Orwell Personal Response

Orwell’s essays, while did not stand out in terms of its plot (in the sense that they were not surprising or shocking), his style of writing and symbolism was something that takes time to understand and many times, I would find myself intrigued, but at the same time confused by how he approach symbolism, particularly in Shooting an Elephant, where how the act of killing one can includes so many layers of meaning that I might not have fully discovered.

Like doing other DRJs, having to take notes and read has made me realized the improtance of note-taking: to fully externalized our feelings and intpretation into words and approach the reading easier. However, I have found that in all 4 readings, I had missed some details that I never considered before and did not record them in my DRJs. Therefore, I’ve better understood that the point of DRJs is to only take notes and understand how we understand a piece of writing, it is also to force ourselves to read slower and more mindful about what is written.

This leads me to my next point, feedbacks. Had I not receive feedback from Mr. MacKnight, I would not have known that there were some details of some readings that complete skipped through. So, having feedback is a great tool for me to consider multiple questions, answers about a reading that I did not see.

Lastly, Wheatcroft’s tribute to Orwell has nailed a few important points for me. Firstly, Orwell in many ways was not exceptional in the real of political writers, but rather, he had the ability to transformed his writing into something of his very own that is quite exceptional. This gave me an answer to what makes a good writer: is that one do not have to be well-known, well-recognized, but one must know their writing and intentional about it. Secondly, became clear to me how Orwell wrote the way wrote, because he was described to be a man in pursuit of justice and truth and honesty, which spoke true in all of his essays about the tyranny, absurd things of society he reflected.

Year End Reflection

DP1 English A was quite an adventure for me and it surely has exposed me to a variety of literature works that all provide unique viewpoints, stories to tell and expanded my perspectives as a whole.

In the way that Mr. Mac Knight has always constructed his class, literature has been less about the right analysis but more of a conversation between everyone in the class. “It’s not about messages, it’s about the questions.” He often says, and that has been something that changed the way how I think and approach with books or with any literary work. Although I have not fully embraced the fact that literature raises questions not giving answers, it often feels fresh to see the multitude and vast amount of topics to discuss in even just a book or short story. For example, A Doll’s House when read, can often be thought as a push to feminism and women’s right due to how evident Nora presented herself towards the end of the story. However, it is not everything, as we would often see how the story would raise questions about what does it mean to be a human? How does the husband and the wife works together to form a healthy, happy marriage? Is love alone ever enough? Questions like these would leave me feel in awed of how literature can be so insightful.

But to the main dish: did I enjoy it 100%? Well as with anything in life so far, (except for learning Psychology) I would say it is somewhere in-between. It has always been refreshing to listen to listen to the same topic but in different ways of explaining and understanding. On the other hand, sometimes some topics on certain books go rather deep for me that it can be hard to comprehend. I think this has shown how cultures can affect your point of view and understanding of something.

To wrap up this school year, I would like to put a small gratitude for Mr. Mac Knight: thank you for having always answer everyone’s questions in class and have us dig deep into a topic to understand its root, it has been a trip that was not only about improving my English, but also understanding how to approach and analyze pieces of writings.

Now for dessert, I will have a small cup of milk before packing up my stuffs, get ready to leave tomorrow, meet my family and fly back to Vietnam.

It has been a good year and I’m hoping to see everyone again.

The Awakening Personal Response

Out of all the widely discussed topics in the field of arts, love might be one of those that is the most talked about and seems to be the most complicated to grasp on. The Awakening, is one prime example that had successfully posed the question about monogamy and infidelity, not in the way that made us want to criticize Edna, but wanting to understand and empathize with her.

We had all understood that for longest time ever, monogamy is most often to be expected in every couple, simply because it works. However, it is that just because it works, Chopin had potrayed the characters so well that it is easy for us to empathize with Edna and really questions about it. Edna is married to Léonce, who in the worst case, can only be described as quite boring in the readers’ eyes since he had fulfilled all that is of his role as a father and a husband. Despite all that, Edna still questions and follow with what she desires. It is because of this that make the Awakening worth questioning: if we have a husband who can fulfill everything, what point is there to cheat on him? So in this case, we have a situation of Edna not being entirely being a selfish person, but she is on her process of understanding herself. Although it is not fully justified that it is right for Edna to cheat, but as with any responsibility Edna has, she also has a responsibility to herself, to understand who she is. This theme was also well mentioned in A Doll’s House.

