Things Fall Apart PR

I had mixed feelings about “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe. There were things I did and did not like about the book.

One thing I really liked was how Okonkwo reminded me of characters in Greek tragedies. He is neither completely good nor bad, but is flawed enough to be granted our sympathy. Also, I liked how many characters were not two-dimensional, but were complex and well-written. For instance, when Okonkwo kills the 16-year-old son of Ezeudu, “Obierika and half a dozen other friends came to console him” (pg. 124). Okonkwo typically demonstrates what today we call “toxic masculinity”. He is often devoid of emotions that he deems to demonstrate weakness, such as empathy. However, Achebe crafts a more emotional and tragic version of his protagonist. This was one of my favorite aspects of the novel, being Achebe’s masterful and unique approach to characterization.

However, one thing that inhibited me from enjoying the novel to the fullest extent that I could was the fact that “Things Fall Apart” is very different culturally. For instance, the names of places and characters, as well as Achebe’s use of a traditional Ido narratiuve technique, resulted in a greater difficulty regarding comprehension and in-depth understanding of the novel. However, I want to reiterate that this “drawback” is not the fault of Achebe, but rather my own lack of cultural background knowledge.

PR to Slaughterhouse-5

Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughter House-Five”, is by far the most unconventional text we have read during this course. Vonnegut’s unconventional methods and authorial choices, such as his use of dark humour, graphic descriptions of human anatomy, and most notably, his irregular approach to telling a story, in this case, the story of Billy Pilgrim. Vonnegut uses a nonlinear narrative in order to communicate the events of Billy’s life. Vonnegut accomplishes this effect by manipulating both the nature and passing of time in his novel, and proposing a new perspective on time and space, through which the protagonist, Billy, takes an odyssey through. Vonnegut’s non-conforming narrative technique offers us an intimate glance into the character of Billy Pilgrim, and allows us to question the concept of “free will”. Similarly, though through the use of different narrative techniques, Alice walker utilizes an epistolary form in order to present her own artistic creation, who we know as the character Celie in her epistolary novel, “The Colour Purple”. Through the use of an epistolary form, Walker brings the reader and guides them through Celie’s own odyssey through time, and presents a tone towards free will which is in stark contrast to that of Vonnegut’s.

Vonnegut addresses the concept of free will in a more critical light, as can be seen on page 86 of “Slaughter House-5”, “Only on earth is there talk of free will”(p. 86). This of course refers to a conversation between protagonist Billy Pilgrim and one of the time-fluid beings from Tralfamadore, whose inhabitants are known simply as Tralfamadorians. According to the Tralfamadorian perspective, the passage of time occurs in four dimensions, and all moments that will and have happened occur simultaneously. As a result, Tralfamadorians are able to move freely throughout time, as what will happen in the “future” has already been determined. Therefore, the Tralfamadorians argue that “free will” is a foolish concept, as one cannot change what is already bound to happen. By doing so, Vonnegut argues that free will is but a concept, with no real value within the world. However, Alice Walker suggests another perspective on the concept of free will. Her character, Celie, over the course of a twenty-year period, grows and morphs into a courageous and independent woman. However, this is not on behalf of extraterrestrial intervention, but instead the unbroken spirit and resilience displayed by Celie allows herself to create a state of mind that allows her to grow and change into a person she is proud of. By doing so, Walker demonstrates her own tone and perspective on free will, framing it as something that is not only real and profound, but something that can be utilized by the beholder in order to strengthen and better themselves.

To close, I must say that I enjoyed reading the novel “Slaughterhouse-5” by Kurt Vonnegut, even though at times the non-linear narrative technique and irregular passage of time made the book difficult to follow at times. However, the novel still had a profound impact on me as the reader. Vonnegut’s presentation of the absolute absurdity of life, time, and conflict has granted me perspective and insight into how I can approach the finite and passing nature of time. Just as Billy Pilgrim is unstuck in time, forever witnessing each moment of his life, I will attempt to approach time similarly, not in a literal sense of course. By reflecting on my choices and their implications, I will gain insight into my effect on others, and thus how I am perceived and remembered, as how others remember you is the determining factors in your legacy of time spent on earth.

PR to “The Color Purple”

It is safe to say that during my reading of the first few of Celie’s letters in Alice Walker’s novel, The Color Purple, I considered reading the novel a chore. I regarded the plot and characters to be completely relatable to my own experiences. However, soon after, I realized that I did not need to possess shared experiences with Celie or any other character in order to appreciate and enjoy Alice Walker’s masterful storytelling and composition techniques. One such composition technique is Alice Walker’s deliberate authorial choice to write her an epistolary novel, in other words, to write The Color Purple through a series of personal letters, which are addressed both to other characters and to God. This authorial choice creates a more intimate mood throughout the novel, as it allows us to see into the inner workings of many of the close interpersonal relationships in the novel, most notably between sisters Celie and Nettie. Moreover, the novel delves into themes of resilience and perseverance in the face of extreme and prolonged adversity.

One such example of resilience and optimism in the face of a formidable adversary can be found on page 132, in a letter written by Nettie and addressed to Celie, “But on the other hand, if you can believe I am in Africa, which I am, you can believe anything.”(pg. 132). One of the first letters written by Nettie and read by Celie and Shug convey a sense of optimism and resilience that is both uplifting and engaging for the reader. Moreover, not only does Alice Walker masterfully utilize diction and register in this quotation, but also uses the structural form of her novel to invoke such a powerful yet personal response. The epistolary nature of the novel allows a more intimate and personal perspective of each of the characters. This grants us perspective into the psyches of Nettie and Celie. In the above quotation, Nettie demonstrates optimism that she and Celie will reunite after her time in Africa as a missionary is finished. It is important to note that Celie and Nettie have been forcefully separated for more than a decade at this point of the novel, with this letter being one of the first Celie has read from Nettie during that period of time. Therefore, the intimate nature of a personal letter, despite years of no communication, Nettie’s optimism in her future and her reunification with her sister Celie, has revealed that she has held onto hope that she and Celie will be together again. This is why Alice Walker’s compositional choice of using an epistolary format is so effective in evoking this sense of resilience.

