight subjects I don’t know, which I don’t even do anyways since I don’t rely on textbooks to teach me everything, and go to a school which teachers support and advise me in my notetaking. And it’s not as if I’ll be personally needing this information in the future either, as my career path doesn’t lean into readings and is instead focused on practical physical learning. All David Willingham made me feel was mad, and all he made me reflect on was how teachers and professors shouldn’t worry about the note-taking techniques of their students, because most of the time the students don’t even want to be learning these topics. If they did, their notes would be extensive already, and they probably would’ve done preliminary research on the topic if they loved it so much. The majority of students who take bad notes don’t take bad notes because they don’t know how to take good notes, it’s because they don’t care to take good notes. All teachers should be worried about is whether students are passing their classes, and making sure the grade level average of their students is high, because in the end that is all that matters to institutions, and it’s the entire reason why teachers are being paid at all, whether you like it or not.

Candide – Personal Response

Something I’m beginning to learn in English Literature is how simple language can be just as, or even more effective than complex language. As I started to understand this and try to work on fixing the clarity of my expressions, Candide by Voltaire was assigned for our class to read. The shift from reading The Odyssey by Homer to Candide was jarring. Despite Candide being written in much easier vocabulary, both texts provided me with a thoughtful and insightful message to digest.

Candide‘s language is simple, but that does not take away from the lessons it teaches. One of the first instances that clearly showed this to me was when the old lady was telling her story,

A hundred times I wanted to kill myself, but I was still in love with life. This ridiculous weakness is perhaps one of our most sinister tendencies. For is there anything more foolish than to insist on carrying a burden that one can drop at any moment? To live in constant fear, and yet still hold on to life? To caress the serpent that is devouring you until it has eaten your heart (pg. 38).

This passage is so beautiful and almost feels indescribable. It’s presenting this image of being engulfed by something horrid, the serpent, but loving it endlessly as it does so. To me, this comparison fits my current outlook on life. Even though I hate myself sometimes, and just wish I could just die, there is something wonderful about the serpent devouring me. Another incredible line from Voltaire happens to be the last, “That is well said’ Candide replied, “but we must cultivate our garden'” (pg. 119). Candide realizes that it does not matter whether they are in the best of all possible worlds, or even if they are in the worst of all possible worlds, what matters is that they live life. Martin puts it quite well, “‘ Let us work without reasoning, it is the only way to make life bearable'” (pg. 119).

I find too many people trying to find meaning of life, and they search and search for any reason that life is worth living except for looking at themselves, and what they want to do, what they wish to achieve. Voltaire tells us that we must cultivate our garden, metaphorically, to work on something we enjoy. Gardening may be it but what if writing is your garden, or singing, or reading. No matter what your garden is, it needs cultivating, and you need to be there to tend to it. A beautiful message from Voltaire that did not need any exhaustive decrepit language that is practically incomprehensible to modern audiences. I hope to learn how to emulate Voltaire’s simplicity someday.

“Let Evening Come” Personal Reflection

Analyzing Let Evening Come was different than how I usually approach analysis assignments. Reading the feedback, I understand and agree with my mark. One of the most significant aspects I struggled with in this assessment was organization. Usually, organizing what I write doesn’t come with too much struggle. Somehow, Let Evening Come was a curveball for me.

I’ve realized that I think my lack of organization comes from too many topics and aspects of the poem I wanted to cover. Looking at my paper, I underlined most lines, scribbled ideas of what to talk about and multiple comparisons to make. Normally in these assessments, I find myself actively looking for what assertions to make, the kinds of things that are deep enough for me to pick out and discuss. Something that has not happened before is when I find an overwhelming number of simple assertions to make. This is what I believe to have really messed up my organization. Instead of finding a few profound aspects of the text, instead, I got overwhelmed by smaller details. That is not to say that Let Evening Come is a simple poem by any means, I just got caught up in the number of themes to write about.

Next time, I hope to be more organized with my writing. I hope not to get buried in assertions so my writing will stay focused and concise.

The Odyssey – Personal Response

Similar to all the ancient Greek literature we’ve covered in this course, I really enjoyed reading The Odyssey. Fitzgerald’s translation of Homer’s epic poem was very fanciful and melodic, making for a pleasant and insightful reading experience. The continual themes of hubris and the consequences of rejecting the gods have been a driving force that pushed a religious narrative I hadn’t expected but surprisingly enjoyed, despite not being incredibly religious. But the topics I enjoyed most prominently were Odysseus’s wisdom, his deception and trickery.