The Awakening had also posed a new definition about love that is also worth considering. This is most evident in the moment when Alcée kissed Edna: she was not really in love with him, but rather wished it was Robert who kissed her. So, in this sense, we can have someone we enjoy to engage in romantic acts with but not really loving them, which had brought a new dimension into how we can look at polyamory: we can love someone but to not have sex with them, but we can also have sex but not loving the other person. It shows how much awareness Edna has and provides more depth into her characteristics.

The Awakening although did not end with a good note, but after reading it, I believe it is a well-crafted mirror for anyone who is wanting answers for this question: What is it that I am looking for a relationship?

Pygmalion Personal Response_Zack

In an everchanging society of humans, stage-plays and the such, as an artform, have attempted to makes viewers question about the way how our society is ran through specific situations in the stories. For example, Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare, has probed the question of what is fairness in an unfair society, through the story of Shylock. Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, on the other hand, had asked readers about the division in society. Some important themes are: Language as a barrier of classes and the vast difference between the society back then compares to nowadays.

Shaw’s play has shown us the ugly importance of language in his work, Pygmalion: that the extent to which how a person sounds and how smart they sounds dictate their social class, yet it does not equate to their level of intelligence. Take Higgins for example, he is a well-spoken expert of British accents, which had allowed him to be at a well spot in the hierarchy of British’s society. On the other hand, Eliza, a more rash sounding flower girl, was thought by Higgins, to be stupid, immature because of her accent that is hard to hear. However, Eliza is not even a bit silly, but very aware of her own self-worth, as she has clearly said that she is a good person with the right morals when being ridiculed by Higgins for consulting with him about her lessons with him. Such evidences has shown how one’s own knowledge and awareness need not to be shown through how they speak, but rather in what they actually understand.

On the same matter of language, it is very noticeable how the society back then differs from the one such as today: it was a sadder one (but not exactly a dystopia, per se) in terms of economy. This is prevalent in the tea-talk that Mrs.Higgins had with the Eynsfords: that despite having a good amount of money, they are not the upper-class folks. While it is sad, it is the reality in which they had to live in.

All in all, Pygmalion was an excellent play that tackles a lot about the division in of society and how the environment corresponds with it.

A Doll’s House Personal Response_Zack

It is in life that lies many problems, questions that often remain hard to answer and it only gets easier after experiences and mistakes that we’ve made throughout the journey. This can be applied, too, with the matter of love, since there are so many things we must figure out not on our own, but with our partner: how can we love them in their worst? What are our roles in our relationships? What is the role of love in our relationship? It is in A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen that gave us many valuable answers as well as lessons to these questions. This is most evident in the dynamic between the two main couples of the play: Torvald and Nora, Krogstad and Linde.

Through the dynamic of these two couples, Ibsen has first and foremost, given readers a clear answer about the role of men and women in relationships, is that both has duty to listen and empathize each other. For example, Krogstad and Linde might not have a stable relationship since they are in the tangle of can the job offer from Torvald, but what sets them apart most is that they are willing to sit down to figure that out together. What was even more surprising for readers is that it turned out Krisitne wants to get back together with Krogstad because she finds no pleasure in working only for oneself and Krogstad understood her and accepted her love. This prime example is what has set this couple way apart from any other characters dynamics, because they have learnt to value each others’ thoughts, concerns and they were willing to compromise to reach a better ending together. Through this idea, readers can have very straight-forward understanding about the value of listening: if we can not listen to each other, we will not be able to understand what our significant other needs or wants. On the sharp contrast, Torvald and Nora reflects a more unhealthy relationship: not once have they have a serious conversation together in their 8 years of marriage, that is not until the near end of the play. Not only so, Torvald always treat Nora like an object no more or less and his expression of love towards her is something not very genuine. Although it is mainly about Torvald’s part of fault in their relationship, some critics for Nora can be that she never voice her concern with him while always play along the game their game of marriage even though she is not entirely happy at all. Again, it is in this example that readers can understand how honest, open communication matters so much in a relationship.

Not only communication matters in relationship, but the author has also shown that love can be important too, in that they serve as a part of a feedback loop: love and service. Going back to the example of Krogstad and Linde, although Linde’s claim of wanting someone so she can work for sounds rather self-centered, but her intention is still to contribute for a higher and better purpose than her own self. It could then be said that because Kristine loves Krogstad that she wants to support him and because she supports him, she loves him, so that goes both ways.

