Slaughterhouse Five PR

Slaughterhouse Five is a novel written by Kurt Vonnegut in 1969, 24 years after the end of the Second World War. Vonnegut was serving the US army from 1943 to 1945, who survived the aerial bombing of Dresden. Slaughterhouse Five is a classic pacifistic novel. Apart from realistic events that are narrated by the narrator, Vonnegut, the novel also consists of fictional  components including the Tralfamadorian – extraterrestrial creatures and time-traveling, which intrigue readers to continue reading. Vonnegut utilizes a highly satirical tone throughout Slaughterhouse Five to visualize the main themes including fate and the sense of antiwar. Although Billy Pilgrim – the main character is threatened to death by different characters, he survives the war but is killed by a laser gun. 

“Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time.” (p.23) 

The word “unstuck” literally means no longer stuck, Billy is no longer stuck in normal timeline, normal time progression, instead, he is skipping time from one moment to another. I believe that human brains recall the important life events before they die. Therefore, to me, Billy’s time-traveling is as the recall of memory before he dies. 

Comparing the narrative techniques used in The Awakening and Slaughterhouse Five, Chopin and Vonnegut both utilized third person narration to inform the readers the plot. In The Awakening, although Edna is not the narrator of the story, the narrator informs Edna’s experiences and awakening process with an omniscient perspective. The narrator provides readers a thorough insight into Edna’s action, and allows the audience to attempt to interpret Edna’s thoughts and emotions. Vonnegut also utilizes an omniscient, third person narrative in Slaughterhouse Five, which describes the appearance, actions, expressions of Billy, which guides readers to interpret his emotions during reading. The novel begins with “Listen!” (chapter 2, 6), which gathers audience’s attention and inform them the narrator has begin to tell the story. This type of narration elucidates an in depth insight of the main character. 

In the Awakening, Chopin employed linear narration, which follows the timeline of the plot. This increases the tension as the plot progresses. Linear narrative emphasizes the progression of Edna’s self-discovery, leading the reader to focus on Edna’s transformation and awakening. The narration is also character centered, which encourages the audience to focus on the protagonist’s emotion and thoughts, instead of any other characters or the events. Vonnegut uses metafiction, which he is intentionally mentioning reality and the artificialness to blur the boundary between fiction and reality. This technique is revealed a couple times throughout the fiction. First, chapter 1 is named “chapter 1” instead of “preface” to catch the reader’s attention and blends the line between fiction and real historical backgrounds. Vonnegut also becomes involved in the fiction: 

I was there. So was my old war buddy, Bernard V. O’Hare.” (p.67)

“Somebody behind him in the boxcar said, ‘Oz.’ That was I. That was me. The only other city I’d ever seen was Indianapolis, Indiana.” (p.148)

These 2 quotes affirm the audience of the fiction’s reliability so that the audience are more devoted as they read along, also mitigating the doubtness of fictionality. This raises a question: if Billy Pilgrim truly existed in reality, or he is just a fictional character for Vonnegut to express his satirical and opposition thoughts against the war, which is traumatizing and the effect on a human’s mental health condition? 

Slaughterhouse Five is narrated in a non-linear way, which does not follow the normal progression of timeline, yet back and forth to the important events of Billy’s life. This creates a sense of confusion for the audience, reflecting Billy’s confusion of his experience on time-traveling and encounter with Tralfamadorians. Although the progression of Slaughterhouse Five is not according to the timeline, the fragments of Billy’s life connect to another part of his life events. For example, Billy has insomnia during his daughter Barbara’s wedding because the colour of the tent – black and orange reminds him of the trains that transfers him to the POW camp. I particularly admire Vonnegut’s minor but significant connection between events that convey his thoughts on war effectively to readers. 

Contrasting the narrative techniques between The Colour Purple and Slaughterhouse Five, Walker and Vonnegut both utilizes first person narrative, yet there are two narrators in The Colour Purple – Celie, and Nettie. The novel is written in an epistolary form, which is a collection of letters. Since there are two narrators narrating about their lives, the audience gains a better insight into their emotions, experiences and their mindsets. As The Colour Purple progresses, we gain knowledge about Celie’s thought and realization of her ideas. It emphasizes the relationship between Celie and Nettie, which is extremely intimate. The linear narrative allows the audience to focus on the theme of self-discovery and transformation, from desensitizing thoughts and feelings to bravely expressing and advocating ideas through actions. Celie’s illustration of her life – what she writes and narrates from letters shows her evolution, from disorganized paragraphs in non-standard English, to coherent and longer paragraphs that expresses her emotions productively. 

