Poe and Poetry

So far, I’ve mostly enjoyed most of the poetry we’ve read. Poe’s poetry is easier for me to dissect and analyze. El Dorado surprised me a bit. It was one of the few pieces of literature that I’ve read from Poe where it starts on a relatively light note. But inevitably, it ended on despair. I mean, it wouldn’t be Poe if it didn’t focus on sadness and despair, now would it? I could relate in a way to Poe’s short story “The Cask of Amontillado”. That story also started a bit more light than others from Poe where the men are merely friends conversing. But it takes a dark turn at the end where there ends up being a murder committed. This tactic gives an eerie and suspenseful feeling to the writing which suits Poe’s writing style quite well.

I feel like our analysis of El Dorado went pretty well. The thing that tripped the most people up though was the allusion to the Bible with “The Valley of the Shadow”. That I feel is a detail that can be easily missed. Finding the rhythm was slightly hard as well, especially with the female endings. I still detest looking for that and meter, even though I’ve been doing this for years. I rather liked Poe’s use of a nursery rhyme-sounding rhythm. It effectively made the poem eerie, spooky, suspicious, and creepy. It was quite interesting how he continually used El Dorado and shadow throughout all the verses. I can’t recall a poem outside of this one where the author uses the same words for all the verses. I believe it was done to emphasize their importance and meaning, as they both are central elements to the main point of the story.

I have yet to come with a solid idea for a poem. Poetry has never been and will never be my strongest suit as I personally find it much too restrictive and flowery for my taste. I considered doing something about struggle towards a goal. However, I do not know how I am going to make this concept into a poem.

Image from Wikipedia

Scythe Review

This book is by one of my favorite authors, Neal Shusterman. I loved his Unwind series and had heard many good things about the Scythe series as well. In fact, Mr. Burell recommended it to me. Based on his description of it and how much he liked the series, I decided to take his professional opinion and give it a shot. Even without the assigned requirement of reading an additional book, I definitely believe that I would have willingly read this book anyway which is a nice change from being forced to read books I would never even go near in a thousand millennium.

 

Image from Simon and Schuster

 

I went into this book expecting a similar style to the Unwind series. I was not disappointed. Neal Shusterman takes an idea and uses it in a way to make the reader question their core beliefs. In this book, it was about the consequences of conquering death. No one wants to face death. That is what drives us to continually seek for cures to diseases and pain. But what if that were to happen? What if we conquered natural death? Shusterman shows us this possibility with a demonstration of a major consequence to seemingly eternal life: overpopulation. He forces us to think questions like: “If it is for the good of all humanity, is it bad?”, “Is it considered murder if it is done with a better intent?”, and “Is eternal life worth this?” Books like this are extremely tricky to write because you need to know what makes people tick. To make a book that is meant to shake people to the core, the author needs to identify a belief, moral, or idea that is common among various audiences. Shusterman is basically manipulating us by presenting us with a conflict between beliefs and then stepping back, almost to watch what happens.

After reading it, I had to think a lot. As a student interested in the medical department and the hope of finding cures, this book made me reevaluate myself as a person, where I stand, and why I choose that opinion. I like a book that makes you think while and after reading it, so this was a good mark of a great author.

I could best relate to Citra, the girl main character. Her unique set of problems and past experiences are easier for me to understand and feel as a reader. I also can relate to Rowan to a good extent as well, particularly his survival techniques in enduring his second apprenticeship. In general, all the characters are vibrantly created and provide each reader several different personalities to be able to relate to.

I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone. It is skillfully written. The plot sweeps you away and is quickly addictive. As a piece of modern literature, this book will have a fairly easy time reaching and communicating with diverse audiences. This makes it appealing to the average high schooler. However, I recommend this book with a warning. If you do read this, be prepared to question your judgment and basic core beliefs. Neal Shusterman writes to challenge these beliefs and therefore, drawing the reader in further emotionally. This book took every belief I had about eternal life and turned them upside-down. If you wish to be emotionally invested and ready to question yourself, this is the perfect story to read. I think that “We think of our beliefs, but not the consequences of these morals” is a theme Shusterman is trying to get across to his captive audience. This book is one of the best I’ve read and I can’t wait for the next one!