Overall, A Doll’s House was a wonderful play that showed readers many critical life lessons regarding love and relationship. The general message suits well to whoever seeks to understand what they can do better in their relationship.

The Merchant of Venice_Personal Response

Literature is an important part in the arts, it raises questions, extend and explains issues on a much more different level comparing only to visual arts. The Merchant of Venice for example, was a great piece of work crafted that raised many concerns about the basic morals and ethics of human, namely: the justification for revenge and the power, the nature of mercy. This has been shown very well through two important details: Shylock’s main speech about the unfairness of Jews, Portia’s speech about what mercy is.

For Shylock, he is a prime example of someone whose lines have been crossed because of his identity, pushing him to seek revenge and justice. Through understanding his main speech, readers can empathize with him and understand that to discriminate someone because of their originality is wrong. “If it will feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge. He hath disgraced me and hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies—and what’s his reason? I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? . . . If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me I will execute—and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.” (Act 3, Scene 1, line 47-65) Shylock pressed on the matter of the universality of human. We all shares the same of many things: we have the same body parts, food keep all of us full, poisons and weapons can hurt and kill us, etc. If we are so similar in many ways, why would we want to hurt each other so bad? The logic and thought process is very simple that it easy to understand and readers can support Shylock that he should get his revenge. Therefore because humans are similar in many ways, his revenge can be justified.

However, it did not come easy for him as in the courtroom, Portia also made a sound argument as he did but about mercy. “The quality of mercy is not strain’d, it droppeth as gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice blest: it blesseth him that gives, and him that takes…Therefore, Jew, though justice be thy plea, consider this: that in the course of justice, none of us should see salvation. We do pray for mercy, and that same prayer doth teach us all to render the deeds of mercy.” (Act 4, Scene 1, line 183-204) For Portia, mercy is a choice rather than what we should do meaning that human chooses mercy, not vice versa. Applying this logic to Shylock’s motive, then it also make just as much sense because if he did kill Antonio, how much satisfaction will he get out of it? Even then, after killing him, will there be any guarantee that he will not be mistreated anymore? These points, too, are worth noting as it makes us questions about how our actions can be the seeds to bigger consequences that we might have to carry. Not to mention, why is mercy a powerful weapon, according to Portia? To have mercy is not to forget, but to know that even when somebody does something wrong, we do not let loose ourselves of control and poison ourselves. This goes back to the previous question: how much satisfaction comes from revenge for Shylock? Even if it satisfy him well, will he be understood still or just be seen as a cold-blooded killer whom will be shun and hated for the remaining course of his life? 

It is a hard question to answer: what is right? Revenge or mercy? For as if we do not get revenge, we will not be able to redeem for what have been lost. But on the other hand, if we do not have mercy, how worth can our revenges be? Although Shylock has every right to execute Antonio for his revenge, maybe Portia was right, that he could have taken the money that was given to him and move on from his life and have mercy for Antonio not because Portia told him so, but he can do it as his own choice. Even when it was such a tough decision, he can at least give himself peace.

Overall, The Merchant of Venice was well written with many contrasting topics, such as this one and it is a great chance for readers to understand more about the nature of topics like these and broaden their point of view.

