Paper 1 and 2

I thought I was getting the the hang of analysis in English. I was filled with hope!…Mr Macknight ruthlessly crushed said hope, along with my self-esteem. I am starting to see beyond the plot though. I suppose that’s good. Oh WOE IS ME! WOE IS ME! WHY ART THOU SO CRUEL PAPER 1 AND 2?!?! It’s is quite good practice. However, if we do it over and over in class it can get quite frustrating without a break.

Paper 1 and 2 Revision



After doing paper 1 and 2 revision, I realized that I’m going down hill. Like Averil, when I see a question, I have no idea how to start, where to start from. For writing commentaries, I have problems knowing what the poem is even about.

These practice papers made me remember how we need assertions for every paragraph. I know that I need to re-read the books and understand the detailed information about them as well. What it made me do the most was really think about the books from different angles, and see how I can compare and contrast them a bit more. I think it is important to have some basic ideas about each book that you think are common themes or ideas that you know you can write about. This way, when deciding which books to write about, you also have some idea.

Practice Papers

By doing the practice papers, I’ve realized I definitely need to reread the books and go over my past notes because I get the stories mixed up. But at the same time, I start to learn how to structure my answers and how to work under time constraints. So while it is kind of boring, I know that it is useful.

Paper 1&2 reflection

After doing practice papers in class, I’ve noticed some mistakes that I’ve continuously been making, such as:


-confusing rhyme with rhythm

-connecting the elements of the poem with its content, such as thinking of a ‘hymn’ from ‘reverential’ word choice.

-writing ‘Firstly, Nextly…’ instead of ‘First, Next..’

For Paper 2, I thought it was harder to write a commentary if the question is only limited to, for example, seeing the effect of the settings in the novel. Also I felt the need to read books in more detail in order to prevent generalised response in paper 2. It was harder than I thought to compare two books and to pick out similarities and differences.


Paper 1 Practice- Learning points

I can honestly say that I learnt that I need a lot of help when it comes to writing essays. I look at the question and freeze. I understand what it is asking of me, but I’m not sure as to how I’m supposed to organise my essay or what exactly the exam is looking for. I do know that I must have assertions, but what to assert? How to support? What to write?!?!

Anyway, I did take away some learning points.

1) I am not supposed to begin paragraphs with facts, evidence, summaries or generalizations, but with assertions.

2) I’ve got to get my facts about the novels correct- eg. number of people, peoples’ addresses ect.

3) Dashes come in pairs, just like brackets must be opened and closed.


I did not enjoy Beloved and felt that at points the book almost randomly swaps into the past.

Personally, I take the stance that Beloved is not Sethe’s daughter, seeing as she is berthed out of the lake fully clothed and also thinks of slavery when she has her own chapter.
I don’t feel like I could relate to the characters or truly understand what the author had in mind for the context of the novella.
The plot twist of Sethe having killed her own daughter did not seem to impact the story in any way, nor did it seem to have been built up to. It seems that Denver does not begrudge her mother for killing her little sister, except for in the one part in which she says that she fears her mother.

Maybe I will like/understand the book better after my re-read.


This book is the one I enjoyed the most for Part 4. We learned about the history of slavery in America before reading the book and I think this helped me have an interest because I could sort of imagine it in real life. While I couldn’t relate to most of it because first of all most of it was supernatural, second of all it happened a long time ago, I could sympathize and put myself in Sethe, or Denver’s situation. I think the most interesting part of the book isn’t the plot but the gradual understanding of Sethe as a character. In this sense, this book reminds me of To the Lighthouse because it isn’t about the plot as much as it is about learning about the characters and seeing a 3 dimensional view of them as a person and not a character.

I didn’t understand the ending of the book where Denver leaves Sethe and I really wish that they hadn’t left Halle’s story hanging. But I can see that it isn’t really the main focus of the book and sometimes readers are left with a better memory of a book that requires them to draw a conclusion themselves. While Sethe is a very well-developed character that seems 3 dimensional and has many sides like most people do, I didn’t like Denver and Paul D as much as Sethe as a character just because of first impressions and they don’t seem as developed as Sethe. Maybe I’m biased… but thats the whole point of an opinion.

What I found most interesting about this book are the names. Before talking to Mr. Macknight about the names of the characters, I didn’t realize that names were held so importantly. To us, names are something we are born with, and we can change them fairly easily. We think of them as a birthright. But to them, they don’t have names with family history and the names they have are just purely a label for their owners to control.

“Beloved” Personal Response

Hi everyone!

How do you feel after finishing all the books for IB?

I actually enjoyed “Beloved” quite a lot. I enjoyed the starting and ending the most, and didn’t really find the middle too attractive. I think that is because I don’t really like Beloved. I found her kind of disturbing. The other thing was that I actually had a more positive feeling towards Denver at the start of the book. Partly because I sympathised with her, but also because I didn’t understand the rest of the characters that  much yet. But when Beloved comes into the book as a human, it really annoys me. This is because Denver seems to be pushed around by Beloved, and she does not think logically at all! After that I somehow began to like Sethe more. Probably because she actually feels bad about what she did to her children. It is interesting that she still does not admit that she did anything exactly “bad” though. She preservers that it was the right thing to do at the moment.

The book is very interesting in it’s way of writing. At the start it was just confusing, but then when you find out that Morrison is not giving information to us on purpose, I got hanged onto the story. There were so many unknown things that I wanted to find out about. And these things do not end up like small things that have been exaggerated like some other writers, but the unknown things were actually things that had great importance and impacts. That is where I find Morrison a good writer, there is no need to create false excitement, because the secrets of the characters are actually real big things! So there is this consistency with not telling the reader what is going on all the time in “Beloved”. You really have to get to the end of the page or section to finally be able to say “I get it now!” This also created excitement for me, as it was a time when I suddenly understood everything, and it all came to place together. Even some voices by the characters could not be recognised who it was from until you at least start reading into it a bit more.  The amazing thing is that although it was not told to us exactly, we are able to tell who is saying what or thinking what.

This is similar to “To the Lighthouse” in the sense that the thoughts of the characters are written out directly, and there is a lot of ambiguity in it. In “Beloved”, it is mostly seen in the second half, where as in “To the Lighthouse,” it is seen throughout the book.

Oh, and I have to mention that I love Paul D. He’s such a reliable character (kinda), and so nice! But then I wonder why Sethe didn’t notice him at Sweet Home as much. Since after she met him at her house after 18 years, they seemed to click. Or maybe the book doesn’t explain that part of it, it just mentions that she was good with all the guys I guess.

Beloved PR

Beloved is probably my favorite book out of all the Group 3 books we’ve read so far. The book is not challenging to read or make you want to tear your hair out due to confusion, Morrison uses quite a simple structure along with language, making it quite simple to track ongoing events,thus making it simple for the reader to enjoy the book.  My favorite part of the books are when Morrison melds the past and the present together when Sethe remembers her past in an subtle flashback. The fact that the book starts off with multiple references to the past leaves us with questions of “What happened?” or “What’s she talking about?” This compels us to read further ahead in order to find out more details about said events.

From the first few pages of the book I could already see the fact that it was a ghost story of some sort; that supernatural events were not unexpected and infact seemingly common. However I didn’t expect that the ghost would actually take a solid form and return as someone that has abilities resembling a  wraith, slowly sucking the life out of Sethe. In the beginning Sethe seemed like a realist, someone who has seen the horrors of the world and come to have accepted it. However after the return of Beloved we can see Sethe’s entire personality change, she became more of an idealist, believing that her family was now complete, the whole world seemed to fade away and with it Sethe’s health. In a way Beloved could be seen as a catalyst of age. When she arrived Sethe seemed to age and lose touch with the world while Denver too aged and became more mature; going out to work in order to earn money for the family and begging for food from the community.

This book also presented the era of slavery quite well, going from the kinder owners (the Garners) to the crueler ones (Schoolteacher). It presented both sides quite well to show an unbiased view of it.


Beloved was interesting. It seems like for the first time, there was a solid story line to follow through the entire novel. Because of this storyline and clear progression of characters, this was a much easier read compared to Woolf’s ‘To the lighthouse’ and Conrads ‘Heart of Darkness’ and James’ ‘Turn of the screw’. I really like the narrative style of this novel.

I felt like ‘To the Lighthouse’ really helped prepare me for reading this novel. In the sense that I am now made more aware of the inner conflicts within individual characters, and I understand why the characters are constructed better. Through the ‘stream of consciousness’ concept in woolf’s ‘To the Lighthouse’, I learnt to look at the stream of consciousness of each of the characters. This helped me to better deal with the novel when Paul D, Sethe and other characters seemed to leak out their past in drips and draps. I can now appreciate their thought process and that these drips and draps of information was done on purpose by Morrison, to let us see the inner conflict within the individual characters. How they do not want to remember the past, how they are trying to block out painful memories. Through these, we are able to gain a better understanding of the characters.