Slaughterhouse Five consists of science fiction components, especially the encounter with Tralfamadorian and experience on Tralfamadore. A significant example of this is the Tralfamadorians thought on the idea of death: 

“The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist.” (p.26-27)

This quote reveals the emotionlessness of Tralfamadorian, who is the extraterrestrial creature of Slaughterhouse Five, especially the idea of crying at funerals is silly. Vonnegut symbolizes war as Tralfamadore, visualizes the absurdity and ruthlessness of war as Tralfamadorian, emphasizes the senselessness of war by incorporating Tralfamadorian. It echoes with chapter 1, when Vonnegut is talking with O’Hare’s wife, who thinks wars are a “children crusade”. (p.15)

“You’ll pretend you were men instead of babies, and you’ll be played in the movies by Frank Sinatra and John Wayne or some of those other glamorous, war-loving, dirty old men. And war will look just wonderful, so we’ll have a lot more of them. And they’ll be fought by babies like the babies upstairs.” (p.14)

Billy is one of the “baby”, who has no control on anything, including being “spastic in time”, which contradicts the idea of “free will”; Tralfamadorians think free will is “simply an illusion since they can see past, present, and future simultaneously so they believe in fate, the idea of everything is planned. The incorporation of Tralfamadorian connects with Billy’s encounter, visualizes the senselessness of war by conveying and promoting their thoughts to Billy, promotes and creates a sense of antiwar to readers, meanwhile raises a question about the theme – does free will exist? 

To conclude, I enjoyed reading Slaughterhouse Five due to its unconventional, non-linear way of narrating that intrigues my curiosity to keep reading and discover Billy’s experiences between fragments of events. I enjoy the sarcasm within Slaughterhouse Five, typically the attitude that Billy acts towards death – “so it goes” even though he survives from scenarios near to death multiple times during and after the war. On the contrary, Celie from The Colour Purple tries her best to stay alive. The contrast of the thoughts of the two main characters produces and accentuate the satirical perception towards Billy. Slaughterhouse Five raises a question: would the world be better if people are more sensitive instead of being senseless?

The Colour Purple PR

The Colour Purple is a controversial novel written by Alice Walker. It is criticized due to the stereotypes of the black community that are portrayed in the book. However, I appreciate the authentic and realistic description of the situation and convention in society, in particularly Georgia, during the early to mid-19th century.

The society of The Colour Purple rationalized gender oppression and racial oppression as it is a patriarchal and white superior society. Women must obey men’s demands, just as Sofia must obey Harpo’s demands; Celie must obey Albert’s command. Celie, the main character of The Colour Purple, obeys Albert and work like a “tree” burying her own feeling. When Albert beats her, she does not fight back. In contrast with Celie, Sofia, a rebellion against her husband, Harpo’s command, is beaten by Harpo as a result and as everyone’s expectation. However, in response to the theme of the disruption of traditional gender roles, Sofia does not obey him, she fights against him. Squeak, Harpo’s new girlfriend has been longing for respect by wanting people to address her by her real name – Mary Agnes. In response to another theme – racial equality, black people are not necessarily working for white people anymore. Nettie used to think Africa was the “heaven” for black people until she saw African black people in Monrovia working for European companies. This demonstrates the social division and racial inequality even in the “heaven of black people”. In response to another theme of The Colour Purple – racial equality, society, some white people start to respect black people, particularly Eleanor Jane, the mayor’s wife after Sofia teaches her to drive. At the end of the story, Eleanor Jane works for Albert’s family by making yam for Henrietta to cure her disease.

Celie’s transformation and self-discovery process are also significant in The Colour Purple. Celie buries her emotions when she is first with Albert. She aims to stay alive.

I don’t fight. I stay where I’m told. But I’m alive. (Celie, p.22)

Celie just hopes to stay alive regardless of how she is treated, she bears everything just to stay alive due to her devastating past, including being sexually abused by her “father”. The Colour Purple, for me, signifies Celie’s thoughts and ideas. When Kate, who is Albert’s sister brings Celie to buy new clothes, Celie wants clothes with purple and red but there are not any purple and red is too expensive. This shows the suppression from other people towards Celie. Throughout The Colour Purple, Celie starts to express her idea once she knows Shug accepts her. She also realizes that she is not sexually attracted to men, but to women, which challenges the gender convention in the narrow-minded society during the 19th century. Celie does not wear pants because she thinks Albert does not allow her to, yet when Shug tells her to try, she loves to wear them. She even starts a business of making pants for everyone, and everyone accepts her new thoughts and ideas. This encourages Celie to express her ideas and own self to other people as people will accept who she is. At the end of the story, Celie renovates the house that Alphonso, her and Nettie’s stepdad’s heritage. She paints her room purple and red. This resonates with the beginning, in which Celie wants clothes in purple and red. Her room signifies that she finds a safe and free space to express her own ideas and thoughts, where no one judges.