Langston Hughes Personal Response

Langston Hughes’ poems are surely diverse in many ways. His works do not focus only on the big picture of black’s people hardship of life, but other topics such as the uniqueness of black culture, the figure of the mother and the commonality of life struggles that everyone experiences. These topics are most prevalent in poems like The Negro-Mother, Harlem-Sweeties, Deferred. First, The Negro-Mother, while the title suggests the hardship that the typical black mother has to endure, this can be applied in a more universal sense of figure of “the mother”. For example, “I am the woman who worked in the field…I am the one who labored as slave…I couldn’t read then. I couldn’t write” While mothers these days do not have to work in the field or suffer from racism or discirmination, it still goes quite far to say that being a parent figure is hard. As a mother, it is part of their responsibility to take care of children, work to take care of them, teaching them the important lessons in life, etc. It is never an easy job, which is why it can be so relatable to any mother in this world. “But I had to keep on till my work was done:” This is another emphasis on the heavy responsibility that every mother has to carry because no mother would want to abandon their children, so they always must keep going. Next is Harlem Sweeties. For instance, “Caramel treat, Honey-gold baby Sweet enough to eat.” In this line, the black women are being compared as food, sweet and delicious, which has a seductive notion to them. “Rich cream-colored to plum tinted black, Feminine sweetness in Harlem’s no lack” Hughes seems to be honoring the color of black women, that they are beautiful and unique, which goes back to showing how different women’s beauty is seen in the black community. Last but not least, Deferred voices the very humane desire of black individuals that are not so different from others. For example, “Maybe now I can have that white enamel stove I dreamed about when we first fell in love eighteen years ago.” This is the desire of a black married woman who wants a better stove in her house because back then, having to cook on a wood stove was very hard. This can be applied to anyone since maybe once in a lifetime, we all have wished for something better not because we don’t appreciate what we already have, but because we believe that new experiences can enrich ourselves. Also, “All I want is one more bottle of gin.” Once more, alcoholism is not rare anymore in any culture, as humans, we all want to escape the suffering of life through an escape and alcohol is one of them. “All I want is a wife who will work with me and not against me.” Love can be hard for everyone: finding a partner that shares the same core value as us is hard but to trust them and find the one who will stick with us until the end is probably even harder, which again, is not uncommon in any culture. All in all, Hughes’ work is excellent in its own right with many subjects worth thinking and questioning, as well as accurately reflecting black people’s life back then. 

Candide Personal Response

Candide by Voltaire for me is a ride of roller coaster that I have never expected. With over 100 pages of story, satires and idealism, it is quite surprising that Voltaire has included a lot of valuable content in it. The characterization was well done, everyone had a role and flowed seemingly well in the story. Especially Candide and Martin, who are each others’ foils to the core. On one hand, Candide, who was raised by Pangloss’s ideals, grew from an innocent young man at the core of his soul, to someone who has gained a better understood of the opposite of the coin (that Optimism is not the answer to everything). This is also due to Martin’s contribution, as he show a totally opposite view with Pangloss since the very beginning of his appearance in the story. However, the referencing in the book, while hold great importance in Voltaire’s humor, it is still a little hard to understand sometimes. Although this is my subjective view, I think it is still worth mentioning. Lastly, pacing in Candide can be a little too fast that it might leaves readers somewhat confused as well.

This leads me to my next point about the importance of suffering in Candide. As I have mentioned, while the pacing can still be somewhat quick, it blends well with the characterization that Voltaire wants to convey. For example, Pangloss is a character who holds strong beliefs in being optimistic about everything, is then slowly broken down by the hardship that he have gone through and how in some circumstances, things could have gone better, if he was not believing so much in the idea. When Jacques was drowned, Candide could have safe him if it was not for his intervention, which ultimately proves that: if everything is for the best, how come can we still find situations that we have full control over? Additionally, Candide’s suffering, different from Pangloss, seemed to invite readers in his point of view, as a learner, so that it provides readers a better speculation of Voltaire’s criticism.

Then, at the end of Candide’s suffering, Voltaire had left us a concise but very important life lesson in the form of tending to our garden. “”That is well said,” Candide replied, “but we must cultivate our garden.”” (Voltaire, 119) While it can be openly interpreted, the overall essence of the message is still something anyone can learn from. It strong implies that suffering, albeit terrible or ugly, sometimes we just can not comprehend it, it can wreck our life in many ways or forms. Moreover, maybe we can never understand why we must suffer so much. Despite this, it is our job not to fight back on it, but to continue and embrace the process as we go and that is where the true strength of a human lies.

The Odyssey response

The Odyssey was quite amazing for me. The thing that I really enjoyed most about the poem is that at the surface, the story can be so dramatic that I feel like there is always something amazing awaiting for me in the next chapters, like I never know what will happen. Also the journey of Odysseus is meaningful, in the sense that there is always something we can learn about his long journey and learn something for ourselves. Last but not least, The Odyssey gave me a big picture about the drama of Greek mythology and I have learnt how intertwined the characters can be, as well as the characters and gods, goddess presented in the story.

However, the poem did make have some hard time, especially in trying to always stay on top with every little details and the relationship between characters, which can often make me feel discourage from reading the book. Also, sometimes understanding sentence structures can be a major issue for me as well.

The thing that really surprised me most is how massive the story plus the history of Greek can be. This is mostly due to the fact that everyone seems to be playing some role in a bigger picture and sometimes navigating around it can feel tricky, too.