The use of language in Beloved was really clever, I could really hear the individual’s voices, yet on the whole, there was a collective ‘VOICE’ that spoke to me. Putting all the individual voices together- i.e. Baby Suggs, Sethe, Denver and Beloved, I got the voice of black slave women in America. Their experiences and thought collectively and individually really gave me a complete all rounded illustration of the slave woman experience. There is a nice musical flowing rhythm within the novel that lets me better appreciate the flow of the novel better.

Though the whole concept of the supernatural was new to me, how ghosts could come back and haunt the living in such a literal and physical manner was disturbing at times. But after I wrapped my head around the concept, I understood that this whole concept better by understanding the ideas it conveyed rather than what actually happens in the novel.


Beloved Personal Response

This novel has been one of my favourite out of the whole course. The reason for this is how the novel is written. It has a narration similar to movies, this is because when a person is talking it flashes back to their memories. This is so much easier to follow compared to To The Lighthouse, the story although it is a bit weird at times (Beloved coming back from the dead) it has a story that is interesting and easy to follow. The way Sweet Home is written about, as discussed in class, is a pleasant memory. This is very unusual but it gives us an insight into Sethe’s views on life, and how she allows finds the good in a bad situation. This was one of favourites parts of the book, since she had been through a lot terrible things. The resurrection of Beloved was a big let down for me but it did add more depth to the book. Since Denver’s feelings towards her. If I were to read this novel again, I think I would definitely look more carefully at the interaction of Beloved with Sethe. Beloved for me was the most interesting person because of what happened to her at the end and the uncertainty throughout the novel. All in all, pretty good book for me to actually be ahead of schedule for once. 😛

“Beloved” Response

I found the first half of Beloved very engaging.  The way Morrison chose to tell the story kept me interested.  The story starts off in the present, with Sethe at house 124 near Cincinnati.  As the book goes on, fragments of each of the character’s pasts are recalled.  I think it was this fragmented recollection of the past that sustained my interest and I’m sure kept many other readers curious as well.  However, a little more than halfway through the book the recollections catch up with the present and the pivotal event of the novel is told.  After this climax, I found the rest of the book less interesting.  With the story essentially over, but some hundred pages left to read, I was pretty disappointed.  I think this was because I didn’t relate to the personal and emotional side of Beloved.

Besides the retelling of actual events, Morrison also focuses heavily on the thoughts and feelings of the central characters.  While some passages were artfully written, I found the emotion that permeated the book excessive.  I think this abundance of emotion is key in Morrison illustrating the struggle of African-American women in America.  Her lyrical writing aids her in conveying this emotion throughout the novel.  It is strong as a piece of literature, but personally it is not something that I enjoy in a novel.

Beloved personal response

‘Beloved’ is one of the books I’ve read with very strong ‘hook’ which encourages the readers to continue reading. The most notable feature to me in this book was frequent, sudden revelations that betray the reader’s assumption and make the whole story more appealing. Examples of such can be firstly the re-birth of Beloved. By seeing the title and first few chapters, I assumed that the book will be a memoir about the lost girl Beloved and how she still remains in Sethe and Denver’s mind. This was because there was not much mentioning of Beloved- probably a reflection of Sethe’s effort to suppress all the bad memories- other than the baby ghost’s appearance. However, us readers are shocked by Beloved coming back in human form. She gradually ‘consumes’ Sethe, and we begin to feel just like Ella who ‘didn’t like the idea of past errors taking possession of the present’.

Secondly, most of Sethe’s past was hidden and was disclosed slowly. When Beloved comes back, Sethe’s negation of Beloved as her dead daughter makes us wonder about their relationship and Sethe’s memory. As if to satisfy reader’s inquiry, Sethe’s memory is revealed- about killing Beloved to prevent them from going back to the Sweet Home. By discovering more about Sethe and other characters from the revelation of past, it makes the ending of the story more complete and successfully engages the reader.


Another interesting feature is the poetic quality of the novel. There are lots of repeated phrases and songs, even events, which give subtle rhythm to the novel as a whole. Beloved keeps repeating ‘hot thing’ in her monologue, Paul D repeats ‘red heart’, song with lyrics ‘Bare feet and chamomile sap’ recurs. This repetition sometimes occur few lines after, or even few chapters later, and these notable repetitions bring us back to the part where they first occurred, and helps us to go back into the past and to the present again just like the structure of the novel. Also, the event of Sethe being chased by the slavecatchers happens once in her past, and once in the present with Beloved. Sethe attempts to kill all her children when slavecatcher comes, and she buried this memory for ages. However as she begin to accept that Beloved is her daughter, she sees the image of the same slave catcher when 30 village women tries to pray for her to chase out the ‘evil’. These repetitions of similar events seem to show the realization of Sethe. After the second event, when she recalls the past memory herself and tries to kill the white man, Paul D comes back again, and acknowledges her that her best thing is not others such as Beloved but herself. So the repeating event seems to convey Sethe slowly realizing her value, and accepting her past.


After finishing the novel, I began to wonder whether if Beloved actually helped Sethe and Denver. From how Sethe got thinner and weaker by Beloved’s arrival, how Paul D is chased away, and how Denver feels threatened by Beloved’s effect on Sethe, Beloved seems to be harm to their family. But from ‘repeating event’ above, it seems like Beloved helped Sethe to take out and accept her past, and to know the true value of Sethe herself when Beloved disappears.

Beloved Response

This is one of the few books I actually enjoyed this year in English, and I was upset when it finally came to an end. Unlike the other part 3 novels; Heart Of Darkness, Turn Of The Screw and To The Lighthouse, Beloved was a lot easier to understand and used much simpler language. The plot was easy to follow, even though it kept going back and forth from the past to the present. This technique in going back in time, gradually gave us more information on Sethe’s past back in Sweet Home keeping us as the reader interested. The novel is structured in my eyes like a jigsaw puzzle. As the novel progresses, Sethe’s past life and how she arrived at house 124 is revealed. The further you get into the book the more eureka moments you have as her story comes together and begins to make sense. Your thoughts towards the characters also changes as your learn more about them. When beloved first arrived at house 124 I felt a sense of pity to her as she was killed by her mother at the end of the day, however as you learn more about her and as she gains strength and confidence in the house she begins acting like an evil spirit “draining the power out of Sethe” and takes all the attention from Denver, resulting in Denver considering leaving home like her two brothers; Howard and Buglar. I feel like Denver and Beloved almost swapped positions, since when Paul D first arrived at the house Denver didn’t like his presence since he took all of her mother’s attention therefore made it hard for the two of them to be happy. Looking at the two girls from this perspective I think Denver and Beloved are relatively selfish, as they don’t seem to care for their mother’s feelings. However this may be due to revenge for when Sethe attempted killing her children in the shed before the schoolteacher arrived to send them back to Sweet Home. Beloved’s sudden appearance in the novel also made the reader curious and at first a little confused as we aren’t sure to whether Beloved is actually the resurrected child of Sethe or just someone else who coincidently had the same name.

What I found most intriguing about the novel, was the chapter when Beloved is talking and theirs no punctuation. Toni Morrison used an effective writing technique for each character to show their differences in personality.

“To the Lighthouse”

“To the Lighthouse” was an interesting and worthwhile experience but I can’t say that I enjoyed the book that much.  There were moments in the book that I enjoyed immensely but I could not enjoy the plot or the characters which I think may be the reason behind my not particularly enjoying “To the Lighthouse”.  I think the greatest thing about “To the Lighthouse” is the appreciation of the singular beauty of moments in time.  In a couple of scenes Virginia Woolf does a great job of building up the setting through a few different perspectives before one of the characters reaches a kind of pinnacle of fascination with the moment at present.  There were a few times where I thought Woolf was particularly effective at achieving this feeling but the one I can recall most clearly is towards the beginning of the book where Charles Tansley is walking with Mrs Ramsey.  Other than this aspect of the novel, there was nothing else that I found particularly satisfying or entertaining.  Nonetheless, the emphasis on thoughts of characters was a unique approach (this is what lead me to say the book was a worthwhile experience) and it raises questions about the significance of thoughts compared to actions.  We think many things but only act on some.  I would not want my thoughts to represent the person I am, but rather my actions.  However, I noticed in the book that, for the most part, there is an agreement between the characters’ thoughts and their actions (besides James’ recurring thoughts of stabbing his father through the heart).  I do not know that this is typically the case in real life but the characters are otherwise very believable.  Then again it would be impossible for Woolf to include absolutely every thought that goes through someone’s mind, partly because it would be too boring and partly because we may not even be aware of every thought we have.