A quote near the end of The Colour Purple strikes my mind:

I start to wonder why us need love. Why us suffer. Why us black. Why us men and women. Where do children really come from. It didn’t take long to realize I didn’t hardly know nothing. And that if you ast yourself why you black or a man or a woman or a bush it don’t mean nothing if you don’t ask why you here, period. (p.280)

My interpretation of this quote is if we spend our entire lives wondering why unfortunate events happen to us, and why people treat us badly, it is a waste of time and effort since it means nothing. Instead, we should wonder why are we living and for what are we living. This motivates us to live even when we are experiencing unfortunate, just like Celie, even though she experiences devastating events throughout life, she stays alive, hoping to reunite with Nettie in the future. This makes her life memorable. This quote reminds me that even when life treats you badly, stay hopeful and optimistic, and find something that is worth your attention to motivate you to stay alive. Live isn’t that bad and it will eventually be better, like the reunion of Celie, Nettie, and her children at the end of the story.

The Awakening PR

My first impression of the book The Awakening was from a friend who graduated last year stating that this book was his favourite book throughout his two years of English Literature lessons. Thus, I expected the content of The Awakening would be intriguing. The title was confusing yet intriguing before I started reading, eventually, the title echos with the main character – Edna who “awakens” and tries to defy the social convention.

The Awakening, written by Kate Chopin, depicts Edna, the protagonist, as an unconventional person who tries to defy social convention after her awakening. This book is considered controversial as some of the conflicts are aroused from the contrary of social norms, which is a set of unwritten informal rules obeyed by every individual in the society. The main plot of the story raises the question of what social conventions are important and how important. The social convention provides a model expected behavior of humans in order to maintain order and prevent unnecessary conflict. Human is self-centered, and they live for their own sake and benefit. Without social convention, society would be chaotic since everyone does whatever they want disrespectfully ignoring others’ rights. Right after finishing the book, I could not organize my thoughts on Edna. Should I admire and respect Edna for having the courage to defy social conventions, or despise her for being a deviant in society?

The contrast between Edna and Madame Ratigonolle, who is a mother-woman that praises and sacrifices herself for her family, especially her children, and Edna, who prioritizes herself over everything portrays how Edna deviates from the social convention of motherhood. Edna enjoys and feels liberated when her children and her husband Leonce are away from her.

“I would give up the unessentials; I would give my money, I would give my life for my children; but I wouldn’t give myself.” (Edna, p.56)

Edna emphasizes how significant her own identity apart from a mother and wife of her family means to her, demonstrates her rebellion against the social convention – the role of societal motherhood. However, Edna’s behavior leaves me with a question, which is whether Edna’s behavior has a positive impact on the growth of her children. At the beginning of chapter six, the narrator mentions the comparison between the Pontellier boys and other children, which the Pontellier boys are more likely to “pick himself up, wipe the water out of eyes and the sand out of his mouth, and go on playing” instead of “rush and cry to their mother’s arm for comfort.” The Pontellier boys toughen themselves up under Edna’s “negligence” rather than being a “mom’s kid”, who overly relies on their mother for everything. This questions the role of typical motherhood. What should the role a mother play to her children? Should they be over-protective, depriving the opportunity for their children to grow, or let go of their children?

The sea is a metaphor and symbol of freedom in The Awakening. Edna nostalgizes her childhood which she uses to walk through the boundless grass that is higher than her waist when she is at the beach, looking at the sea with Madame Ratignolle. The sea offers a calm and relaxed feeling, as an infinite fantasy for reflecting on the past and dreaming for the future. The endlessness of the sea at the horizon provokes a relief and freedom which Edna is yearning for. Edna’s attempt to swim but retreat after symbolizes the inability of Edna to pursue freedom and ignore all the stereotypes that standardize her role as a societal woman.