Pastiche excercise

Passage 1: …At such time I knew for certain, that this place I called “home” was the pathway that led me into the heart of mine, and that me myself, for long abandoned this place, and also the feeling of being bored of my own origin so much, had been accepted and replaced with the happy, joy, gratitude, delight and peace, all now flow into me like a new first wind of a spring I dearly love so much; and that no matter how hard life is can seems to me, being mixed with the colors of sadness and despair, intertwined with the chaos, conflicts that will never stop, conflicts that I hardly understand, will always be there, and that whenever it all feel too much for me that I just want to stop for a moment to find a bit of peace, home is there; to welcome my little existence and no matter how much has happened, it’s there.

Passage 2: The train passed, with the slight city rain, there I sit with my own self. The cold air, with the lingering sadness, with some quick deep breaths, and with the blue that I have been so familiar with. The cold air which had been there for long, cleansing the air, and dirty the soils, and wet the hot roads, and wind follows, and cut through the busting city life, and bring life, and tear away our hearts; rain comes, and stop, and come, and stop; but is always there to welcome lonely soul who need a moment of tranquil in life.

Antigone Personal Response – Who is the main character?

It should be argued that Antigone is the protagonist of the whole play. First, it is clear that Antigone had an intention of burying her own two brothers properly to the ground, despite Creon’s guaranteed penalty of doing so. This serves as the main plot point that muchly drives the whole story, as if it was not for Antigone, it would not have turned the way it is. It could also be said that since the beginning, the story highlights the notion of morality versus personal conscience because Antigone alone is already a big representation of the basic morality of honoring dead people, which is still muchly prevalent in nowadays’ society. Secondly, Antigone’s sense of morality is clearly shown since the beginning of the story, which have allowed readers to have a better idea of where the hero, as well as the villain are in the story. For example, “There you have it. You’ll soon show what you are, worth your breeding, Ismene, or a coward-for all your royal blood.” (Sophocles, 60) At first, it seems that Antigone is being quite extreme in this situation, but this shows that her sense of justice is unwavering, by the author’s diction of “worth your breeding” and “coward-for all your royal blood”. It strongly implies that Antigone’s knows her identity and value extremely well in the story, as being part of the family, especially in a royal one, she simply understands that it is utmost to respect her family, a true example of heroism. Another notable piece of evidence is, “I won’t insist, no even if you have a change of heart, I’d never welcome you in the labor, not with me. So, do as you like, whatever suits you best-I will bury him myself.” Antigone’s balance in thinking makes her all the more honorable, as even with a strong sense of justice, she still understands to set out healthy boundaries with her sister to settle the affair on her own because not all people will agree with her way, even with the one closest to her. All in all, Antigone’s motive and morality is straightforward for readers to grasp of and understand her character at the core from the very start.

The Three Thebans Plays – Oedipus The King Personal Response

Towards the end of story, “absurd” was the most powerful word that rung to me about Oedipus The King. This is most evident in our main character’s suffering, Oedipus. Despite being a hero by challenging the Sphinx attacking Thebes and respected by the citizens, I often finds it hard to believe that a man like him had to go through such great tragedy in his life. Therefore, I firmly believe Oedipus falls into the category of a “tragic hero”.  The play also highlights an important notion of “the truth”. “The truth” can be defined, in the context of this play, as Oedipus’s search for his roots: how he was born and who his true parents was. In this search, Oedipus had prepared himself mentally for what was about to come, but never have expected it was right under his nose: that he killed his father at the crossroads a long time ago and married his mother unnoticed. This has led to his gruesome death at the end of the play. By being exposed to this particular notion, I have realized that “the truth” can be, more often than not, hurtful and unexpected.

I have found this play to connect strongly with a school of thought by Albert Camus, Absurdism. This philosophical school of thought implies that: any search for the meaning of life is meaningless, for we can never know why we exist inherently, therefore, absurd. Again, we can link back to Oedipus’s fate, that he have suffered for no reason.  But when we extend our views broader, this philosophical idea makes more sense than we thought. If we consider the tragedies that happened in our life, we will find that sometimes, things happen for reasons that we can never understand. Despite how much we reason our way through, we will soon to meet the conclusion that things do happen, for no reason at all. Then, what we can really do at those moments of life is, to stare into the deep, endless hole of absurdity itself.