To the lighthouse

“To the lighthouse” by Virginia Woolf was unlike any book I’ve read before. The novels I usually read consist of a series of description and narration, whereas to the lighthouse consisted more of a series of thoughts from the different characters. It allowed you to be more personal with every character, instead of just the main character and allowed you to see what each character thought of one another and how their feelings changed as the book progressed and the personalities of each character. Each of the three sections; the window, time passes and to the lighthouse all take place in such a short period of time, yet so many things seem to be going on during this time. Between each section there is a gap, which represents time passing, thus the title of the second section; “time passes”. This gap in time is significant as it allows you as a reader to see how each character has changed.

In my opinion however, I thought “To the lighthouse” by Virginia Woolf was quite a boring book as it didn’t really consist of a lot of action and the story line and setting was quite boring. I didn’t really understand the message behind the story either. It will be interesting to read what my classmates thought about the book and the message they got from it.

To The Lighthouse

“To the Lighthouse” I found, was very interesting. It’s the first time I have read a book in this style, where the whole story is basically made up of “thoughts” and less of description and narration. I was mostly impressed with how realistic the whole story seemed. There was nothing (that big), that made me think that the book was unrealistic in any way. The thoughts the characters had, in many cases, overlapped with things that I have thought of before too. Thus, I could relate well to some of the character’s emotions. There are many different characters in this book, which may also mean that every reader will have their own special character. The characters, although not directly described in narration, are very well portrayed. Although not perfect, I thought I could see the contrast between each individual, and saw their strengths/weaknesses and personality. I think this is something very hard to do, especially with so many characters.

I really liked how different characters would talk about another character, yet everyone seemed to still have different images about that person. For example, the reader would be tricked into believing the personality of one character just because Mrs Ramsay says it, and we only find out the “truth” or  another perspective after a different character mentions their thought on that person. I think it is important to remember, after all, that all thoughts (which is most of the book), is what a character is thinking. I easily believed these things as facts, but it is important to know that they are just thoughts, and as we know, thoughts are no where near the truth.

To The Lighthouse Reflection

This book is really different from the other books that we have read so far because its more about the thoughts rather than the actions. At first its kind of hard to distinguish whether its the thoughts of the author or the characters. But as we find out, more so than the plot, this book revolves around human relationships and how much can change in a small time period. Most books are difficult to bring into real life because of how actions seem to happen just constantly and there seems to be no time for us to see inside the thoughts of the character. Its more difficult to relate to because the characters lives are much more action packed unlike our mundane lives.

At first, I thought Mrs. Ramsay was the optimistic one due to her loving nature and how she has so many children and seems to love guests. However, I realized that she just tries to make life perfect but in fact if she just accepted life the way it was with all its imperfections she may be happier. So, while Mr. Macknight said that I would learn to love Mrs. Ramsay, I didn’t really fall in love with her in the end. The way she overprotects her children to the point of complete closure of reality makes me feel like she doesn’t try to educate her children the right way and only wants to create this perfect world she tries to envision. Mr. Ramsay on the other hand is more realistic even though on first impression he seems emotionless and difficult to get along with.

I think that this book seems fairly easy to understand the first time you read it but when you read it again you see that its not as simple as you thought. This book shouldn’t be read like a normal story book because it isn’t meant to be one but if we read it from the perspective that the author wants us to understand the thoughts more than the plot, we will get more out of it.

To The Lighthouse

To The Lighthouse was enjoyable, albeit confusing, and even somewhat disappointing.

The book at its outset would appear to be about the internal private lives of ordinary people. It does this well, with the worries (including nagging thoughts, such as when Mrs. Ramsay thinks about the bill for the greenhouse being fifty pounds), and lengthy ludicrous thought.

In as far as it being a normal book, it has conflict (James’s hatred of his father, Lily’s confusion as a female artist, Mrs Ramsay’s fears for the futures of her children) all of which develop (Lily gets told she cannot be a woman and an artist. James loses his mother and his father reacts in a way which as a husband you expect him to, but as a “tyrant” you do not). I believe that in some way we all relate to the characters. Whether or not Woolf is giving any accurate portrayal of what it is like to be in the mind, I believe most people obsess in their heads about the big things (like Lily’s 10 year +  concern of her skill and gender) and the little things (The bill for the lighthouse (though £50 was definitely a big deal in the 19th/20th century)). It makes the book feel quite real.

To the Lighthouse-reflection

To the lighthouse was narrated in ‘watery’ and transient way, and this really seemed to define the concept of time and intricate web of human relationship. In the beginning, To the lighthouse reminded me of the way of narration in Tess, especially the part where Tess goes to the dairy after the death of ‘Sorrow’. But the differences between them is that in Tess this fleeting narration is used to describe only the surroundings (landscape), which resembles the situation that Tess is in, and helps us to feel the power of Nature- this makes us feel as if the Nature is the foreground even if Tess is the heroine. For To the lighthouse, this technique focuses on each individual character’s thoughts which then shift smoothly onto other person’s thoughts. It causes every character’s ‘thoughts’ to take turn and be the protagonist of the novel, and reveals that the novel is directly focusing on ‘consciousness’ or ‘thought’. Through the narration, I felt the relative concept of time. It seems to be passing by us in regular intervals of seconds and minutes, but just within a few hours of time different characters are giving numerous unique thought towards the same situation, revealing their relationship with all the people and inanimate objects surrounding them.


I found the idea that lighthouse itself is Mr. Ramsay, and that the light is Mrs. Ramsay most interesting. If that idea is taken into account, Lily and Mr. Ramsay are taking completely different paths to reach the conclusion. Firstly, Lily’s question was whether artists will be appreciated in society, whether her creating a piece of art will be any good. But by seeing Mr. Ramsay and two children travelling to the lighthouse, she realizes that sometimes seeing things from far distance lets one know it better- and reaches the answer to her question “what does matter?” and finishes her art. Oppositely, Mr. Ramsay is travelling closer to the lighthouse, which signifies him, now without Mrs. Ramsay. For Mr. Ramsay, by getting closer to himself, he experiences changes and escapes from the past, shown by saying “Well done!” to James. Again the interconnection between human is shown by this act: “Well done!” completes James, and relieves Cam as an observer.


Overall this novel required lot of thinking for me to understand its meaning. But the novel itself is so open to interpretation and written in unusual way that I still feel unsure about whether I understood the novel yet. I think I might need another read, which will give me dissimilar impression.

To the lighthouse

I actually thought that this was a pretty interesting read. I really like the concept if lateral writing and the stream of consciousness. This is an issue that I’ve thought about before- how everyone’s sitting there basically seeing the same things and people, but everyone’s thoughts are different. How these thoughts may diverge or coincide is entirely possible yet impossible to actually figure out. We know what we’re thinking but what about what other people are thinking? We can never be sure what another person’s thinking.

To the Lighthouse is one of the most realistic works of literature that I’ve read that goes deep into the depths of the human mind, helping us understand the relationship between people that is real and plausible in every way. It isn’t a novel that keeps us interested a particular plot, but it keeps us wondering how the characters really feel about things that are going on and how they really feel about other people around them. How can we really know what we are feeling and why we feel that way? How can we understand what other people do and why they do the things they do? ‘To the lighthouse really addresses these issues as we delve into the consciousness of the various characters, allowing us to understand how they feel about whatever’s going on at that very moment.

‘To the lighthouse’ allows us to learn about human nature and raises many questions. The characters seem to love and hate each other at the same time, admire and respect yet reject and abhore the people around them. This shows us the complexity of human emotions. How can we be sure of what we ourselves are thinking about? How then can we be sure about the thoughts and feeling of particular characters in novels?

Reading the essay, I realised the symbolism of the lighthouse. I never really saw that Woolfe was trying to draw a line of unity, nor did I see the lighthouse as a symbolism of Mr Ramsay nor the light from  the lighthouse as symbolism of Mrs Ramsay. This makes a lot of sense though, and I’ll remember to note these symbols when reading the novel for a second time.