As I have mentioned, Alice Walker’s deliberate authorial and compositional choice to use an epistolary format in her writing of The Color Purple has a profound and lasting literary effect on the reader, especially regarding the themes of optimism and resilience demonstrated by Walker’s characters. However, this authorial choice also left a profound mark on me as a reader, especially with regard to the tone and attitude that Nettie employs while living life as a missionary in Africa. The resilience and optimism displayed by Nettie provokes questions regarding the influences of happiness and fulfillment, as well as what it means to be fulfilled.


Orwell PR

The collection of Orwell’s essays remain my favorite text we have studied this year. Orwell’s level of self-awareness and knowledge, coupled with his unwavering honesty, create a tone that exemplifies his distain for injustice. His works are exemplars that all writers wish to emulate. His awareness and honesty are to be admired, and his writing is to be envied. These traits create a model of writing that I strive to follow. The traits that make Orwell the writer he is manifest themselves as awareness and reflection of his shortcomings, in both life and writing. An example of his brutal honesty can be found on page 3 of Marrakech, 

“What does Morocco mean to a Frenchman? An orange-grove or a job in government service. Or to an Englishman? Camels, castles, palm-trees, Foreign Legionnaires, brass trays and bandits. One could probably live here for years without noticing that for nine-tenths of the people the reality of life is an endless, back-breaking struggle to wring a little food out of an eroded soil.”(pg. 3).

Orwell discusses the sufferings of Moroccans from the perspective of their colonial rulers. The indifference to the suffering of those who govern them exemplifies the injustice faced by Moroccan citizens. Orwell addresses this perspective, as it stems from ignorance from imperialist countries. He recognizes his inhabiting of Morocco makes him an accessory to this injustice. His honesty with both himself and the reader is admirable. This self-awareness allows for Orwell to create a tone of distain for the injustice he witnesses. By doing so, Orwell forms a model of honesty which all writers strive to emulate. By attempting to mimic Orwell’s honesty with himself and the reader, I enable myself to reinvent my writing, thus making it profoundly impactful, for myself and the reader.

An additional example of Orwell’s self-awareness can be found on page 374 of Politics and the English Language,

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

The essay concludes with a brief list, which compiles the knowledge required to be an efficient and effective writer. His self-awareness is exhibited in the sixth and final rule, in which he instructs the reader to break his own rules in order to ensure clarity and simplicity in their writing. Orwell addresses his own deviations regarding clarity and simplicity. By further acknowledging his shortcomings in his field, his advice becomes profoundly impactful.

Orwell’s self-awareness and honesty, both in the content and structure of his writing, is to be desired and strived for. Further, Orwell has provided a model that enables both simplicity and clarity in writing. Moreover, Orwell has demonstrated profound, provoking, and simply put commentary on important and complex topics. These traits form the foundation of clear and sincere writing. In the future, in both academic and personal settings, I will strive to achieve accessible and effective communication with those around me, by emulating Orwell’s model of an excellent writer.

“The Awakening” PR

Despite the plot progression remaining at a snail’s pace for most of the novel, I thoroughly enjoyed Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. Our protagonist, Edna, embarks on a journey of self- actualization that speaks volumes not only to the human condition and the liberation of women, but also to a deeply personal theme of discovery and realization. This awakening, as the book is so-cleverly named, mirrors my own feelings with regard to finding purpose, motivation, and direction. However, experiencing Edna’s courage and story invokes an unshakable empathy in me.

Each person reading this will struggle to find a calling in life. Something in their life that provides them joy and allows them to faithfully follow the direction in which they pursue and cherish this extasy-inducing stimuli. In her painting, Edna has found a direction and motivation like nothing she has felt before,

“There were days when she was happy to be alive and breathing, when her whole being seemed to be one with the sunlight, the colors, the odors, the luxuriant warmth of some perfect Southern day…There were days when she was unhappy, she did not know why,-when it did not seem worth while to be glad or sorry, to be alive or dead.”(pg. 68).

The passage above perfectly summarizes the struggle each person faces when searching for meaning in life. The duality of optimism and helplessness highlights the internal struggle Edna faces. My empathy for Edna, as well as my experiences, stems from this passage and others like it. An innate struggle of my experience has been to find direction and a means to faithlessly pursue it. I feel deeply for Edna as a result. Particularly, I have felt unsure about my own future, and what I can accomplish. It is as though I cast a shadow of doubt over each and every decision I make when trying to decipher life’s plan for me. I have at times felt directionless; simply drifting along until I find a calling or purpose to latch on to, lacking any motivation to follow a path that has been set for me. I was constantly left in a state of wonder and awe, as I passively watched as life carried me along a well-beaten path. This is precisely why I have a deep and unwavering sense of empathy for Edna. An additional reason for my connection to Edna lies in the following passage,

“Without even waiting for an answer from her husband for his opinions or wishes in that manner, Edna hastened her preparations for quitting her home on Esplanade Street, and moving into the little house around the block. A feverish anxiety attended her every action in interval of repose in that direction between the thoughts and its fulfillment.”(pg. 99).

Despite her beautiful home, Edna must leave and become fully independent. Her decision is to be admired for its undeniable courage. Edna left a comfortable, safe, and pre-determined life, for the purpose of self-actualization. Her recognition of obstacles inhibiting her progress demonstrates strong will power, and a true desire to change. Moreover, it exhibits Edna’s absolute commitment to the promise she made to herself. An essential component of the human condition is the act of leaving behind what holds you back, no matter the hurt it inflicts. Edna’s story made me recognize my own obstacles and shortcomings stemming from them. This encouraged and enabled me to take risks I normally wouldn’t consider. I now realize this is essential in transforming into my own person, and embracing what makes me unique. However, I still look back with a melancholic nostalgia for a more simple time, when life was laid out for me, as I’m sure many do. Despite this longing for the past, I will no longer allow it to seep into my psyche, and will persevere floating through life’s current; lying in wait for my own awakening.