Throughout the story, we’re told that Odysseus is the wisest man on earth. His abilities only get shown off later in the poem. One of my favourite examples of this is Odysseus’ escape from Polyphemos. Odysseus sets up a very clever trick where he lies to the Kyklopes about his name, calling himself Nohbdy. Later, when Polyphemos calls out for the help of other Kyklopes, the following occurs, “Out of the cave / the mammoth Polyphemos roaded in answer: / ‘Nohbdy, Nohbdy’s tricked me, Nohbdy’s ruined me!’ / To this rough shout they made a sage reply: / ‘Ah well, if nobody has played you foul / there in your lonely bed, we are no use in pain / given by great Zeus. Let it be your father, / Poseidon Lord, to whom you pray” (p. 157). This is one of the first big examples of Odysseus’ trickery and certainly not the first time he’s hidden his identity.

Watching Odysseus enter a new environment throughout the poem is one of my favourite aspects, as we get to watch his mindset evolve. Passages where he creates lies to hide his identity or discern what move is the best one to do in any given situation like when he chooses not to embrace Nausikaas knees are incredibly amusing to watch.

She faced him, waiting. And Odysseus came, debating inwardly what he should do: / embrace this beauty’s knees in supplication? / or stand apart, and, using honeyed speech, / inquire the way to town, and beg some clothing? / In his swift reckoning, he thought it best / to trust in words to please her—and keep away; / he might anger the girl, touching her knees. / So he began, and let the soft words fall: / “Mistress: please: are you divine, or mortal? (p. 103).

This thorough consideration before making a move is really entertaining and reminds us that Odysseus is human. He has to think through his actions, he doesn’t just automatically know what to do.

I know that the Oddessy is going to be a poem I’ll remember for the rest of my life, even if I never get to read it ever again. I can say with confidence that I’m going to continue to reflect and bring new meaning to the story as I grow up, whether I like it or not. I believe this of all the greek literature we’ve covered. I know that someday in the far future when I’m stuck on a film project, unsure of where to take it, Odysseus will help me through it the journey, even if I lose some men along the way. It’s a comforting thought.

Paradise and Death – Montana’s Personal Response

Paradise and Death made by Eric MacKnight really showed me another perspective to reading The Odyssey. It has served as an incredibly well-detailed and summarized version of the topics we covered in class, as well as raising new interpretations of Homer’s poems. In particular, what stood out to me was the notion of getting stuck in the past. It reminded me of a mini-series I watched years ago on Youtube where a cast of characters served as the different aspects of the protagonist’s personalities (Morality, Logic, Anxiety, etc.). In one of the climaxing episodes, Morality got quite literally stuck within their own nostalgia and longing for the past so much so that it caused a breakdown. I found that episode so interesting at the time, and now I’m being faced with the same topic once more.

As someone who commonly finds myself going through the never-ending spiral of “What if”‘s, trying to not get stuck in the Seirênês’ song would’ve been possibly the most challenging temptation for me, had I been in Odysseus’s place. Although, I do think I’ve surrounded myself with a very loving crew of people that would not listen to my begs to untie me. Whenever I do find myself in one of these episodes, I have a handful of people who I can count on,  my crew, who will help me return to my right mind.

As for the structure of this essay, it’s easy to follow and doesn’t bore me like some essays in the past have. I noticed there aren’t nearly as many quotes as I would expect in 18 pages. Maybe that has something to do with the length of the essay itself? Or perhaps I need to rethink the number of quotations I try to put into my essays. Nonetheless, the flow of it is something I strive to accomplish.

Antigone Personal Response – Montana

Antigone was quite the shift for me from Oedipus. This change in tone and the sudden air of seriousness caught me slightly off-guard while reading Antigone. I caught myself approaching it differently, which I thought to be quite interesting. Even with this personal response, I oddly find it much more difficult to write. I truly think that the content of Antigone is much richer and requires lots of thought before you can fully understand it. What made me enjoy Antigone was the powerful lines and stanzas scattered throughout the play, and the two major points I thought were the most important within these lines were the social commentary on the patriarchy and the criticism of power.

Throughout Antigone, various characters make comments on women, about how they are inferior, and other misogynistic views from its time. Ismene comments to her sister, “Remember we are women, we’re not born to contend with men.” (pg. 62). The theme in this quote, which is presented very early, really shows off Antigone’s position in this world. It tells us just the start of what she’ll need to face in the story. This continues later when Creon refuses to succumb to Antigone, “Better to fall from power, if fall we must, at the hands of man–never be rated inferior to a woman, never” (pg. 94). This quote is certainly for the audience, as we come to understand Creon’s character better. We also sympathize with Antigone, as the question is raised; If Antigone was born a man, would Creon ignore her crime, and in turn prevent the tragedies that ensue? The answer is unclear, but the question is fair.

More questions can be raised on other impactful lines, despite the different topics. One of the big themes I picked up on in Antigone was the discussion of power. Antigone’s two brothers fought for it, Antigone herself refused to acknowledge the king’s authority and laws, and we just covered the power of men over women. The power of money was very directly called out in Antigone in the following stanza.