Turn of the Screw

I found the beginning of ‘Turn of the Screw’ very effective in building tension and anticipation of the story to follow.  However, I felt let down as the story went on.  Upon introducing the ghosts of the story there was a sense of relief that was never really compensated for. I think the idea that we are most scared of the unknown rang true in this short story.  The delay in starting the tale of the governess kept me genuinely intrigued and the convoluted stylistic tendencies of the author seemed appropriate.  Later on in the novel, however, these stylistic tendencies lost their effectiveness and the content of the story itself couldn’t sustain the hopes and expectations that the start of the novel buit up.  The first narrator promised to ‘up the ante’ or ‘turn the screw’ but as the book dragged on, I felt as if its best moment were behind it.

Turn of the Screw Personal Response

I feel that The Turn of the Screw was firstly good, then steadily lost its pace.

For the first few chapters, it was atmospheric and eerie. The first two encounters with the male ghost were eerie, or even scary, but I felt that when Henry James gives them a name and human-like qualities, they lost their scare appeal. The conflict in the book quickly turns from the threat of unknown ghosts or unwanted visitors trespassing and getting very close for some clearly sinister purpose, to  a governess that merely frets over whether she should break the commands of her employer to ensure the safety of his children. She then takes to being unable to control a ten year old and fearing her own reputation from them.

Turn of the Screw

What I noticed in “Tun of the Screw” was that the children really never talk. Their speech is not shown until about the middle of the book, and even then, it is very vague. The book was very straight forward and I liked this part about it. The description was detailed only in important parts, and even then was said tersely.

The surprising thing for me was that in the end, it was actually Miles who was the one who volunteered to talk. I always thought he was the “worse” one, so it did not end the way I expected. Plus, the fact that he didn’t actually get to saying anything, and the story actually ended with him dying. Throughout the whole story, the main character was trying to find out about what happened and tried to protect the children, yet Miles died in her own hands.

The book is very open to imagination, and many things are not clear to us readers. In this sense, it is similar to “Heart of Darkness’.

Turn of the Screw

I feel that despite being a ‘ghost’ story, I didn’t find it particularly scary. Also, I personally found that the first part of the novel where the people are sitting around telling stories and waiting for the manuscript to come had an ominous atmosphere. The purpose of having this strange introduction to the story somewhat baffles me. The introduction sure created a sense of anticipation in me though, so perhaps that is one of its purposes.

As for the main storyline of little Miles and Flora, Quint and Ms Jessel, the governess and Mrs Gross, I found interesting yet unrealistic. It raises so many questions and has so many possibilities. Let us imagine for a moment that such a situation were possible in real life. What are we to take of Flora’s reaction when the governess asks her about seeing Ms Jessel? Has she already been possessed by the ghost? Or is she just finally showing her true colours. Why would Flora and Miles keep seeing the ghosts a secret? They are obviously not afraid of the ghosts. Either that, or they feel that there’s no one that they can turn too. That is a little impossible, as they were very sweet and obedient and seemed to like their governess a lot, especially since the governess showered them with love and care. So I take it they enjoyed the presence of the ghosts? Miles wanting to talk to the governess about seeing the ghosts could simply be him growing up and wanting to be a part of reality where he’s out in the world experiencing manly things, and does not wish to be held back by illusions and ghosts.

In the beginning, I had a distinct impression that Miles and Flora were really young children of about 4 and 8? But as the novel progressed, they seemed to mature so quickly it was scary. It was more frightening to see the children behave the way they did than at the fact that there were ghosts involved in the story. I found myself wondering more than once if the children were in fact the ghosts, being so unreal in their obedience and their quick and sudden extreme change in character . The fact that Miles’ heart stopped at the end could be an indication that he’s admitted that he was a ghost and thus was ‘at peace’. Well, that’s just a little theory I had anyway.

I’m not a fan of ghost stories- but the most surprising part is that the children’s unclear character, intention and behavior in the novel is what scares me most.

Turn of the screw

What struck me the most in this novel is the role of Flora and Miles and the resulting vagueness. I’ve noticed that in the first half of the novel their ‘speech’ was never mentioned, and they were kept being described as flawless and sweet. This gave me a feeling that the children, despite of being ‘innocent’, seem too perfect and vague as if they are not human.

After their speeches are mentioned, Miles tells the governess that they can be ‘mean’ as well. I interpreted this as few different meanings:

  1. Childlike behavior such as going out at night without permission, lying.
  2. Causing the governess to see the ghost (this is purely my assumption!)
  3. Their innocence was faked, either by them or by the ghosts.

Even at the ending at which Miles’ heart stops, it is not clear whether the children are purely normal kids who see the ghost, or whether they are ghosts themselves. Everything seems to be too open-ended in this novel. We have no idea how the governess came to see the ghost. It is not clear whether Miles and Flora are corrupted, or only traumatized by other’s reaction of them seeing the ghost (when they lie about them seeing the ghosts). We have no idea what happened to Flora after Miles’ heart stops. The fact that the kids see the ghosts wasn’t really shocking. Especially at the part when the governess sees Quint, she says that she expected to see a man, and ‘there he was’, the story seems too coincidental and unrealistic. But what made the story more thrilling was the impact of these vaguenesses which really ‘turned the screw’ for me.

turn of the screw personal response

I actually liked this novel a lot more than I expected. The characters were the most interesting part of the novel. I couldn’t really understand the housekeeper. I wanted to know whether or not she really understood the governess or whether she was on the children’s sides.She seems to be the only one that understands what the governess is saying but at the same time she constantly defends the children. It may be on purpose that she’s trying to not see their faults and only see the perfect side that they show. To me, the scariest characters are not the ghosts but the children themselves. They present themselves as perfect children but they are in fact haunted by the ghosts. THis could be to make sure that nobody knows what they are up to and they can get away with doing bad things but then Miles wouldn’t have tried to let the governess know that they can be bad too. I reasoned this as Miles liking the governess and wanting her to know the truth. I also think that the children might be ghosts because of how perfect they are and the fact that they don’t really talk much but then Mile’s heart stops at the end and so they were still living.

As Mr. Macknight tells us often, good students ask questions. So I want to know why the author left everything hanging. We don’t really ever meet the uncle even though we know quite a lot about him considering. Also, what’s the purpose of writing a novel and leaving more than half of it to the reader’s imagination. This novel’s climax is where everything starts to unravel and the housekeeper doesn’t know whether to agree with the governess or keep defending the children.

Heart of Darkness Reflexion

I found the book difficult to read:

The opening and closing scenes are very clear since the paragraphs divide into simple, self-contained paragraphs. The closing dialogue in particular with The Intended is particularly clear, since unlike the rest of the novella, the narrator splits Marlow’s speech so that one paragraph only contain’s one person’s speech. This make me wonder whether the jumble of paragraphs in the middle is meant to represent Marlow’s conflict over what happened, the narrator’s inability to understand, natural breaks in Marlow’s speech, or simply breaks added by Conrad to make the text readable.

Interstingly, The way that the story is told seems to objectify characters who are not Marlow or Kurtz. They’re “The Manager”, “The Pilgrims” or otherwise someone without a name. This turns them into agents of good or bad, just as they are agents for colonial pursuit. It increases the air of isolation, a sense of disconnection to the action.

Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness was pretty good.  I mostly enjoyed the writing style of Conrad.  While the sentences can seem very dense and hard to read, with focus they can be understood.  I felt that these sentences most nearly conveyed the ‘dream-like’ state Conrad was going for.  I think Conrad achieved this effect with the repetition of darkness and the way Marlow orally recounts his experiences.  There were numerous instances of scenes that I felt were beautifully portrayed – whether it was a depiction of scenery like the view of the Thames river early in the story or the philosophical insights attributed to Marlow throughout.  The way that it was written as an oral story enticed me to continue reading page after page.  I believed that stopping in the middle of the story would offset the feeling of being immersed in the story – of being immersed in the dream-like memories of Marlow.

Heart of Darkness Reflection

The first thing I noticed when reading Heart of Darkness was that there was a lot of mention of ethnicity. For example on the first page where Marlow is sitting representing a Buddha “idol” and the description of the map.
Also Heart of Darkness is full of irony, starting with the title itself. The heart is supposed to be a place of warmth and love whereas the heart in this book is of darkness. However, it could be using the word by talking about the centre of all darkness. Then in that sense, it is difficult to pinpoint what the narrator/author is talking about. It could be literal and referring to Africa and their people and the European’s racist views of how because of their dark colour, they must be evil. But it could also be a third person point of view and how Marlow sees it and believes that what the European are doing is evil. Marlow is a part of the journey to Africa however is perceived as the light of story because he wishes to tell the truth and not participate in the torture and killing but in the end he lies to Kurtz’s fiancée in order to protect her from the truth of Kurtz. However, his intention was to protect her and not to destroy as the others’ were.