Pygmalion PR

Throughout the entire duration of this course, no text makes me reflect the way Pygmalion has. The text invokes timeless themes, many of which I can easily identify with. These themes include “Middle class morality”, the mistreatment and objectification of women in society, and the self-supposed superiority that some hold over others. Pygmalion forced me to reflect not only on what I read, but also how I conduct myself. This text has provided an alternative perspective into subconscious and systematic biases in my own psyche. With brutal honesty, Pygmalion casts a light on the part of ourselves we choose not to realize, and forces us to confront our flawed thinking. Never has a text allowed me to feel this seen, and permitted me to address and reflect upon my own flaws.

From birth, the idea that it is wrong to judge others based off our first impressions of them, especially with regard to another’s appearance. However, the vast majority of individuals, myself included, victimize others with our premade notions and assumptions of their character, within seconds of seeing, interacting with, or even simply hearing another person. Pygmalion presents this bias in the third person, allowing for us to recognize and address a prejudice which we all possess,

“There’s menners f’yer. Tee-oo branches o voylets trod in the mad…She is not at all an attractive person. She is eighteen, perhaps twenty, hardly older…Her hair needs washing rather badly: its mousy coloring can hardly be natural…Her features are no worse than theirs; but their condition leaves something to be desired.”(pg. 2).

Mrs. Eynsyard-Hill and her daughter, Clara, are almost a comedic allegory for this bias. Two well-too-do women cast their judgment upon an unsuspecting girl, based upon nothing more than her looks and her spoken word. Through this third person perspective, this systematic error of thinking that each and everyone of us possesses is brought to light and mocked. We are able to see the damage that prejudices can do within seconds of interacting with someone. Further, our greatest collective fear with regards to this bias are demonstrated in the pair’s attitudes towards the girl, whose name is Eliza. This fear is that we are able to recognize that those who we unjustly judge are no different from ourselves, yet our biased judgements persist. This passage remains a pristine example of the unjust judgements that we burden others with. This forced me to honestly evaluate my demeanor upon making a first impression, and made me promise to myself to no longer allow flawed and discriminatory thinking plague my mind.

These judgments, when widely held within a society, can pass irreparable and lasting damage to those who fall victim to them. Over time, this causes innocent individuals to view themselves as “lesser than”, and forces them to live and hold themselves to the standards of those who judge them. this so-called, “middle-class morality”, is a recurring theme throughout the text, and is best demonstrated in the following passage,

“Have you no morals man?”

“Can’t afford them, governor. Neither could you if you were as poor as me. Not that I mean any harm, you know. But if Liza is going to have a but of this, why not me too?”(pg. 27).

Alfred Doolittle is the personified victimhood experienced by those who have unjust judgement cast upon them. He feels as though he has no clear place inn a society that makes it clear he is unwanted. The society in which he lives discriminates against him for his profession, speech, behavior, demeanor, and appearance. This single passage is the most profound and personally striking piece of text I have read during the duration of this entire course. The presentation of the implications of my own systematic errors in thinking have shown me a final perspective into the lives of those who are the most affected by society’s prejudice. This character made me look the consequences of my biases in the face, and most vitally, address them in an honest manner.


A Doll’s House PR

A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen is my favorite text we have read during the duration of this course. Despite its age, it remains relevant through its depiction of relations between men and women. Further, the roles of men and women in a marriage and society are explored throughout.

An example of the exploration of roles of men and women in a marriage can be found in the third act, on page 182,

“We have been married for eight years now. Doesn’t it occur to you that this is the first time, the two of us, you and I, man and wife, are talking seriously together?…He called me his doll-child, and he played with me, just as I played with my dolls.”(pg. 182)

Nora expresses her disgust towards her eight-year marriage because she realizes that her and her partner have never understood each other. This evokes a sense of newfound relief in Nora. She reflects on her life, which has been filled with mistreatment and objectification at the hands of men who were meant to love and protect her. The men in her life treated her as a “doll”. They did not respect her opinions, disregarded her feelings, and used her to fulfil their needs before her own. As a result, she feels used by those she trusted and loved. As a result, Nora realizes her need for independence of a life that was crafted for her,

“You’re crazed! You are not permitted! I forbid you!”

“It’ll be no use forbidding me anything from now on. I’ll take with me what belongs with me what belongs to me. From you I want nothing, either now or later”

Nora acknowledges that throughout her life, she possessed little control over each detail of her own life. As a result of this acknowledgment, Nora realizes to free herself from the dependent and fated life she lives is to abandon those who orchestrated it. Through rejection of her husband’s forbiddings, condemnations, and eventual pleas to provide her with aid, she shatters the barriers created by her father and husband that were designed to keep her dependent and complacent. Nora’s newfound independence and parting with all she has known is essential to her coming self-actualization. Her enthusiastic embrace of the unknown is the driving force in the escape from the oppressive life she has lead.

I have a great admiration for Nora. She recognized that those who were supposed to love her and risk life and limb to protect her planted barriers that inhibit her freedoms and will. I admire her for her courage to free herself from a conventional and safe, for the bold, free life which she comes to desire. In this day and age, the world needs more people who are willing to risk everything in order to access the freedoms they have been denied. Any action can be the first domino in one’s path to self-actualization. Personally, I cannot relate to Nora’s struggles, however, I hold a deep admiration and respect for the choice she made. In my own life, I can not only assist those who are stuck in unwilling, restrictive situations, but also apply the courage of Nora in my own life. By doing so, I can address the factors and situations that hold me back as a person, and confront the barriers that inhibit my own self-actualization.