The voice of the sea is seductive, never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander in abysses of solitude. (p.136)

At the end of The Awakening, Edna decides to commit suicide by drowning herself in the sea. This quote appears almost verbatim in this book twice, the first time on page 15, the beginning of Edna’s awakening, and the second time on page 136, before Edna’s suicide.

But the beginning of things, of a world especially, is necessarily vague, tangled, chaotic, and exceedingly disturbing. How few of us ever emerge from such beginning! How many souls perish in its tumult! (p.15)

I related “the beginning of things” in this quote to Edna’s awakening. Her awakening is ambiguous, disorganized, and troubling. The word “tumult” can be interpreted as unrest and chaos, thus, Edna has been destinated to disruption from the beginning of her awakening. Edna’s eventual suicide symbolizes her surrender to reality and drowning herself signifies her relief to the infinite freedom that she has been longing for.

In my opinion, I did not enjoy the slow pacing of The Awakening. However, The Awakening questions the role of social convention in society which provokes me to consider about. I also really enjoy the symbol of the sea in this book and the echoing of the events.

Pygmalion PR

Pygmalion, a play by George Bernard Shaw, is named after a famous Greek myth. I did not know what I felt after watching and reading the play as it seemed realistically unrealistic. The play is mainly about the process of a common flower girl named Eliza upgrading her social class by learning the accent of a higher social class from the linguistic professor, Henry Higgins. Pygmalion is originally a myth Pygmalion creates a sculpture that matches the ideal image of his own creation, and then he falls in love with it. Henry Higgins and Colonel Pickering teach Eliza to adapt to the proper English and sculpt her to become a “dutchess”. The ending of Pygmalion is different from the myth of Pygmalion, in which Eliza did not fall in love with either of them, yet she threatens Higgins at the end of the play. Eliza symbolizes the ideal creation, and Higgins symbolizes the sculptor.

The conflict between language and social class derives from Pygmalion. The relationship between language and social class can still be seen nowadays, in every country. “The more standard version of the dialect you speak, the higher social class you belong to” becomes the norm of modern days. It also represents that you have higher education. How do language and manner be the identification of a person? In Pygmalion, both language and manner are used to identify a person’s social class and position. Eliza speaks Cockney English her behavior recognizes her as the lowest social class at the beginning of the play. In my opinion, manner is vigorously associated with a person’s identification. From how a person behaves and talks, I can determine his education level and his background. This is the reason why manner and language are inevitable in the identification of a person.

Pygmalion and A Doll’s House are contrasting plays that include different themes and stories. Eliza is illustrated as a rebellious person when Nora in A Doll’s House is depicted as a doll that fulfills her husband’s wishes. However, similarly, the two female characters of these two plays both have similar endings, in which they both leave their men and have control of their own life. I admire their courage and determination of taking control of their own lives. “I sold flowers. I didn’t sell myself” (act 4) is my favorite quote throughout the book. It caught my attention and hit my heart when I was reading the play.

Compare to other literature we read this year, Pygmalion has an informal and conversational diction that makes it less challenging to read. However, it is unrealistic that the social class of a person changes when their accent changes. This is the most impenetrable part of the play.


A Doll’s House PR

The plays we read this year – Oedipus, Antigone, and the Merchant of Venice are all plays that raise questions about society. Before reading the play, A Doll’s House, I was confused by the name of the play. I had completely no idea what the play is about, however, because of the confusing name of the play, it intrigued me more than the other plays did.

A Doll’s House, a thought-provoking play written by Henrik Ibsen, precisely describes the role of women in society. In the play, Nora, the housewife, always listens to her husband, Torvald. She does everything she could do to make her husband cheerful. She listens and obeys all his commands. This demonstrates the “expected trait” of women at the time of the play. Nora sacrifices herself for Torvald by borrowing money from Krogstad for Torvald for travelling to Italy to cure his sickness. She takes responsibility for everything because she uses to love him. On the contrary, Torvald thinks that everything Nora does is inevitable, and he is not grateful for that. He even prioritizes his reputation before Nora’s life. In Act III, which is the climax of the play, when Torvald finds out Nora lies to him and borrows money from Krogstad, his first reaction is to blame her for doing that and worrying about his reputation instead of asking Nora and try to understand the situation. His attitude changes significantly after Krogstad returns the IOU contract. “…Shame, shame!” (act III), he thinks what Nora does is a shame, despite the reason that action is to save Torvald’s life, to cure his sickness. From this scene, we can see the sacrificial role of women. Women are like a doll, a toy in play, when their owner is happy, it is treated nicely and respectfully; when their owner is in a bad mood, it is treated like a punching bag, who bears all his temper. 