Heart of Darkness response

Marlow’s Epic journey to find Kurtz in the congo jungle was built up into something a lot bigger than it actually was in my opinion. His journey seemed relatively short and quite repetitive as he trudged deeper into his jungle to collect his treasure(kurtz). When reading the book i felt like a lot of the important scenes were cut out and the structure was all over the place. One moment he would be lying on his steam boat and the next minute he was in the generals office watching a black slave get beaten.

What i found interesting about this book is that the narration of Marlow when describing a “nigger” seems as if he is almost pitying the natives. Yet he does nothing to help them. This makes me question, how much of a man is Marlow?

The lead up to Kurtz, which was supposed to represent the treasure of the journey was massive and the way people smoke about him in the story, you would think he would be some sort of magical wizard that solved all problems. But when he was first introduced in the book he came across as being rather insane and unstable which was quite dissapointing.

Heart of Darkness

The Heart of Darkness was an interesting but difficult read. Most of the time, I found myself getting caught in the minute details of little insignificant parts of the story. Marlowe was telling the story of his experiences in Africa with the other people on his boat. In the telling of the story, he drifts in and out telling the story of how he was finding Kurts and his experiences. He tells the story, allowing us to see his thoughts on the various events. His personal first person acocunt as a narrator allows us to feel somewhat confused as — was he telling us his own story? Or Kurts’ story? Was Marlowe’s voice Conrad’s voice? Marlowe narrates the story with his emotions and thoughts, and pulls us as readers into his journey with him.

Irony plays a large role in the novel. There was irony in the language, and even the plot. Kurts, who was supposed to be the hero, the good guy that we (Marlowe and thus us as readers) were so interested to meet turned out to be this ‘villain’, who became a power hungry cannibal. Marlowe, who is very against lies of any kind ends up ‘lying’ to Kurts’ Intended. We as readers know that he told her the truth, but left it obscure enough and misunderstandable. This thus becomes a kind of ‘lie of omission

Heart of Darkness is an obscure title. What or where is the heart of darkness? What does it represent? What does it elude to? Darkness itself is obscure. The whole story is obscure and hidden from the reader. Who is Marlowe exactly? What did he feel or learn from this experience? Who is Kurts? We know that he was a great man- a prodigy, a great high strung writer, a great ivory collector- until he went power crazy. When we finally meet Kurts, he no longer is the man that he used to be. In this sense, we don’t really get to know Kurts when we see him. When Marlowe first started narrating and telling us of his journey toward finding Kurts, we learnt more about Kurts than about Marlowe. When we finally meet Kurts, we start to learn more about Marlowe than about Kurts. Which I think, is a whole new level of irony on its own.

Its actually a really simple story- Guys on a ship, one guy  (Marlowe) starts telling his story.

Marlowe’s story- He goes to Africa to find Kurts, Kurts is already crazy, Kurts dies, Marlowe goes to sees Kurts’ Intended.

A really simple story with great implications and a myriad of minute details. I’ll need to read it again to get a larger picture of the entire story.

“Heart of Darkness”

My words got deleted!!


The whole of “Heart of Darkness” is very “dark” I guess. This is in the sense that it’s unknown territory, and still unknown even at the end of the book. What  the Europeans are doing in Congo is also dark. And I guess the Kurtz turns dark as well. So anyway, this whole book is very unknown. So many things are kept in the dark, even till the end.

It’s interesting how Kurtz, who is supposed to be the main character of Marlow’s story is indeed the opposite of what everyone thought him to be like. It’s less often that a story like this appears. Marlow’s story appears to be telling about a man called Kurtz, yet it seems to be about Marlow himself more than anything. What Marlow went through, what he learnt and experienced and so on. Although Marlow says that this story is not personal, it seems very personal indeed. Even when Kurtz died, Marlow still lived on.

The whole thing is ironic, and the funniest part in a sense is that Kurtz is.. Crazy. He’s not a prodigy that everyone thought him to be, and he’s the opposite. Marlow, the Company, Kurtz’s fiancé, all make a big deal out of Kurtz, who ends up being so different to anything they would have imagined.

Even though the whole journey is over, nothing has changed in Congo, nothing new is known about the Africans, and everything still lies in darkness. The only thing possibly in the light seems to be what Marlow himself experienced.

Personal Response: Heart of Darkness

Personally, the most enigmatic (and interesting) feature in this novel to me was ‘Kurtz’. Initially, both the readers and Marlow have to imagine how Kurtz would be like by other character’s speech. In general the comments about Kurtz were very positive; regarding him as prodigy. But he merely exists as a name before Marlow meets him. This possible gap in other’s comments and the actual Kurtz, and the contrastingly consistent, optimistic comment towards him created ambiguity. Is he a hero or villain, or neither? There are comments about him from those who have met him before, but does it mean that anyone truly knows who he is?

Also, the first person narrative of Marlow limits our scope. We don’t know exactly what was going on Kurtz’s, or other character’s mind, or how exactly Kurtz changed in detail. We have to rely on other people’s comments, and the viewpoint of Marlow, to judge Kurtz, which are all potentially unreliable.

Kurtz still remains mysterious after his encounter with Marlow. Even though Kurtz is right in front of him, Marlow finds it hard to communicate with Kurtz, saying that he ‘had to deal with a being to whom I could not appeal in the name of anything high or low’. (pg 66)

Furthermore, we later learn that Marlow lies in front of Kurtz’s fiancée . In the beginning, Marlow compares lie to death and says that he detests lie more than anything else. However, he ironically tells Kurt’s fiancée that Kurtz pronounced her name the last before he died. Like this, Marlow often corrects or contradicts himself: ‘Otherwise there was only an indefinable, faint expression of his lips, something stealthy-a smile- not a smile- I remember it, but I can’t explain.’ (pg 21) This made me feel that even the Marlow himself (the narrator) is unreliable –therefore the story that he’s telling to the readers seem surreal and hazy.

I felt as if among all the narrative techniques, the ‘frame structure’ is the most ‘clear’ feature in the novel. The story is structured in two visible layers with outer frame of an observer and inner frame of Marlow. However, the anonymity of the ‘observer’ and Marlow’s inconsistency as previously mentioned, still contributed to the vagueness of the novel.


Overall, the text of ‘Heart of Darkness’ was full of obscurity and reminded me of the Theory of Knowledge: what do we know, and how?Even the title itself, heart of darkness, also can be understood differently which can imply Africa, potential greed within us, savageness…etc., but none of us know its true meaning. Usually, people strive to find clarity within the novels such as clear main topic, conclusion, and details about the characters. However, Conrad’s novel seems to go against those practices and make the interpretation hazy. Unlike reading other novels, I couldn’t trust any elements of the ‘Heart of Darkness’. Everything in this novel-the narrator, sentences, characters, and even scenery is vague and blinding.This may enable the readers to interpret and evaluate the novel independently, but still causes confusion- it was hard for me to imagine what the writer is trying to convey, and I wasn’t even sure whether Conrad had a particular ‘topic’ in mind to convey.

What strikes me the most from this novel is that it can be summarized quite simply: Marlow tells his story about travelling along the Congo River, encountering Kurtz and coming back, all on the cruise ship at the River Thames. The plot, when summarized as above, seems so simple and concise. Yet the other features like the uncertainty of the narrator, anonymity of the ‘observer’ at the outer frame story, recurring description of the scenery as being threatening and vague…the whole idea of how we ‘can’t see anything clearly’ betrays this clear plot summary.



Tess has always been one of my most loved books. I’ve read it time and time again, and every time I love it. Tess has helped me to understand that there are many different sides to people. Hardy’s descriptions are vivid and clear, they enable us to have good understanding of the characters as well as the scenery that surrounds the stories. Although the story is in some ways depressing, personally, I blame it all on the way Tess is portrayed. She takes things seriously and is rather dramatic. Tess also annoys me as she is weak and doesn’t stand up for herself. She also throws hissy fits and it’s just a misery. However, I guess she’s just like every other teenage girl.
As I said before though, I do adore this book. Hardy is excellent at showing the dynamics of family relationships and also gives great credit to the beauty of the English countryside. He manages to show the pride of the work people and helps to reiterate to snobby higher classes that ‘peasants’ can be just as proud and they can be intelligent.

Phase the First and Storytelling/Accessibility

I have found that Hardy has written Tess D’Ubervilles in such a way that it looks like a Fairy Tale or a pantomime. The player knows of the conspiracy of Alec has planned. This plot is displayed and littered throughout the phase, from as soon as he is introduced.