The Merchant of Venice PR

The Merchant of Venice is a tragedy by William Shakespeare between 1596 and 1598. The play evokes the question, will love or money prevail? And, what do we value more? The play presents the triumph of money. Through the use of both diction and imagery, the reader finds an argument for money. By doing so, the play allows us to question our own personal values. By doing so, the reader is able to identify personal biases, and even loyalties, to either love or money.

An example of the argument for wealth’s superiority can be found in Act 1, Scene 1. During this scene, Antonio discusses his sorrows with Salarino and Solanio. He outlines his sadness, and his companions offer explanations for his depression, the cause of which is seemingly unknowable,

“In sooth I know not why I am so sad.
It wearies me, you say it wearies you.
But how I caught it, found it, or came by it,…”(ll. 1-3)

“…Your mind is tossing on the ocean,
There where your argosies with portly sail”(ll. 8-9)

“…Why then, you are in love”(l. 46)

Antonio’s companions offer little sympathy. Instead, they immediately jump to conclusions firstly concerning Antonio’s business affairs. After which they guess that his heart is aching. It is important to note that the matters of finances are addressed before the matters of the heart. This suggests that not only do Antonio’s companions prefer wealth over love. Further, being close friends of Antonio, Salarino and Solanio know him well, and thus base their guesses on the cause of his sorrows on what they know about Antonio. Another example of wealth prevailing over love can be found in Act 1, Scene 2. In which Bassanio describes his plan to rid himself of debts by marrying Portia. Portia is a wealthy young woman,

“In Belmont is a lady richly left,

And she is fair, and-fairer than that word

Of wondrous virtues.”(ll. 161-163)

Bassanio has planned to get out of debt by marrying a wealthy woman for her money. In a similar manner to the previous quotation, the financial benefits of marrying Portia are discussed before the content of her character or her physical appearance. This suggests that Bassanio has ill intentions. He sees Portia only as a means to an end, not as a human being. This exemplifies how wealth skews the perceptions of beauty and character. Further, Bassanio’s vision has been clouded by the possibility of wealth, and it has allowed him to dehumanize a woman he plans to marry. This further reiterates the theme of wealth prevailing over love. An additional example of wealth’s gains over love can be found in Act 2, Scene 6,

“I will make fast the doors, and gild myself

With some moe ducats, and be with you straight”(ll. 50-51)

The context of this scene is Jessica escapes with Lorenzo, but no before ransacking her home of ducats, jewelry, and other valuables. The scene occurs during the night. Further, Lorenzo has entered the ghetto, and has donned a mask as to not reveal his identity. Yet again, wealth has been prioritized over love. However, in this scene, Jessica ensures the safety and transport of her stolen goods before boarding the boat alongside her husband-to-be. Jessica quite literally places wealth before her relationship. She risks getting caught, and thus risks her marriage, for money. This highlights the carelessness of those who value money over all else. Further, the scene occurring at night compliments this theme. The night, and thus darkness, hides the shame felt by both parties. Further, the mask worn by Lorenzo and Jessica dressing as a boy both act as an additional cover from shame. In order to face the act of placing wealth above each other, the pair is forced to spend their first moments together in disguise.


“The Merchant of Venice” PR

Despite the numerous deviations from the book in the film adaptation of The Merchant of Venice, I was still able to appreciate both works. However, I enjoyed the film more. I enjoyed the film more because the visual elements enhanced the emotional intensity of the plot. The plot was far more emotional in the film because of the focus of Antonio’s melancholy and the portrayal of Shylock.

The loneliness of Antonio is touched upon in act 1, scene 1 of the play, “In sooth I know not why I am so sad./I wearies me, you say it wearies you;/But how I caught it, found it, or came by it;”(ll. 1-3). Antonio speaks this line to Salarino and Solanio, two of his close friends. Antonio outlines his loneliness, as well as his confusion as to why he feels the way he does. However, instead of demonstrating empathy for his dear friend, Solanio proposes a reason for Antonio’s depression in act 1, scene 1, “Then let us say you are sad/Because you are not merry;”(ll. 47-48).  The film matches this exchange word-for-word. However, the immense sadness weighing on Antonio stems from his loneliness. The film depicts this loneliness in a unique manner. The film depicts the alleged affair of Bassanio and Antonio. One such example of this is the conversation between Antonio and Bassanio in act 1, scene 1 of the play, “That today you promis’d tell me/’Tis not unknown to you, Antonio,/How much I have disabled mine estate”(ll. 121-123). In the written text, this exchange takes place on a street, whereas in the film, it takes place in Antonio’s bedroom. An intimate manner, which is finances, is discussed in the most intimate of conditions. Further, in the film adaptation, at the end of this exchange, the two share a kiss. This further exhibits the loneliness felt by Antonio, as he loves Bassanio, but he lives with the knowledge that his feelings will never be formally reciprocated due to social repercussions of their relationship. Moreover, when Portia and Bassanio are married, and devote themselves to each other at the end of the play, the play ends. However, the film adaptation has Antonio recites the the first lines of the play for a second time. Antonio says for the second time, “In sooth I know not why I am so sad”(l. 1). This statement exhibits Antonio’s longing melancholy. The lack of empathy from those close to him may have catalyzed Antonio’s deep sadness. His inability to turn to those he loves in times of need as  result of his condition render him in a deep sadness. Further, the stress and threat of alienation as a result of his feelings towards his de facto adopted son, Bassanio. Furthermore, this line is Antonio’s last in the film, signifying his lasting, weighing sadness.

The portrayal of Shylock was another contributing factor as to why I enjoyed the film more than the written play. In the written play, we are not given the context of the feud of Antonio and Shylock, but the film provides this. The opening sequence of the film depicts the financial district of Venice at the time. During this sequence, Antonio spits in Skylock’s face, as other Christians throw Jews off of a bridge. This additional sequence provides the context of both Shylock’s seething resentment, as well as the historical antisemitic. Further, this context also adds to the emotional weighting of Shylock’s speech in act 3, scene 1, which includes the lines, “…Cooled/ my friends, heated my enemies-and what’s his/reason? I am a Jew.”(ll. 50-52). The context of the suffering of Shylock adds an emotional weighting to the film which cannot be found in the written play. This not only adds depth to the character of Shylock, but also gives the reader another perspective. From the perspective of Shylock, we can empathize with his sufferings, and grant him our sympathy.


