Thursday, April 3, 2008

Reflective Essay

I have never felt more exhausted over school than senior year. Entering English Honors, I didn’t know what to anticipate. I knew that there would be a lot of work, but I didn’t know it was going to be this much work. Walking into the English classroom, immediately I began to feel intimidated by the teacher who welcomed us into his classroom of scattered tables in different sizes and colors.

The year started with summer reading assignments just like the other three years of high school. Each year students were responsible for reading a book or two then they were required to take a test. The tests were not a problem for me and I felt confident that this class would not be a challenge. I was sure that there was nothing to worry about English 12 Honor, but then we were introduced to Explication. Never have I heard of this form of writing called an explication before. It was something new to me and to write a paper on something that I didn’t know how to do was going to be disastrous and nevertheless it did come out disastrous. For the first quarter, every explication I did came with a low score. The highest was a 70. I couldn’t believe in what I was seeing. I was trying so hard and spending hours trying to achieve a great essay, but something was missing. I couldn’t quite catch on what was considered explicating and so I struggled. I started questioning myself if I have been writing papers the wrong way because nothing I wrote was good enough. Unable to write a good paper, this brought my grade down. I felt really disappointed in myself and I started to not enjoy the class and felt even more intimidated by my teacher. I was completely stressed and overwhelmed by the class. I almost reached to a point where I hated English class because it was taking over my life. I would stay up late to write an essay and end up getting a low grade after spending hours on it. I was confused.

Instead of giving up, my motivation boosted. I’m not the kind of person who gives up so easily and won’t be satisfied until I do achieve what I want and for English it was to get an “A+” in Explication Essays. Strangely, I started focusing on English more than the other subjects. English somehow became a priority to me. I would commit myself to doing English homework over my AP Class work. By second quarter, the class started to read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. This time I wasn’t going to blindly write my essay. Instead I would seek help from my teacher. I knew that what i needed was an example to show me how to do it, but I was afraid to seek help earlier. I was upset with why I wasn’t getting this by myself, but I couldn’t let myself go through the same thing over again. Speaking with my teacher over organizing my essay and my ideas for the first time, it helped me greatly because i needed the help but i was in denial. As a result, I received my first A- for an explication. I was filled with unspeakable joy. Slowly but surely, I started seeing a difference in my grades. It began to rise each quarter. With the A-, it really motivated me to get an even better grade the next time and it did continue to progress from there. I started to receive positive feedback. With all the other assignments that we were given like the Olson creative project, it helped spark my creativity and the way i analyzed text. Writing the Joyce Paper and Tom Phillips Explication didn't seem so hard anymore and finally i received the A+ that I so greatly desired and this showed me that I was progressing. I couldn’t have been happier.

My view in English started to turn around. When we got into Hamlet, I started to enjoy English class. There was a time where we missed the class for about a week and I said to my friend, “hey, for some odd reason, I actually miss having English class.” This change came so sudden, but it was a sincere feeling because I did miss performing scenes in class and having the laughs. I also found myself to be more open and finally being myself. In the beginning of the year, I was shy and afraid to talk during class discussions because I would feel like what I had to say was going to be wrong and I would always loose my thought. By third quarter, I felt like I was being who I am and showing myself. I acted as Ophelia and sang in class when most people were hesitant to. I didn’t care if I was going to embarrass myself because it was all for humor and I found my teacher quite humorous at times and this allowed me to enjoy English class.

Overall, this year has been a learning experience for me. I started out not getting the grades that I wanted because of Explications, but because of the feedback that I was getting, the practice, and examples from my peers, I learned how to write a well written explication. My conception of the class has changed positively and I’m glad that my year ended this way.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Notebook

Topic: Bird Imagery

Chapter One

"The vances lived in number seven.They had a different father and mother. They were Eilee's father and mother. When they were grown up he was going to marry Eileen. He hid under the table. His mother said : - O Stpehen will apologise Dante said: - O, if not, the eagles will come and pull out his eyes.

Pull out his eyes,
Pull out his eyes.

Pull out his eyes,
Pull out his eyes,

[The novel starts out in a childish manner as if the narrator is telling a story "Once upon a time.... there was a moocow...." Stephen Dedalus is the protagonist and he tells us a little about his family and his dreams.]
Stephen then talks about this neighborhood girl who he likes and hopes to eventually marry, but Dante refuses. It's as if Stephen had done something wrong. Eileen was a girl of another religion and Dante didn't like that so she threatens Stephen for thinking about marrying Eileen. She says that eagles would come and pull out his eyes and I think that may have frightened him because he seemed hypnotized by the statement. When i was reading the "pull out his eyes... apologise..." part, it reminded me of my experience watching Ted Berigan's Youtube video of the cutting prow. I felt like i was being hypnotized and it was something hard to get over so i think the eagles may either come back later on or it may be foreshadowing a stronger impact that birds will have on him.
I also think that the eagles or birds are a symbol of Stephen because when I think of eagles, I think of freedom. This novel in general is the maturing of a young man. When a person grows up, he or she learns to do things on their own to be independent. Stephen is like an eagle because he's learning to fly and to be free from being young and inexperienced. When i think of eagles, i also think of power and strength. Stephen already feels much more mature compared to the other kids in his age and that separates his character, making him above everyone else. His character is different and that's what makes him so interesting.
I also thought that the eagles may be referencing to something in religion because Dante was the one who threatened him with the eagles and she's a strong catholic believer. Eagles are actually a symbol of Christ which i thought was interesting. The idea of Christ coming to bite his eyes out for committing a sin of wanting to marry a Protestant girl seems nonsensical. Hamlet struggles to believe in religion.