We are immediately told that Alec is not a real D’Uberville, that “d’Uberville accordingly was annexed to his own name for himself and his heirs eternally”. This is repeated later “A castle argent is certainly my crest…and my arms a lion rampant”(29). It is reminiscent of how in a fairy tale, designed to be followable and accessible, that Red Riding Hood remarks like “What big eyes you have, grandmother” to display the fraud and the character of the Wolf.

We are also likewise told that “constructing his family tree on the new basis was duly reasonable”, which suggests that there is a desire for legitimacy – the relationship is not initially motivated by love and so Tess is the victim, a heroine drawn unknowingly into danger. It struck me that this happens despite Hardy describing as being the smartest, perhaps the prettiest, and the only literate member of her family. This is most obvious later in Phase One, towards the ends of chapters, where she seems to be the only one that is unaware of Alec’s ominous motives. At the end of chapter 10, she is removed from the company of the drunk people to be with Alec on his carriage. Car remarks then “out of the frying pan and into the fire” (53). Tess escapes the scorn of the crowd, but into Alec’s scheme.

Phase the First

In “Phase the First”, I just thought about the characters a lot. Tess is really an innocent girl. The things she does in the book make me wonder a lot. For example, how the kissing goes on between her and Alec, at the start she doesn’t go along with it, but later on she’s agrees with it if it means she can get him to stop doing something else. There seems to be a change in her thinking, but I don’t think it is very significant yet. It may be that she is just getting used to Alec.

Her conversation with Alec seems to be very black and white. That is how the narrator describes it anyway. The way she talks to Alec in the end of the first phase makes me think of how “stupid” she is. When she gets mad at Alec, she always just gets off the carriage, and she can’t think of anything better to solve the problem with, this is an example of where she is really childish. If I exaggerate it a bit, she thinks that she can get anything she wants by throwing a tantrum. xThe way she talks almost seems as if she is trying to get him to like her, or that she is going along with him. She says whatever she thinks, and we can see that she does not think of the consequences. She lets him get closer to her during the end of this phase, such as in the woods, and she doesn’t seem to be that afraid of him anymore. In this sense, it seems like she’s not necessarily grown up, but gotten used to this way of treatment from Alec, or begun to understand how the society works.

The story made me think about how people grow up in general. Where everyone is innocent at the beginning, but they learn the “darker” or ‘dirtier” side of life as they grow up. It seems to be something that we all have to face, but for Tess, it seems to be very sudden and extreme. She experiences all these things first-handedly. The fact that her family (mother) even just wants her to be wed to a rich man, makes me feel a little disgusted.


Reflection-Tess, Phase the First

One thing that was noticeable in Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Phase the First, is that small, seemingly insignificant event leads to major turning points of the character’s life. The change begins and proceeds as the followings:

-Parson Tringham tells John Durbeyfield about his family

-Joan and John hears about it

-Family horse was killed by Tess’ carelessness

-Joan and John send off Tess to rich D’Urberville family to seek help

-Tess meets Alec, gets a job

-Tess is beaten, and later raped by Alec.

It reminded me of a butterfly effect: a butterfly’s wing can cause hurricane in the other side of the world. Consequently, if Parson Tringham “resolved not to disturb” John with the information about his family, Tess might not have been raped, which will affect her life in the future. This made me think that the increasing significance of events triggered by small incident might continue on in the upcoming chapters, further influencing Tess’ life.

Also, I’ve noticed that Tess was favorable towards Angel even though they never talked or danced together, but hesitant towards Alec who constantly paid attention to her. For Angel, Tess says that other men “did not speak so nicely as the strange young man had done” (10), and looked as if “she was hurt” because Angel didn’t dance with her. However, she reacts to Alec in completely different way: she feels “discomfort” (28) at D’Urbervilles’ house and falters whenever she talks to him. This led me to wonder why her reaction towards two similar strangers is so different. I noticed that the speech of both Angel and Alec are stressed. Tess pays attention to Angel due to his way of speaking. But Alec uses slangs such as ‘grub’, which hints that his family name is bought. If Tess judged them by their ways of speaking, was it because of her innocence (good people sound nice and polite) or some other reasons?

Phase the first (The Maiden)

Tess has proven to be very interesting so far, in not a little draggy and confusing. Reading this has let me see that there are many different sides to people around. There’s vivid description and I’m getting a clearer understanding of Tess as a character. Tess is melodramatic and melancholic and she’s just depressing. She takes things so seriously and takes things way to hard. For example, Prince’s death wasn’t exactly her fault. Even if it were her fault though, she should’ve just moved on instead of dwelling on the fact that she made a mistake. Furthermore, I’m getting a little impatient at her character. She doesn’t stand up for her own rights and just takes things as they come. She’s also very childish in this chapter. She throws her temper at Alec d’Drbervilles, saying that she’ll go back to her mother.

Though her character is mildly irritating, the storyline as a whole is interesting. It’s interesting to see how family relationships are so important. Just by realising that they’re related to the d’Urbervilles, they establish familial connections hoping to get some good out of the relationship. Also, we can see that the Durbyfields have a strange sense of pride- how they refuse to sell the dead horse even though their situation was dire. I admire their pride, but it’s come to a point where pride causes them to make unwise decisions.


Vendler’s Explication is largely subjective. Important parts, such as meaning, the skeleton and tone can vary from person to person. For example, with Thoreau, I may feel he was being more expositional, while his contemporaries would have thought him accusatory. Emotional curves can also be minorly subjective, as we explored, or majorly subjective, like me and the mind-blown by Thoreau. I do however think that objectivity is not something that is characteristic of literature and so this is moreover fine.

I doubt this method’s usefulness or credibility for such reasons, but it seems to be a good way to build a list of the ways in which the poem is constructed.


Helen Vendlers’ analysis of ‘On first looking into Champans Homer’ was extremely useful, like many have said, as she actually used a poem to show how to complete an analysis. Although useful, Vendler does use many different skills, which I did find a bit confusing when trying to look at them as one. However, I overcame this by focusing on one point at a time.
Although good, I don’t think I will solely use Vendlers method when analysising poems, if for no other reason than it’s a hell of a lot to remember, and with a memory like mine, it’ll be impossible 

I did enjoy how she speculated about how the poem could be split into different parts. Some of the splits didn’t really make much sense to me within the poem, but it was useful to look at them all and see how we could look at the poem.

Helen Vendler

Reading Helen Vendler’s guide to analysing “on first looking into Chapman Homer” by John Keats was incredibly helpful as it allowed me to understand the poem as a whole. Something that stood out that i didn’t recognise when first looking into the poem was the structure and how it related to the general theme of the poem; how it was split into 4, 6, 4, or 8, 6 etc. Although like Anita said these separations don’t fit very well for this poem it may be appropriate for other poems and it made me wary that you can consider these factors

Thoughts on Vendler’s analysis

The sheer amount of ways Vendler analyzes Chapman’s Homer by Keats is almost overwhelming. I personally am horrible at analyzing anything, so despite this not being my first time reading Vendler’s analysis it is still quite informative. The most impressive parts of her analysis is separation of the verses. I personally never bothered thinking of ways to split the poem, because I always thought who cares? But after reading the analysis a second time I see how separating the poem’s verses brings out different outlooks on the poem and we see the effects that the poet might be (intentionally or not) be trying to create.

There were parts of the analysis that at first glance were just discombobulating. A perfect example of this would be the emotional curve. I know that part of analyzing a poem is looking at the effects a poem has on your emotion but I thought what does an emotional curve have to do with it? That is until I tried drawing an emotional curve for other poems. After I did it I just found it so much easier to have the visual aid of the emotional curve to remind me exactly what I was writing about at which parts.

Helen Vendler…

I thought Helen Vendler’s analysis was actually quite useful. It was very good since she actually uses one of Keat’s poems, which I can relate to more than an unknown poem. She uses so many different types of analytical skills which is overwhelming, but if I focus on it one by one separately, seem to be very useful.

For someone like me, who is bad at analyzing poems, I think it’s a good start, and a way to get going when I’m stuck. I do think that we cannot solely depend on it though, every poem may not apply to Vendler’s method.

For “Looking Into Chapman’s Homer” specifically, I thought it was especially good how she looked at the poem’s structure from different angles. Like how the poem may be split, 4, 6, 4, or 4, 10 and so on. Although some of these separations may not really be the greatest fit to this poem, it s a good start, and I think it’s important to be open to different ideas.

Vendler; Keats

Reading Helen Vendler’s peom analysis paper opened my eyes to the art of analysing poems. She teaches us a way to analyse the poem step by step, talking about the general atmosphere of the entire poem as well as the minor details. Her essay is like a step by step manual to writing poetry analysis.