“The Bully and His Victim”

I would hate to be a judge on this case. The case is complex, and specific details are few and far between. The only timeline we are given is that the victim broke his bully’s knee in the spring. Due to the severity of the incident, we can assume that the bullying has persisted for an extended period of time. However, we do not have an accurate timeline of the bullying. Further, both sets of parents have filed lawsuits, meaning two separate lawyers or legal teams have determined that either side has a case. This means there is likely legal precedent in place. This means a panel of judges would have three options. These options are to throw out the case, create a new legal precedent, or violate existing legal precedent. However, the text alludes to authority figures being aware of the bullying, “No one is prepared to defend or support him against this abuse.”(ll. 3-4). As a result, we can assume not only that other students knew of the abuse, but adults did as well. In light of this, the victim’s actions may be justified as self-defense. Further, the abuse must have been extreme, to the point of it being noticeable, in order to justify such a violent response.

Given the small amount of details, it is difficult to determine a verdict. However, given the implied severity and longevity of the abuse, the bully should be given a lengthy suspension, or expulsion. Further, the victim should be given a suspension, as well as a hand-written apology letter to the bully and his family.

PR: Langston Hughes’ Poetry

Through his use of imagery, diction, and structure, Langston Hughes is able to convey a tone of optimism and perseverance. Through his writings, Hughes empowers marginalized groups. Hughes’ primary method of empowerment is tone. Hughes uses tone to empower in two ways, both as a voice of optimism, and as a force of condemnation for oppressive institutions. Hughes’ work raises questions on the formation and reconstruction of oppressive institutions, as well as the dismantling of these systems.

An example of an optimistic tone is As I Grew Older, “My hands/My dark hands!/Break through the wall!/Find my dream!/Help me to shatter this darkness,”(ll. 24-28). The speaker has been confronted with a dark, towering, and seemingly unconquerable wall. Despite the obstacle’s intimidating shape and form, the speaker finds the strength to break through the wall in pursuit of their dream. The optimism displayed by the speaker allows him to break a barrier to his dream. The tone of optimism is further evoked by the line, “My dark hands”(l. 25). Through this, Hughes praises the African-American community for its cultural resilience, despite walls being raised around them. Hughes does this by emphasizing the color of the speaker’s skin, and thus empowering the speaker and the African-American community at large. Moreover, the tone of optimism is also conveyed by each of the quoted lines increasing in length. The final quoted line is the climax. The speaker’s feelings of optimism and empowerment increase with the line’s length. The longest quoted line, “Help me to shatter this darkness,”(l. 28), is the climax of the text. The emotional and linguistic climaxes compliment each other. Further, Hughes’ optimistic tone is evoked further by the diction of the poem. For example, “Help me to shatter this darkness,/To smash this night/To break this shadow”(ll. 28-30). Hughes’ diction places an emphasis on the dismantling or undoing of obstacles. Hughes uses words with connotations of violent and chaotic undoing. This conveys the tone of optimism. Optimism is evoked by the speaker’s action of violently dismantling an obstacle to their dream being realized. Further, words such as “smash” have the connotation of destruction. However, after destruction comes rebuilding. As a result, the breaking of a barrier calls for the reconstruction of institutions. By pleading with the African-American community to deconstruct its barriers, Hughes evokes an optimistic tone. Hughes conveys this tone by encouraging not only the knocking down of barriers, but also by pushing for the reconstruction of the institutions that are the root of racial obstacles.

As a result of growing polarization, diverse perspectives on global issues are few and far between. This gap between either side on the pressing issue of injustice has grown exponentially. Because of this, conducting a meaningful discourse on injustice has become nearly impossible. As a result, action on the matter has been lackluster. While people are suffering, those with the means to end suffering stand around and argue. The inability of those in power to end suffering stems from the lack of meaningful, productive discussion on the topic. Those in power are not the only ones vulnerable to lack of perspective. I, too, have been without insight into the true nature of the sufferings of many. Because of this, I have not been doing my part to alleviate the sufferings of my fellow man. However, as I read this collection of Hughes’ work, I have experienced a change of sorts. Hughes’ works have given me insight into other’s perspectives of human suffering. As a result, I have to do my part in dulling the effects of suffering. An example of me attempting to alleviate suffering is working with the Global Awareness Committee of the SLC. Further, we have recently taken on a project to raise money for those victimized by similar injustices depicted in Hughes’ poetry.

Outsmart Your Brain Reflection

Upon my completion of chapter 5 of Outsmart Your Brain by Daniel T. Willingham, I have gained insight into improving my reading and writing skills. Specifically, skills that will allow me to improve the speed and efficiency of my reading, as well as my writing. When I receive a graded in-class essay, the same note, “Analysis must be focused; pick a specific element of the text”, is constantly scribbled in red ink. For this reason, I struggle to connect a sentence I just read, to a sentence I read five minutes ago. Willingham puts it best, “Readers often need to connect something they’re reading now to something they read a few pages ago.” This not only slows reading and becomes an obstacle to comprehension, but this mistake also inhibits the clarity of my writing. Willingham suggests the use of SQ3R, which stands for Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review. Willingham also states that research into productivity has concluded that these strategies improve both comprehension and clarity. In the first term, the DP1 class read Homer’s Odyssey. I struggled to efficiently comprehend what I read, and thus did not enjoy the text. Going forward, I will implement these strategies into my reading, in hope of greater enjoyment of future texts.