One of the themes that derive from A Doll’s House is the influence of being honest with each other in a relationship. The conflicts in the play are all aroused by deception. Yet, the truth is always going to reveal itself. In Nora and Torvald’s relationship, deceit is a dominant part of it. Nora lies to Torvald and when the truth reveals, everything is irreversible. It reminds me to stay honest in every kind of relationship. No matter if it is romantic, family, or friends, being truthful to each other is essential. 

Compare to OedipusAntigone, and the Merchant of Venice, which are the plays we read this year, A Doll’s House is the most straightforward, and the easiest to understand. The language in the play is informal with a simple and realistic plot. It is one of my favourite literature out of everything we read this year.

The Merchant of Venice PR

One of Shakespeare’s famous works – The Merchant of Venice takes place in Venice, Italy where is an international trading spot during the 16th century. Venice is a central trading district for most naval trades, it is also a place full of prejudice and discrimination. Compare to Canada, I think Canada is a way better place to live since people accept each others differences and create a peaceful environment, not like Venice. People in Venice give me a feeling that they only care about money, instead of other people. Venice does not seem appealing for me to live, it seems frightening. The tension between Jewish and Christian is everlasting and endless in Venice.

Self-interest versus love is one of the theme in the play. In act 2 scene VIII, Shylock agonizes his money rather than his daughter. I found it hilarious when I was reading this scene. I could not understand people who care about money more than a live. Shylock is also willing to take a pound of flesh off a person which shows his obsession of money, and ignorant to love and other things.

This play discusses the tension between justice and mercy, represents by the conflict between the Jewish and Christian. Two of my most profound scenes of the play is when Shylock’s monologue in Act 3 scene I. The Christian characters show prejudice towards Shylock. I sympathize Shylock’s misfortune. His speech strongly engraves into my heart and I can feel the way he feels, prejudiced by people due to his identity. However, at the same time, Shylock is also willing to execute a cruel punishment on Antonio, which is cutting a pound of flesh from Antonio’s body. In act 4, Portia, as the judge of the court, saves Antonio from giving a pound of flesh. She starts her speech with “The quality of mercy is not strained” (act 4, scene I,line 179), which explains the issue at hand in the discussion. This raises a debate, justice verses mercy. Which one is more important? Can we live without one of them? If no, how can we balance justice and mercy. For me, I think justice without mercy is cruel, mercy without justice is profusion. Nevertheless, Shakespere does not specify whether Shylock or Portia is the representative of just or mercy. Judge symbolizes justice, judge with mercy is the key. At the end of the play, Shylock cannot get a pound of flesh from Antonio, who is guilty from the agreement with Shylock for borrowing money. Does it mean one side, mercy is greater than justice? This play is also considered controversial, and some people think it is anit-semitic as Shylock seems like a victim at the end.


The Merchant of Venice Movie PR

One of Shakespere’s most famous works, The Merchant of Venice, focuses on prejudice, racism, and discrimination. The conflict between the Jews and other people in Venice is revealed in the opening scene of the film, which provides us with a context of the background and social issues in Venice. Intolerance of Jews leads to discrimination against Jewish people as the beginning of the film states. A Jewish guy is thrown into the river, and Antonio spits onto Shylock… these are all the contexts that the film provides us with prior to the story in order to let us have a basic knowledge and experience of society’s moral — intolerance of Jews. This opening scene prompted me to ask what causes humans to be prejudiced and judge each other. Prejudice is judging people based on their background or values such as race, and religion, and having strong feelings for them. Different education and different backgrounds cause prejudice. Prejudice is still a social issue nowadays, thus, people should try to understand each other to reduce prejudice. This also reminds me not to judge people by stereotypes, and try to understand each person’s differences.

The quality of mercy is not strain’d

It droppeth as the gentle rain form heaven

Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:

It blesseth him the gives, and him that takes (act4 scene 1)

The quote above is spoken by Portia, who dressed up as a man for the judge of the court. This is my favorite quote throughout the film. It points out the benefits of being merciful and the best part — it blesses both parties, the giver and the taker. However, it raises a controversial question — is mercy more important than justice? Justice and mercy are contradicted at some point: justice allows people to face consequences for their actions; mercy tolerates people’s actions and allows people to escape from their consequences in some situations. In my opinion, justice and mercy are not completely opposite, they are complementary. A philosopher, Saint Thomas Aquinas stated, “… justice without mercy is cruelty; mercy without justice, profusion…”, which I strongly agree with. Thus, we should balance justice and mercy at once as they are both important to humans and society. People should forgive each other in order to maintain a peaceful society. Yet, people should also get their penalties if they have done something that violates other people’s natural rights.