That said, I feel that there isnt one single set way to going about poetry analysis and there will be times where we need to come up with alternative analysing techniques. Applying her method may not work on every poem.

I do feel, however, that i have a clearer understanding of Chapman’s Homer through her essay though, so it was immensely useful in that aspect.


Helen Vendler-reflection

Helen Vendler uses Chapman’s Homer by John Keats as an example to demonstrate her strategy for analyzing the poem. The most noticeable part was how she focuses on figuring out the general atmosphere of the poem to figure out what details and features of the poem creates that atmosphere. The examples for this are division into parts, skeleton (emotional curve), agency, roads not taken, and imagination. I usually see the details of the poem first and start writing commentary right away, so  this method of analyzing the poem was new to me.

However I felt that this method may vary depending on what type of poems we choose. Can we really discuss skeleton, for example, in his poem “To my brother George”?  Also, Helen Vendler seems to focus on the ‘atmosphere’ of the poem too much. It is good to grasp the emotion curve of the poem to spot the details, but I think it is not possible to consider the changes made to the original poem. (Imagination: What has it invented that is new, striking, and memorable-in content, genre, in analogies, in rhythm, in a speaker?) Nevertheless, by paying attention to how the poem makes me feel and details that support the  changes in feeling throughout the poem, I’ll be able to spot the features that I didn’t discuss in previous commentaries, like the effect of the rhyme scheme or rhythm on the whole poem.

Helen Vendler – Response

Helen Vendler analyzed “On first looking into Chapman’s Homer” and used it to explain how to analyze poems in general. I agree that her methods are a way to start analyzing poems but I think it’s difficult to generalize all poems to this method because poem has different things to offer. I thought it was interesting how she could divide the poem up in many different ways. (Rhyme, Topics, Meanings, etc…) The climax coincides with when the topic changes to Cortez standing at that peak.The dynamic curve that Vendler talks about can be used to find the rhythm of poems and see if there is similarities but doesn’t apply to every poem.

I also found out that poet’s believe reading another poet’s poetry is like knowing that person. This shows that when poet’s write poetry they put their personality into it. Keat’s compares his discovery of Homer to the discovery of islands and planets.

The change in rhythm of the last 4 lines is because of the discovery. There are 4 main analogies in this poem comparing the discovery of poetry and discovery of other things. Lastly, Vendler tells us to be careful in addressing the persona of the poem and separating it from the author but I find that contradictory to what she says previously about reading another poet’s poetry is like knowing them on a personal level.

Wolfgang Von Goethe

Wolfgang looks at the context of Hamlet’s position as “heir” and makes several points:
He says Hamlet is not heir – instead, the rule is not hereditary and Hamlet is forever barred by his uncle from gaining the throne(153). Wolfgang also says that the effects around Hamlet have made “reflection and sorrowful [to] have become an heavy obligation for him” (154).

These are his most profound statements in his shorty essay. Otherwise he talks about Hamlet’s circumstances.

I agree on both counts. Such an obligation is the subject of the play, such lowness is oft the subject of Hamlet’s speech. In the silliloquy we have studied in act II scene ii, he calls himself both a “rogue and peasant slave” (line 42). Hamlet does withdraw from the pleasures of a prince – he feigns madness and ultimately ruins his love relationship with Ophelia in his quest to outsmart and kill his uncle.

Inconsistency in Hamlet’s Characters

The part of the essays I found interesting was when the inconstancy of characters in Hamlet is discussed.  Particularly with Hamlet we see this.  Hamlet devolves into a kind of fake madness but we can never truly know what is true and what is acting.  Even within a single scene Hamlet acts from a variety of perspectives.  Today in class we went over the scene with Hamlet, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern and the players.  In this scene each of Hamlet’s lines can be seen as inconsistent.  Close attention must be payed if the audience is to know whether Hamlet is being genuine with the others or not.  At moments he is angry, at others humiliating.

Another character that is mentioned in the essays is Polonious.  Polonius is made out to be a fool but he gives great advice at times.  The author of this particular essay tries to isolate his foolishness to his job as courtier and his good advice to his being a father to Laertes but I think it is not so clear cut.  In the essay it is said that the characters of Hamlet (especially Hamlet) are almost impossible to act out.  I would have to agree with that.  A lot of studying of the lines would have to be done to act as Hamlet.  Even then there are parts in the play where Hamlet can be interpreted in different ways.

Samuel Johnson-The praise of variety Essay Review

The essay, “The praise of variety” by Samuel Johnson speaks about the effects of the events that took place in “Hamlet” on the play as a whole. It talks about the characters and how their age and reactions produces the effect intended.

Samuel Johnson speaks about Hamlets madness as a “feigned madness” which was useless and a wanton of cruelty as he disrespects much of the characters, especially his mother, Ophelia.

Samuel Johnson also thinks that Hamlets death was not very “happily produced” as the exchange of weapons is rather an expedient of necessity, than a stroke of art.

Hamlet In A Changing World

Hamlet In A Changing World by Arnold Kettle writes about how Hamlet changes his view of the world after his father’s death. It talks about how Hamlet changes from acting like a prince to a human.

Although I do not agree with everything that Kettle says, this essay did make me realize and think about some more things. We have also talked about this in class, but it is Denmark that is rotten, and not Hamlet or any specific person individually. The whole society is rotten and so are all these people. That may be the reason why people do not notice Polonius as such a “useless fool”. There is nothing on such a big scale that Hamlet himself can do to change the corruptness of the country, he can only focus on revenge. Kettle mentions that Hamlet does not only try to test out Claudius’s reaction towards the play, but also all the rest of the people’s mora levels. I think it is quite possible as something Hamlet or Horatio could notice, which may emphasize how corrupt the whole society is even more.

Kettle writes; “is it wrong to play the Lord Chamberlain simple as a clown”. He mentions that Polonius is responsible in what he does, just that he is a “fishmonger” in moral sense. This is quite interesting, as I guess it is true that depending on the perspective that you look at these characters, their traits can seem both negative and positive.

In the end of the play, Hamlet dies, and everything that belonged to him goes down with him. Kettle says that it is more important that Hamlet had “great human triumph”. It’s not that sad when you think about it like this I guess. Plus, Hamlet’s main motive, revenge had succeeded.

G.Wilson Knight- The Embassy of Death: An Essay on Hamlet

G.Wilson Knight’s essay allowed me to view  Hamlet in different perspective: that there’s a predominating idea of death within the play. In class we’ve talked about how, referring to Hamlet’s quote, a small fault can contaminate the virtues around it. This essay suggests that what overwhelmed Hamlet, and what made others to be threatened by presence of him is him being ‘inhumane’. The essay says that Hamlet’s presence reminds others of their faults: he reminds Claudius of murder, Queen of her faithlessness, Ophelia of her untrustworthiness…etc. Through Hamlet and his mad acts, other characters see their faults and impending death.

Other fact that interested me was how G. Wilson Knight viewed Claudius as someone virtuous and humane excluding his murder. People tend to stereotype protagonists as flawless and potent being, and antagonists as evil and inhumane being. However, Hamlet shows us that the protagonist can be someone who has no passion, cut off all his feelings and only focused on revenge until it was achieved and he killed himself. Also, antagonist can be like Claudius who seems to be an efficient ruler and caring uncle who even shows his guilt towards the murder committed. I was initially inclined to Hamlet as he’s a protagonist who lost his father by uncle. But, even though his pointing out faults of other characters are true, I came to recognise the positive aspects of other characters and how Hamlet was the one who caused disorder in the country which might have been stable otherwise.

The Character of Hamlet (Willaim Richardson) + Criticism on the character and tragedy of Hamlet (Henry Macenzie)

I thought that these two essays work very well together to tell me more about the character of Hamlet. Even though I always admired Hamlet’s wit, I actually never got why everyone thought that Hamlet was some kind of knight in shining armor. And reading through the articles, I realise why I felt that way. Hamlet was too depressed, in a state of melancholy. Who likes a moody prince? Shakespeare creates Hamlet as a character likable enough, but not the sort of person readers would fall head over heals for.

William Richardson said that Hamlet was moved by finer principles, by an exquisite sense of virtue, of moral beauty and turpitude. This is one of the reasons why Hamlet is so likable- his clear sense of right and wrong. He knows that he has to avenge his father. Even though he feels reluctant at having to be the ‘hero’, he knows he has to do it and completes his mission in the end. In Henry Macenzie’s essay, there was a sentence that really summarises the character of Hamlet: He was ‘endowed with feelings so delicate as to border on weakness, with sensibility too exquisite to allow of determined action.’ I think this really summarises Hamlet’s character perfectly. We perceive gentleness in his demeanour, wit in his conversation, taste in his amusement, and wisdom in his reflections. Hamlet perceived himself as being in hell, seeking death. However, his wisdom indicates that he can actually move past the stage of ‘hell’ and into the state of ‘enlightenment’ or ‘enlightened innocence’. However, his melancholy does not allow him to leave ‘hell’. That is a pity.