Money! Nothing worse in our lives, so current, rampant, so corrupting. Money– you demolish cities, root men from their homes, you train and twist good minds and set them on to the most atrocious schemes. No limit, you make them adept at every kind of outrage, every godless crime– money! (pg.73)

While reading this, it was instantly put in my notes to look at again during class discussion. It was so shockingly relevant to me that I almost didn’t want to believe it was written so long ago. It goes along with another quote which follows it soon after, “Lucky tyrants–the perquisites of power! Ruthless power to do and say whatever pleases them.” (pg. 84). Once again, we see this view of power being given to humanity and becoming corruptive. We see it all around us today, and even then, in Ancient Greece. Despite the thousands of years that have passed, power remains a constantly corruptive element to humans. And that amazed me.

We like to think that we’ve grown since “ancient times”, that we’re more mature, better than then, but we’re not (at least not as much as we like to think we are). This has been a lesson I’ve been learning while reading Oedipus and Antigone. While we’ve mostly moved past blatant sexism, you start to realize how much personal bias people have against women, and since they can’t be loud about these misogynistic feelings they act out in microaggressions against the female sex, which I’m sure most girls in this class have experienced, including me. In terms of greater history, women’s rights are still incredibly new and continue to be fought for today, take the current situation in Iran as an example. And this same concept still applies to power. Power and money still create unethical people, we still have those same “Lucky tyrants” that Antigone calls out. It’s a pattern that makes us wonder, will it ever get better? I guess we’ll have to see.

How Oedipus Pleasantly Surprised me – Montana

Oedipus was not a book I expected to enjoy. There, I said it. Shocking, isn’t it? A 16-year-old in the 21st century did not think that they’d be moved by some tragedy written sometime in Ancient Greece. At most, I thought I’d enjoy hearing references to the Greek Gods. Now here I am, surprisingly moved by the writing and the humor presented in Oedipus.

As I said before in class, the humor of Oedipus was quite entertaining. I found myself laughing at many parts of the text, which I certainly did not anticipate from a tragedy. One of the many jokes that I appreciated was following Oedipus ranting about how Creon was going to attempt to overthrow him, and Creon responded with a simple, “Are you quite finished?” (pg. 189). Such a hilarious set of dialogue that is still enjoyed in our modern day. Before this, Oedipus proclaims,

Now my curse on the murderer. Whoever he is, a lone man unknown in his crime or one among many, let that man drag out his life in agony, step by painful step– I curse myself as well . . . if by any chance he proves to be an intimate of our house, here at my hearth, with my full knowledge, may the curse I just called down on him strike me! (pg. 172)

This excerpt of pure irony makes us as readers completely facepalm, as with the knowledge we have, we understand the ideocracy of this curse Oedipus puts upon the murderer of Laius, which is himself. Both examples of the humor within what we know as a Ancient Greek tragedy certainly caught me off guard yet amused me.

Another aspect of Oedipus that was very pleasing was the emotional writing. Charged lines within this play whether you are or aren’t expecting them hit you quite hard, no matter what. These lines of dialogue truly remind you that this is a tragedy, lines like,

Apollo, friends, Apollo– he ordained my agonies– these, my pains on pains! But the hand that struck my eyes was mine, mine alone– no one else– I did it all myself! What good were eyes to me? Nothing I could see could bring me joy. (pg. 241)

These few lines truly show the weight of living Oedipus’ life to me, his true intentions and feelings towards what’s happened to him. Here, we can see the trauma he’s endured truly showing through. It is lines like theses that really help immerse me into a book and make me enjoy the material I’m reading.

Overall, this book has caused the impression I’ve had of other ancient Greek tragedies to become less intimidating. Whereas before, the thought of reading them almost frightened me, now I feel as thought I could read through another book of similar type of Oedipus without worry, but instead excitement.

Hello Class Blog! – Montana

Hello! I’m Montana Avila-Piloyan, or Monty, I’ve lived in Canada the majority of my life, however, both my parents are immigrants who met here in Victoria! My dad’s from Nicaragua, and my mom’s from Armenia, and they both had an odd mess of a child, which is me! The eldest of three, I’ve become incredibly interested in film, storytelling, theatre, choreography and music, essentially all of the arts. I’m a semi-professional dancer and love to play volleyball, and my dream is to become involved in movie-making! Much of my enjoyment can be found in English, making it one of my favourite subjects!

I really hope that we read a lot of plays this year, as I’ve surprisingly not read that many. I hope we get the chance to do creative writing as well and have the chance to talk about what makes good stories. I expect myself to be pushed this year, and currently, I’m mentally preparing for that, but I also know that the challenging nature of English will enhance my understanding, and overall benefit my knowledge for the future.