In terms of diction, The Merchant of Venice is one of the most confusing films I have watched as the English that Shakespeare uses is confusing. It puzzled me a lot when I was watching the film. The imagery and acting help me to comprehend the plot of the story. It also raised questions for us to reflect on afterward. Even though this play is written years ago, the social issues that are raised in the film, for example, racism and prejudice, still occur nowadays, which connects to the modern world.

The Bully & His Victim Response

This case is complicated to determine who is the criminal as too little detail is given including the scale of bullying by the bully, the length of time, and their mental situation when the incident happened. After spending a long time thinking and asking my friends for their opinions, I made a conclusion that both sides, the bully and the “victim” would both be blamed and punished. However, as the bully’s physical injuries can be seen and a higher level of violence, therefore, if I were the judge, the penalty for the boy who gets bullied would be more severe.

Langston Hughes PR

Langston Hughes, an African American poet, is one of the developers of Jazz poetry. He is the leader of the Harlem Renaissance and has a significant impact on the revival of African American culture and art including literature and music. He is influenced by Whitman’s four aspects, free verse, optimism, the celebration of justice and equality, and catalogs. These four qualities are revealed in his poetries. I used to expect that poetries should have a fixed rhyme scheme, a rhythm, and fixed sentence lengths, yet Langston Hughes’ poems changed my stereotype of poetries. Free verse can be seen in most of his poems, I, Too is a notable example of free verse. There is neither rhyme schemes nor fixed lines length. The poem sounds like breaking sentences apart into different lines. Free verse also can be seen in the poem — As I Grew Older. Neither rhyme scheme nor fixed line length can be found in this poem.

Langston Hughes’ poem celebrates justice and equality and is surrounded by the theme — optimism. The poem Negro shows the quality of advocating justice and equality. In the poem, African Americans are not treated equally to white people. He mentions that the African Americans work hard for people by making an example — “Under my hands the pyramid arose.” (line 8), yet they are not praised enough as they should be. I feel empathy for African Americans at that time as they are discriminated against by white people despite the hard work they have completed. As an Asian in Canada, a North American country, I feel lucky that racism and discrimination have not happened to me.

I was impressed by the rhythm created in the poem The Weary Blues which deeply caught my attention. There is a “syncopated tune” throughout the poem which is mentioned in line 1. It makes me feel like it is a trailer for the poem, just like a trailer of a movie about what will happen next, which intrigues me to continue reading the poem. The rhyme scheme of The Weary Blues also allows me to feel the rhythm. The feeling and emotions throughout the poem are more relaxing due to the significant jazz rhythm. The diction is simple which is easy to interpret. This is my favorite out of all the selected poems because of the rhythm and the calm, relaxing feeling carried out from it.

To sum up, Langston Hughes’ poems amazed me by introducing a new impression on poems to me. I also admire his passion and optimism regarding inequality and racism. He reminds me to stay positive, optimistic, and fearless against inequality and raise awareness to solve social issues.


Outsmart Your Brain Reflection

Outsmart Your Brain, written by Daniel T. Willingham, provides tips and indicates errors that people, especially students, make while reading textbooks. In chapter 5, he quotes an example that intimates an excerpt from a typical high school textbook and points out the error that many students make — not coordinating and comprehending the context of the textbook. After I read the excerpt, I realized I had made the same mistake. I did not realize that the two sentences are contradicting, instead, I thought the textbook must be accurate and that I only remember the main idea of the paragraph. I did not think critically and judge every part of the text. This reminds me to stay “sober” and think crucially and carefully when I am reading the textbook in order to have a more in-depth idea of the subject.

I also realized I made the typical mistake during reading textbooks or materials. I normally read and highlight information that I think is “important”. However, Willingham reminds me that reading without knowing a general idea and preparing will make me skip the central idea — the actual important part of the text. Thus, he suggests a method that I will start using — SQ3R, survey, question, read, recite, and review. He mentions that this method improves comprehension. Hopefully, this method helps me to acknowledge the essential parts of the text better. He also suggests a note structure that I have never applied and heard of, which should include a summary, an important qualification of the summary, a comment on how this section relates to the main section, how the section answers the questions that I raised beforehand, and an implication of the summary. I learned how to read and take notes, I hope my note-taking skills will improve this year.