Another habit of mine that Willingham addresses is sufficient time allocated to reading. Given the workload of the IB, at times I find myself “skimming” through a text. Willingham goes on to state how skimming through a text, one which you are not entirely familiar with, will result in diminished comprehension. Going forward, I will be sure to allocate enough time to reading tasks in order to ensure understanding. Further, in combination with the five strategies mentioned above, the adoption of these techniques will enhance comprehension of unfamiliar texts. This is particularly important in this course.

Candide Reflection

On the first day of class, Mr. Macknight handed every student a copy of the course syllabus, which comprised of every text we would read throughout the Diploma Programme. Upon glancing over this extensive list, I noticed the name “Voltaire”. I googled his name, and came to the conclusion that this would be the driest, the most mind numbing, and the most drawn-out text of the entire two-year course. However, after reading Candide, I can say with certainty my mind has been changed.

The aspect of the book I thought I would detest the most, turned out to be my favorite feature of the entire book. This of course being that the book is a philosophical argument. I loved this component of the text because of the unique way in which it is presented. The argument was presented in the two characters of Martin and Pangloss, which is accompanied by the plot. Martin, who is more pessimistic and argues that everyone everywhere is miserable, speaks for Voltaire. Whereas Pangloss speaks for Leibniz, Voltaire’s vocal opponent. The plot also has an effect on this debate. Throughout Candide, shocking yet honest depictions of human suffering are common. The debate between Voltaire and Leibniz is placed on display in this way. The contrasting reactions of Martin and Pangloss are allegories of the philosophical argument being made. An example of this is on page 74, where Pangloss’ pupil, Candide, and Martin debate the nature of man,

“Do you believe that hawks have every eaten pigeons wherever they had found them?” Martin asked.

“Yes, definitely” Candide replied.

“Very well,” Martin said. “If hawks have always had the same character, why would you expect men to change theirs?”

“Oh but there is quite a difference,” Candide said, “for, after all, free will…”(pg. 74)

Martin, the pessimist, argues that man is incapable of changing his nature. Whereas Candide, the optimist, argues for man’s ability to adapt and grow. The key element of this dialogue is Candide’s argument of men possessing free will, and thus have the ability to change their nature. This quotation raises a pair of interesting questions, which are; if man has the ability to change his nature, why doesn’t he? And, to what extent do have have control over our own lives, and what role does fate play?

An additional example of Pangloss’ allegory worldview presents itself on page 112,

“I am still of my former opinion,” Pangloss replied, “for I am a philosopher, after all, and it would be improper for me to recant, as Leibnitz cannot be wrong. Preestablished harmony is the most beautiful thing in the world, as are the plenum and subtle matter.”(pg. 112)

This quotation works as a critique of Leibniz. Voltaire’s critique presents itself through Pangloss’ inability recant or re-evaluate Leibniz’s philosophy. Further, the quotation suggests that Leibniz’s beliefs are outdated. Moreover, the unwillingness to evaluate Leibniz’s philosophy inhibits change or growth of the idea of optimism.

Lastly, I especially love the quotation, “we must cultivate our garden”(pg. 119). The quotation emphasizes free will and personal responsibility. This final critique of Leibniz is my favorite. The ideas of preestablished harmony and fate are debated throughout the novel. In my interpretation, this quotation symbolizes Candide’s abandonment of Pangloss’ optimism. Candide leaves behind fate and embraces free will. Candide’s recognition that he cannot control or prevent greater suffering, but instead can determine his own suffering. Candide and his companions can determine their own suffering through the cultivation of their garden.

“Let Evening Come” Reflection

In order to improve my marks in this course, I will have to tune my skills in a variety of different aspects of both my writing and organization.

First off, I am admittedly horrible at placing my quotations into my writing. I have a bad habit of neglecting to use transition words or phrases, and as a result, just paste a quotation into the middle of a sentence. The results of this habit are clunky, awkward, and difficult to read sentences, which at times are incomprehensible.

To build on my previous paragraph, I consistently receive a graded exam covered in the number “23” scribbled in red ink. A consequence of my clunky quotation placement is the awkward or unclear sentence. I committed this error more frequently than any other, by far. This mistake has continued to be detrimental to my writing. I recognize in order to improve my writing as a whole, I have to write my sentences with more care, in order to maintain clarity. This small adaption would improve all other aspects of my writing.

Finally, easily the most fixable, yet most annoying mistake, error 47. On every summative I am given, no matter how careful and observant I am in the proofreading stage, I always miss this one tiny mistake. Placing a line citation in parentheses is the bane of my existence. This one, tiny error results in difficult to read sentences, and inhibits clarity. If I am able to make this small adjustment, I can greatly improve the quality of my writing.



Grudges, Fear, and Misogyny in The Odyssey

I enjoyed Homer’s The Odyssey because of its commentary on topics that are still relevant today. The depictions of attitudes towards women and relationships between men and women are still applicable today. This is conveyed through both symbolism and spoken dialogue.

A prominent example of misogyny can be found on page 212, “…a newborn whelp’s cry, though she is huge and monstrous. God nor man could look on her in joy.” (pg. 212). The quotation describes two female beings, one a whirlpool, and one a six-headed, man-eating monster. Both of them are bent of harming Odysseus and his men. This symbolizes “female paranoia” by males. This chronic fear of women is deeply rooted within The Odyssey. This depiction is a primary example of this fear. Women, symbolized by a man-eating monster, are painted as manipulative and faithless beings. Further, not only are women portrayed as manipulative, but also used as pawns of both mortal men and gods. Poseidon, the god who Odysseus had angered, uses female entities as a tool for his spite towards Odysseus. This passage exists as an example of male gods asserting their power over female gods, furthering misogynistic aspects of the poem. Another prominent example of misogyny occurs in the shade of Agamemnon’s speech, “But that woman, plotting a thing so low, defiled herself and all her sex, all women yet to come, even those few who may be virtuous.” (pg. 199). This quotation of course refers to Klytemnestra’s betrayal and murder of her husband. Perhaps the most infamous example of misogyny in The Odyssey, Agamemnon openly discusses his fear, grudge, and distrust against women. Agamemnon makes broad generalizations against all women, based on the actions of Klytemnestra. For cultural context, many women were seen as property by their husbands in Ancient Greece. The feeling of distrust and betrayal stems from Agamemnon’s conformity to this belief. As a result, the notorious speech slanders women, not exclusively because of Klytemnestra’s actions, but because Agamemnon is insecure. According to social norms of the time, men were supposed to be dominant in their marriages. This cultural context, coupled with the faith Ancient Greek afterlife, in which you gain immortality through being remembered for your actions, Agamemnon will be forced to feel shame for eternity. This shame evolves into anger, which becomes misdirected, and thus manifests as resentment, fear, and anger towards women.