Also, today, I realised that The Lion King came from Hamlet. I found the plot of The Lion King and compared it to Hamlet, and the similarities are amazing. Wow. This really illustrates Shakespeare’s influence on modern entertainment. How come I enjoyed Lion King so much more than Hamlet? Maybe it’s because I viewed Simba’s melancholy as ‘sad’ and felt sad on his behalf, but Hamlet’s melancholy as a sign of weakness. But then again, The Lion King is a cartoon and Hamlet is a play.

Hamlet – G. Wilson Knight Essay

From this essay, the author says the theme of death runs dominantly throughout the play and Hamlet represents Death. Everything that surrounds him is clouded by death. I found this interesting because I thought he was the one who was trying to take revenge for the murderous actions of his uncle. Then, I realized that he plans to seek revenge by killing Claudius. Hamlet also manages to kill Polonius without any regret and without much thought. Hamlet is described as inhuman because of his lack of emotions when he kills Polonius and Claudius and the way he treats Ophelia and also because of his gloom. I disagreed with this because the play only shows us how Hamlet reacts after a series of stressful events cause him to be emotionally unstable. It is because he is human and feels these emotions that cause him to act this way.

This essay also talks about how Claudius is actually the good one and he is a logical and fit king. From my first impression after reading the play, I found it difficult to understand. However, from an outsider’s point of view and if we never heard Hamlet’s personal thoughts, Claudius is actually a fit king because he solves all of the problems efficiently and invites visitors to celebrate with him which shows that he is willing to extend friendship to other people which will make him popular with the people he rules and leaders of other countries.

This essay gives readers of the play a new perspective on how to view and analyze the actions of Claudius and Hamlet because it is very easy to sympathize with Hamlet due to the way he is portrayed as the protagonist.

Hamlet – AC Bradley

After reading Hamlet, the general plot of the play is understood tentatively but I still didn’t understand certain decisions that Hamlet made. The movie portrayed Hamlet as crazy and it was more difficult to tell whether or not he was actually insane or acting insane to make sure that people are unaware of his plans of revenge. However from reading the play, I thought his soliloquy’s and the implied intentions behind his words when he talks to other people. For example Polonius. A play is meant to be acted out and not read so it may be more accurate to view him from what the movie has shown me. From the speeches that Hamlet says, Shakespeare makes the audience second guess whether or not Hamlet is aware of the consequences of his actions or he’s acting out of blind revenge.

The essay by AC Bradley describes that Hamlet suffers from melancholy, not due to his father’s death but because of his mother’s quick remarriage. He also described Hamlet as not as stable as he seems which is why he makes certain bad decisions. Some of those bad decisions could have stemmed from the fact that he is “self-destructive” and since he has thought about committing suicide before, it makes no difference for him whether or not he actually dies or is harmed in the process of seeking revenge.

Post-Hamlet Reflection

-Personally, I placed Claudius as a friendly character to be a well-meaning person. I feel it is possible to do this consistently. The play is largely written in a way which gets us on Hamlet’s side (we see only that which is relevant to him as he is the subject matter of the Title, the questions of the play are centered around him and he is the subject of the tragedy, etc.) However, I feel it is also a part of the play (to what extent we can describe this openness in assessment I wonder) that we are able to talk about the polyseme ways that the play can be read. I think that there are two main ways to read the play : That Hamlet is mad (I mean insane, to clear up ambiguity) and so everything is mad, or that Hamlet mad and so the best way to represent this is to have normality surrounding his manifested inner torment.
So, back to my point, I don’t think that there is much about Claudius that cannot be read in some way that represents him as well meaning at that time. Claudius can be read as slow to action – his crown is from the one act of regicide, as shown in his “repentance”, which itself (“my words fly up but my thoughts remain below”(Act 3, scene 3, line97-98)) can be read that he is purposely not truly repentant or merely inwardly tormented by his inability to act with the appropriate religious fervor to repent. His decision to send Hamlet away can be seen as an appropriate response to a mad “son” that had hopes to kill him. His subsequent actions – sending Hamlet to England and telling Laertes taht he could kill Hamlet, on hearing of his return – can be seen as inaction. He leaves the task of killing Hamlet to others. Inaction is not something which is attributed to great leaders, so it can be said that Claudius is a poor leader, if that were not already evident.

Hamlet Act 3

In my opinion Act 3 was relatively action packed, as Polonius was killed and Hamlet told the players to act out his father’s death to see Claudius’s reaction.

It was interesting to see how Claudius would react to the play, and after seeing his reaction I thought it was quite obvious he had something to do with the death. HOWEVER when watching the play his facial emotions could be mistaken by one of disgrace and that he may have been just disgraced that hamlet would think that of him. In my opinion the imitations of the kings death by the players was one of the most important parts of the play, as it informed Claudius why Hamlet was acting as he was. Whereas before he thought he was just dwelling on his fathers death.


After watching the film and reading “What Actually Happens in the Play” by A.C. Bradley, I developed a greater interest in Hamlet.. And, shocker, i actually realized i kind of enjoyed Hamlet a little bit!
Saying that, I feel that I didn’t really like just reading Hamlet as I couldn’t visualize it.. The film brought it to life for me and helped me to understand and see the little quirks within the play that I’d found hard to see while reading it.. Like the sarcasm for example. Watching the film also brought a few questions to mind.. for example; how do we know the play was written with the intention of parts being portrayed sarcastically? I know Mr. MacKnight said there are subtle clues.. But how do we know that it would have been portrayed as sarcasm when it was first acted?

Reading “What Actually Happens in the Play” by A.C. Bradley was a major help in extending my understanding of the play. Much like Anita, I thought this essay was more interesting than the actual play its self. It helped me to look at the play from different angles and to see the play as more than a tragedy.

Like quite a few of the class have said.. it was a shocker to me that Hamlet died! I mean, I can’t have been the only one thinking/hoping it would all end up hunky-dory for him can I?! I understand that the play is considered a tragedy, but I really thought the ending would have been different!

Overall, although I didn’t particularly enjoy reading the play, reading the essay relating to Hamlet and watching the play were my favourite parts.. I’m not much of a fan of the ‘classic’ plays, or plays in general. However I can understand why Shakespeare’s’ Hamlet is considered to be great.. I guess it just goes on personal taste.

Hamlet Finished

I thought about a lot from reading “What Actually Happens in the Play” by A.C. Bradley. There were many things that I didn’t notice when reading Hamlet, that I noticed after reading Bradley’s essay. In a way, it was more interesting to read this essay than to read the actual Hamlet. I never thought about melancholy as a theme or a big part of Hamlet. I always referred to it as a tragedy and so never thought about it more than that.

One thing that keeps making me wonder is about the character of Hamlet himself. During the first part of the poem, I thought of Hamlet as a respectable character and thought of him quiet highly. All of this changed after he killed Polonius though, where my image of him was shattered. I always imagine books to have a hero in it, who always ends up well. However Hamlet was different. Although Hamlet does change his thinking a bit by the end of the play, he still does not seem as a hero.

Another thing that catches my attention is how the characters seem to always die so suddenly. Polonius’s death was just sudden, and Hamlet doesn’t even seem to care about it afterwards, he does not seem too surprised.


I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to post on the play or the play AND th eessay, but the assignment said post on the play so I’m posting only on the play.

Studying hamlet instead of merely reading it has given me a new outlook on the play. I see details that help develop the story, along with witty remarks that flew over my head when I first read the play. One of the main things I realized about he pay was the idea of revenge. It seems that Shakespeare set up the play so that all the young men in the play had avenge their fathers; Hamlet, Fortinbras, Laertes, with Hamlet and Laertes dying in the end. King Claudius commented to Hamlet that everyone lost their father, and that it was a natural process to go against this fact was the same as going against God. This made me wonder if all the young men in the play saw vengeance for the death of their father as more important than their own lives, and if in Shakespearean times filial duty took precedence over everything including religion.

Watching the play was a completely different outlook on the play. Reading the play left a lot of the details to your imagination, whereas watching the play I saw a lot of the details that I previously missed. The facial expressions of the characters, the tone of voice that indicate sarcasm and emotions, and body language. All these details are hard to pick up by merely reading the book, but is easier to observe these actions from the actors in the play.