Candide PR

My impression of philosophers used to be tedious because they talk about random theories that are not intriguing, therefore, when I first heard that we were reading a book written by a philosopher named Voltaire, I expected the book to be monotonous. However, after reading Candide, I am amazed by the way Voltaire criticizes ideas that he disagrees with by using sarcasm. Pangloss, the “greatest” philosopher in the book, advocates “everything happens for the best”. Voltaire refutes this idea sarcastically by creating adversity scenes for Pangloss and Candide throughout the story. He makes Candide more interesting to read with an engaging plot, and also makes the readers understand his ideas and agree with him. I agree with Voltaire that everything does not happen for the best. I admire that Pangloss and his students have such an optimistic mindset, but in real life, bad things do happen all the time, and sometimes, good things do not happen after encountering adversity. The worst thing that could happen to humans is dying. If a person died, how could good things happen? Thus, I think Pangloss’s theory is absurd.

“But we must cultivate our garden.” (page 119) This quote has attracted my curiosity. What does Voltaire mean by cultivating our garden? What do “cultivate” and “garden” signify in this metaphor? “Cultivate” means taking steps and putting effort into growing something or improving its growth. “Garden” is a symbol of soul and happiness. My interpretation of this quote is that we must put effort into creating a meaningful and fruitful life. We must learn and grow from what we encountered in order to have a good life. To me, learning is not only a thing that you do in school or when you are in school. It is a thing that you do throughout your life. We must keep learning to improve ourselves and be better people.  There is an idiom in Chinese saying that “living till old age, learn till old age.” It basically means that people learn till their lives end. There is always a purpose to learn and something that you can learn. It reminds me to be a lifelong learner and stay curious.

Compare to Oedipus the King, Candide is way easier to read since the translation is in new English, despite there being an enormous amount of words that I have never seen. I spent a lot of time translating when I was reading. Overall, I think Candide is amusing enough to read and I would recommend other people to read this masterpiece.


Reflection on “Let Evening Come”

According to the marking on my analysis of “Let Evening Come”, error 23 (unclear or awkward expressions) is still the most severe and common error I make in writing. I am still learning to use a simple structure to construct a sentence. What my grade 5 English teacher told me, “Less is more”, meaning writing less yet simply is better than writing a lot but unclear, is something I must keep working on. In the future, I will try to use simple diction to express my ideas to make them as clear as possible.

I also made a lot of spelling mistakes throughout the essay. I was confused between words with similar spellings including “syllables” and “syllabus”; “empathize” and “emphasize”. I will pay more attention to the spelling and meaning of words in the future.

In the aspect of analyzing, I figured out the direction to analyze it. However, I did not explain the significance of the subject and connect it to the central idea of my analysis. I can explain further and make connection with my central idea of my essay in the future.

Antigone PR

Antigone is another tragic story written by Sophocles. I found the plot of Antigone is similar to Oedipus the King to some extent. They are both Greek plays surrounding the theme – of fate and free will. Antigone is a commendable person that deserves to be learned by all of us. First, she is particularly not fear of death and loyal to herself. 

Die I must, I’ve known it all my life —

how could I keep from knowing? —

even without your death-sentence ringing in my ears.

And if I am to die before my time

I consider that a gain. (p.82, 511-516)

From the quote above, which is said by Antigone, shows her determination and audacity to act right and meaningful. She is not fear and is daring to face death. People should not be loyal to the death, instead, should be loyal to themselves. Antigone is loyal to herself and her family; she insists on buying her brother, Polyneices’s dead body whom she loves and is loved by him. She knows that she will have the death penalty but she persists. This makes her life significant.

The characteristics of Oedipus and Creon are different, yet their outcomes are identical. They both experienced the loss of their relatives and the people they loved the most in their life as a result. However, Oedipus is stubborn when Creon is only slow on the uptake. Oedipus refuses to admit the things he does till the last minute, till he finds out the events collaborate with the things he does. On another hand, Creon notices right after Tiresias tells him the prophecies. He is worried and he decides to free Antigone. Unfortunately, by the time he decides to free Antigone, it is already too late and she already hangs herself. This is Creon’s fate. Fate dominates everyone. I realized Ancient Greek is a place where they believed in fate and Gods’ will. I would not like to like to live in Ancient Greek as I do not want to be “cursed” and dominant by the Gods. 