The primary reason for my liking of this epic poem is how many of the poem’s key components are still relevant and applicable in the modern world. Many of these same gender hierarchies still exist and thrive in modern society. The Odyssey shows that this hierarchy is like a tough, gritty weed that must be pulled from the root. The longevity of these beliefs and hierarchies is demonstrated in the poem, through both literary devices and dialogues. The Odyssey may be an example of outdated gender roles in literature, but it also gives us an insight into the roots and mediums of this harmful attitude. Moreover, as a result of the glimpse into the past the epic poem proves, we find a road map to which we can find solutions for these very same problems that still plague our society. Combatting outdated gender hierarchies requires effort and change-oriented mindsets, but is not only doable, but a necessary metamorphosis we must undertake to assure future generation do not repeat the same three-thousand-year-old mistakes.



Paradise and Death Personal Response

Paradise and Death, by Eric MacKnight is an intriguing interpretation of Homer’s Odyssey. One component that garners my attention is, “the unpleasant constants of the human condition-suffering, aging, and death, and our attempts to understand, escape, or overcome them”(pg.2).  Not only is this a meaningful interpretation of the epic poem, but also a deeply thought-out comparison of what it means to be human, and a common ground to which we can all relate. Further, recognizing that humanity as a whole shares a common experience places the most inflated ego, alongside an innocent and harmless individual. The notion of everyone being shaped by the same constants is not only a deeply personal connection everyone can make to the poem, but is also a remarkably humbling experience by itself. Moreover, after Odysseus’ encounter with Achilles and his late mother in their shade forms, he is offered a new perspective, “The visit to Hades gives Odysseus the strength to resist all temptation ahead of him”(pg. 4). A perspective that is not tainted by his sense glory or incompressible wealth, but a perspective that is choked full of regret, and is wholly self-critical. This encounter with his late mother and fallen comrade is a turning point for Odysseus. This is a personal subject for many. Who hasn’t lost a family member or someone they were close to, after falsely assuming they would be with you forever? In Odysseus’ mind, his mother, son, father, and wife would greet him as he returned home, nothing unchanged. After this point, he realizes that he must get home, and fast, at any cost. This reminds me of something I once read, “A person has two lives, and the second begins when you realize you only have one”. Not only do we witness a rapid transformation of Odysseus’ guiding principles, but through the poem and essay, we are able to relate to exactly what Odysseus is feeling, and complete this change alongside him. This relates to the quotation, “no matter how miserable life may be, it is better than death”(pg. 5). Not only does Odysseus feel a pang a regret, and a need for change regarding what he really wants, but he also grasps at sincere gratitude. After his conversation with Achilles, he recognizes that his time is sacred and precious, as it is representative of how long he has before the remaining people he cares for meet the same fate as Achilles and his mother. For this, he feels gratitude for not only his life, which he previously considered ending to avoid suffering, but also for the time he has, and the potential to spend it with the people who made his suffering worthwhile. This is precisely the reason why Odysseus’ character has been admired for thousands of years. The fact that a fearless soldier, who endured nearly 20 years of hardship on his journey home, can also be vulnerable, and experience the same come-and-go feelings of gratitude, regret, and grief. This humanizes this almost immortal man, and allows us to view him as a “human superhero” in the sense that we can possess strength and perseverance, while still maintaining the piece of us that is essential to the human condition.

Another reason why this essay is riveting is that fact that it clearly demonstrates not only the essential ideas, analyses, and arguments; but also does so in a way that is so easy to follow, easy to comprehend and process, and most importantly, keeps the reader engaged. A personal connection to the clarity of this writing is the structure and organization. Personally, I have always struggled with making my arguments flow neatly and clearly. This can be attributed to my habit of writing with the “quantity over quality” mindset, as well as my lack of usage of transition words. Further, the vocabulary is so broad and varied, while still being precise and easy to understand. Each verb carries an emotional weight that somehow manages to fit the tone of the paragraph or passage perfectly. This phenomenon that the language used in the arguments seems to compliment the mood of not only the poem, but the essay as well. Not only does this make the essay riveting and profoundly engaging as a reader, but additionally contributes to the emotional baggage of each quotation and reference.

Antigone Personal Response

Death, and our relationship with it, is a major theme in Antigone. We as a society possess a duality of attitudes towards death: acceptance and denial.