Chapter Four

"Now, at the name of the fabulous artificer, he seemed to hear the noise of dim waves and to see a winged form flying above the waves and slowly climbing the air. what did it mean? Was it a quaint device opening a page of some medieval book of prophecies and symbols, a hawklike man flying sunward above the sea, a prophecy of the end he had been born to serve and had been following through the mists of childhood and boyhood a symbol of the artist forging anew in his workshop out of the sluggish matter of the earth a new soaring impalpable imperishable being."

This paragraph reveals a clear image and connection to the Myth of Dedalus and Icarus. The "winged form" and "hawklike man" being Dedalus. James Joyce even makes it clear "what did it mean". The bird imagery throughout the novel was a "prophecy of the end." Stephen's character was born to follow the myth, from his childhood to growing up. What makes this passages connected to the myth is the idea of flight, flying sunward, which Icarus did but he died. Also, the sea is a big part of the myth. Icarus falls in the vast deep sea. Stephen during Chapter Four also goes to the ocean and sits there. This paragraph foreshadows Stephen's fate, possibly Stephen will meet his downfall similar to that of Dedalus and Icarus.

"His throat ached with a desire to cry aloud, the cry of a hawk or eagle on high, to cry piercingly of his deliverance to the winds. This was the call of life to his soul not the dull gross voice of the world of duties and despair..."

In this passage, Stephen possesses animal-like features. He is portrayed like and animal who's crying for help. His uproar is like one of a hawk or eagle. it felt like he was caged and trapped. It reminds me of "the heavy bird" in Chapter One. I could almost feel him struggling when he says "His throat ached." i also think that Stephen needed to purge his "sins" and this was a way to do it. Screaming out loud allows one to let go of ourselves for a moment. It is a method used to purge oneself from our sins similar to how some characters jump into the sea to wash away their sins. I can see Stephen starting to mature.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Winter Break Reading Assignment

A Thousand Splendid Suns

>>>Hosseini ends Part Two with four short passages. Explain the significance of each one to the rest of the book. Who are the characters that are referred to and what is the significance of some of the imagery? Please reference later examples in the book.

>>>Trace the changes that the character Mariam experiences throughout the book.

1. At the end of Part Two, Laila is preparing to leave Herat with her parents. Before they could leave, a rocket falls down on them and explodes. It sends Laila flying and she is hurt and half awake. the first person she sees is a woman who is Mariam. "A fourescent light shines" (174) above Mariam. She comes to Laila as a savior and as a sign of hope. Mariam appears angelic. Then another face apears infront of her and this time it's a man. The man is Rasheed and Laila's reaction toward him is "It hurts. It hurts to breathe. It hurts everywhere." This foreshadows Rasheed's violent manners later in the novel when they get married. Rasheed would abuse Laila and Mariam when they didn't follow Afghanistan culture and traditions which says men are the dominant gender. Then she sees Mariam's face again when she opens her eyes. Laila describes her features this time and their eyes meet. When two eyes meet, it represents a bond and connection, which they form later on. They form a mother and daughter relationship after understanding where they both were coming from and by page 224, "they were not enemies any longer." Mariam becomes Laila's closest friend and family. The last short passage describes Laila's past. Laila is dreaming at this point. She sees Babi and Mammy flying in the sky. She hears an accordion playing, the sound of her life before the accident. Now "a deep hush falls over everything" (175). A new life would begin for Laila. It gives the reader hope. It's also evident that Mariam and Rasheed are the "man" and "woman" because it is revelaed int he next chapter.

2. In the beginning of the novel, Mariam is only 15 years old and she lives with her mom Nana. Mariam choses to believe Jahil over her mother, who later abandons her. She wasn't allowed to do anything that normal girls did like go to school. Her life revolved around "only one skill. And it's this: tahamul. Endure." (17). As a woman, she had no power. Even in marriage, the husband was chosen for her. She could only adapt to what was happening. This made her a stronger person. She gradually starts to mature after marriage. When Lauila comes along. Marian fights for her husband. She speaks for herself when she refuses "to be your [her] servant" (202). For years, Mariam has taken violence from Rasheed. Rasheed would kick her, throw her against the wall. She was vulnerable, but Mariam becomes a hero at the end of the novel. Mariam takes a shovel and kills Rasheed for strangling Laila. Mariam held courage and power at that point. She even took responsibility for the killing and took guilty for the death. She told Laila to leave. Mariam became a hero and mother to Laila. She saves Laila and Mariam goes to jail where she dies. Her death demonstrates a honorable action, which makes her the hero of the novel.