Loyal to the state vs loyal to family describes Antigone the best. Antigone is loyal to her family while Creon is loyal to the state. Antigone has gone through the loss of her family since she was still a child. Her mother commits suicide, her brother/dad, Oedipus is exiled, and her two older brothers are dead from fighting each other. After her parents’ death, I believe that Antigone cherishes her siblings greatly. She wants to bury Polyneice’s body as she wants him to be memorized. On another hand, Creon is loyal to the states and he claims that Polyneices is a traitor and he deserves to be left for the dogs and vultures to eat. In my opinion, there is no absolute right or wrong. One of them shows his loyalty to the state and one shows her loyalty to her family. They are both behaving ethically from their perspectives which affects by different backgrounds and personal experiences. Thus, they have contrasting actions on Polyneices’s death.

I could relate to Ismene when I was reading Antigone. Hong Kong was in an ambiguous situation in which people were protesting whether it was a part of China. Even though I believed that Hong Kong is not a part of China, I did not participate in any of the protests as I was fear of the “death”, and penalty. I respected Antigone when I was reading the play. I found she was courageous to face death and the penalty. she is not remotely scared and she persists in doing things that she thinks are ethical. This is a trait that everyone should learn from Antigone. People should be loyal to themselves instead of the other people or death. Therefore, I should also loyal to what I think is conscientious. 

Oedipus the King PR

Oedipus the King, an Ancient Greek playwright written by Sophocles, is a successful tragedy. The main character in the play, Oedipus, who I feel great sympathy for, has a coarse life in which he has gone through the pinnacle and the most tragic that could have happened to him. First of all, I admire his smartness. He solves the Sphinx’s riddle and saves the citizen of Thebes from her. Nevertheless, it turns out he is the cause of the plague in his city as he is cursed by the gods since he was born. I empathize with Oedipus since he loses everything he had after he finds out about the misery of his life and the reason for the plague, so as everything he does. He loses his mother/wife; he loses his daughters and indeed the city. I can feel the pain of losing all his properties and his love in his life. I respect Oedipus for giving up everything he had to save the city of Thebes. I also commiserate with the Queen, Jocasta, who finds out his husband was killed by his son whom she abandoned years ago. She also finds out that she has slept with her son which is unholy. I understand that she committed suicide afterward since this must be a tragedy for her. I think it is unfair for Oedipus that he does not deserve to be cursed, hated, and treated as a “toy” by all the Gods as he saved the citizens of Thebes.

The plot of Oedipus the King mostly makes sense to me, apart from the chorus part. The Chorus is written from the citizens’ perspective, who do not know what happened to Oedipus. As a reader of the play, I know the plot of the story in advance, before I read the play. Therefore, it was difficult to immerse me into the crowd’s perspective, which requires me to bypass all the advanced knowledge. While I was reading, I was also confused by the formatting of how the play was written. I noticed that some lines are indented. I sometimes skipped those lines unconsciously and accidentally. After Mr. Macknight’s explanation in class, I understood that this play is translated from Greek, also in poem format. Lines were not aligned after translation. Therefore, some lines are indented to match the poem format and lines of the original version.

The main theme of Oedipus the King is fate. Oedipus is cursed since he was born. Although he tries his best to escape the prophet, he fails, kills his father, and marries his mother eventually. The play’s theme is established, “fate guides a person’s life”. However, I personally disagree fate dominates our lives. I believe that we have the authority to be in charge of our lives. After reading, an open-ended question was raised: “What would happen if Oedipus was extremely in charge and mindful of his actions, is the prophet still be accomplished?” The answer is yet to be found.

Class Blog Intro

My full name is Wing Lam, Chung, but most of people here address me by my English name — Semvia. I was born in Hong Kong, a place in Asia where is filled of skyscrapers so I found it weird when I just arrived here. I came to Canada 2 years ago, since grade 9. Studying in another country is a fun and precious experience which I would never regret I made this decision. I play volleyball a lot so I guess it can be said as my interest(?), but I do hate it at the same time. I also play other kinds of sports like basketball and badminton, although I am not amazing at all these. Other than sports, my favourite thing to do is to do nothing or just go on my phone.

In DP1 English, I expect I will learn to analyze texts and write efficiently. I also hope my organizing skills can be improved by the end of the year. Apart from those, using language is also a category that I have to work on. These are my expectations of the coming year.