This scenery perfectly fits the common theme of the play. The way that the tomb was a symbolic reflection of how we as humans perceive death was so complex and well-woven into the story. Antigone’s death wish, such as this exert from page 88, “I gave myself to death,/long ago, so I might serve death (pg.88)”. Further, from page 89, “Commit cruelty on a person long enough/ the mind begins to go (pg. 89)”. The death wish possessed by Antigone is confronted by Antigone herself, and observed and reported by Ismene. Given Antigone’s apparent death wish, her imprisonment in a bridal tomb is fitting, yet ironic. The bridal temple ironically ties itself to the line from page 88. Antigone has been wedded to death. Further, Antigone’s suicide is representative of everything Creon wants to avoid. He wanted her to abstain from death, and be forced to live in misery. However, with her suicide, she officiates her vow to death, within her bridal tomb. This ironic, yet accepted and desired death shows the fearlessness of Antigone. She aligned herself with death, and became content with the idea of life simply ending. The embracing of death is contrary to conventional human nature. The acceptance of death while youthful is courageous and enlightened. Further, this symbolizes one half of the duality towards death: acceptance, the contrarian, yet brave, attitude. The ultimate acceptances are Antigone finding a way to hang herself in an inescapable prison. This action symbolizes two things: the relentlessness of time and eventual death, and 2), taking one’s own life is the ultimate acceptance and embracing of death. This was why I love the setting and scenes of this play, they are symbolic of character’s attitudes towards themes and tones of the play. The scenery forces Antigone to show her true colours and allows us to see how courageous and wise this young girl truly is. Antigone’s courage evokes a few questions, such as, How do personal or cultural experiences shape how we perceive death? Why do we fear death? And, can true satisfaction be achieved, if we refuse to believe that everything is temporary?

The second, more human, side of duality when faced with death is Creon. Whereas Antigone shows an almost inhuman acceptance of death, Creon showed a fear of death. An example of this is on page 125, “harbour of death, so choked, so hard to cleanse!-/Why me? Why are you killing me? (pg. 125)”. The second half of the tone towards death is denial, and this is a shining example. Creon is both terrified and confused at the prospect of simply no longer existing. Death to him has always felt like a far off concept, a fate that he has sealed for many, but he had never been truly affected by the waves of grief. We all know death is the only certainty in life, but we seem to acknowledge it when it’s on our doorstep. We as a society tend to not think about others suffering, until we experience our own. It is nearly impossible to fully empathize without our own experience. This feeling of fear and helplessness that Creon feels is a fundamental part of the human experience. Further, the inability to empathize with something we haven’t experienced is humbling and humanizing for Creon’s previously overly-prideful character. This humanizes Creon in a way that allows me to sympathize with him more than I would with the courageous heroine, Antigone.

Reading Antigone had helped me understand some flaws I didn’t even know I had, and has pushed me to address them in a more serious manner. Anyone who knows me will tell you about my infamous stubbornness. My pride can also go unchecked at times. Before reading Antigone, I never really considered the consequences of the unconscious biases that stem from pride and stubbornness. It sometimes makes it difficult for me to take constructive feedback. This prevents me from embracing a growth-oriented mindset, and materializes as a large obstacle to personal growth. However, after reading this text, I will look into ways to self-regulate my stubbornness and pride, and how to whittle away at biases and fallacies that have taken root because of these oversights.

Oedipus Personal Response

Imagery is an underrated aspect of Oedipus the King. The sequences of vivid and thought-provoking imagery were both disturbing and fascinating. The perfect balance between engaging the reader and painting a visual representation of the story is my favourite feature of this play. My favourite exhibition of this is on page 186, “Cased in armour, Apollo son of the father/lunges on him, lightning-bolts afire!/And the grim unerring furies/closing for the kill(p. 186)”. My interpretation is that I believe this passage to be a metaphor for the tragedy that Oedipus endures. The tragedy first begins when he calls for the persons responsible for the murder of Laius to be ostracized in the kingdom, but unwillingly unleashes his own people’s fury on himself, almost uncanny as to how Apollo seeks to handout justice concerning religious law. This beautiful, haunting, and ironic imagery perfectly fits the tome and theme of the play, in which a seemingly human man, seals his own fate in an attempt to brutally rid his people of suffering. By threatening violence and exile in the name of royal and religious justice, he not only permanently loses the support of his people and gods, but also unleashes the unrelenting desire of his people, and his gods, for justice. This ironic, tragic, and unknowing twist is the best moment in the play. This play is full of small, cryptic-yet-imaginative summaries and metaphors of the play. This subtle foreshadowing kept me engaged as a reader, and prompted me to take a genuine interest in the story.

Another aspect of the play I loved is the variation of diction and variation of the formality of language. One example is a subtle passage of alliteration on page 231, “She was afraid–frightening prophecies”(pg. 231). The reversal when Oedipus unearths the truth of his birth is an intense scene, and the emotional climax of the play. This Shepard’s seemingly simplistic beg for mercy is the quotation that propels us into the most intense and emotion-packed part of the play. This repeating “f” sound in this quotation evokes fear and helplessness, the same emotions overwhelming the Shepard. This fear, defeat, and helplessness mirror what begins to weigh on Oedipus the moment he hears the Shepard’s news. The reason I love this part so much is that the torture victim, the tragic hero, and myself all were experiencing the same emotional distress in unison. This seems almost like a fourth-wall break to me, in the sense that at this one point I was fully immersed in this scene, and all of its grimy details.

The theme of being blind to truth, even though it is in front of your eyes is one myself, and many others, can relate to on a personal level. A few years ago, I had mysteriously misplaced my wallet after leaving it on my bed. I turned my family home upside down looking for it, but to no avail. I then, and this is something I still have guilt about, began accusing one of my siblings of stealing it. This turned to a screaming match, but after I stormed off to my bedroom, have a guess as to what I saw on the ground, poking out from behind my bedside table. I felt horrible, a combination of guilt and shame for berating a loved one for something they didn’t do. The arc from confusion, anger and frustration, and finally, guilt and shame. I had failed to see what was right in front of me, literally. This is the strongest personal connection I have to Oedipus. The confused accusation, the unrelenting effort to unearth the truth, and finally, the weight of guilt on my shoulders. The shame Oedipus feels is so great, that he must gouge out his eyes and exile himself. I didn’t feel like this was necessary, but the feeling of embarrassment, and wanting to disappear to escape from these awful feelings, was something that was all-too-real for me.

Class Blog Intro

My name is Russell. I was born and grew up in Victoria. I like to get outdoors in my free time, and do things like hiking and trail running. My hope for this year is to do well, but not to fail any assignments in this class this year.