Anthem Reaction

At the end of it all, I am rather surprised by this book. I originally read it because I saw it as a challenge and I knew no one else would want it. I have heard people complain about not only this particular book but the author herself. Admittedly, I felt a bit intrigued by this analysis from others. I have grown up reading older books and have seen other people dislike books like that because of how alien the topics, language, beliefs, and other elements of the story can be to them when compared to more modern literature. If this was the case with this book, there seemed a chance I could actually appreciate and like it.

The thing that surprised me the most was my own level of liking of it. Generally, with books, I end up liking the base moral structure or lesson that the book is teaching, more so than the plot of the story. Often the plot can be dry, boring,  or just does not convey the meaning very well. This time was the opposite. I felt that the plot itself was well executed, even going so far as to eliminate the word “I” in nearly the entire novel. What I did not like was the moral that is blatantly revealed at the end. The very last chapter is basically a summary of how the character’s beliefs have changed and then explains to us that they now focus on one aspect of humanity: Ego. I feel that this is a bad lesson to be teaching, to focus on your ego. The world does not need more ego in it and we should not promote this worship of ego.

Image from HashtagHappy Inc

While I was reading it, I thought the lesson was about needing independence and freedoms. That was fine by me, I agree that independence and freedom are wholesome ideals to have. It wasn’t until I got to the end that I learned what the author’s true intent was. Even though I still liked the plot, I felt a bit slighted by such a disappointing moral. I was built up to expect one set of morals and instead got another set that society as a whole frowns upon. Society isn’t right all the time (a bit of an understatement there), but I agree that ego is not a thing to be building up.

I empathized with the main character Prometheus. He felt like he was bad because he was different from others. He struggled against society’s blindness and tried to define himself as an individual in a world where that was considered a sin of the highest degree. I admire and connect with characters that learn and grow. I can relate to characters who grow through their experiences and become a better person through it.

Would I recommend this book? This is a tricky question in relation to this particular piece of literature. If you’re a sophomore and want a stab at a scholarship, then sure, go ahead. There is a scholarship for this book online for sophomores and I think it’s a decent reason to read this book. Outside of that? Depends on who it is. If they are wanting a book with a good philosophical basis, then absolutely not. This book has a pretty lousy philosophical mentality and would be a waste of time in that direction. I liked the plot, but others who are more accustomed to modern literature would probably not be very interested in it for story content. As a whole, I would probably not recommend this book because of its philosophical basis.

 

From Then to Now: The Evolution of a Short Story

Well, these past few weeks, our class has been working on our first short story.

Most people expect some things to change and develop when writing a short story. So what changed in mine?

Everything.

Literally everything.

First off, I originally planned on using the six-word story “No taxidermist loved his daughter more.” However, I felt that any story based on that was a bit expected and I felt a bit restricted with that. I then switched to the “For sale: baby shoes. Never worn” for some more pliability of the story basis and more creative freedom. This would be the short story I would continue to use up until the final draft.

Then came the plot. I wanted to involve something about healing. This led me to the idea of healing from the unexpected loss of a child. However, this idea involved the conveying of very complex emotions. I didn’t want to do a bad job at that, but to truly be able to do that degree of emotion, you need quite a bit longer time frame and a longer story. For fear of compromising good writing in order to meet the required deadline, I decided to switch to a simpler story.

My original set-up of the story was in third person limited omniscience. I felt like my new story could be better told in a different format, however. This prompted me to switch to a diary format to provide the thoughts and opinions of the main character better.

As for my independent reading, I have already completed my first book. I enjoyed the base story of it, but not the philosophy behind it all. One way that my first book choice is affecting my second book choice is that I will not be reading another story from that particular author.

 


Image from: Teachers Pay Teachers

Blog 5

Considering I completely scrapped my original short story idea in favor of a completely new one, I would say my story has changed a lot! My story is now about a nurse in World War 2. She is a stubborn person who is unwilling to give up any man, despite the severity of his wounds. However, her head nurse disagrees. This becomes the main conflict as the nurse finds what she feels in her heart is right and then fights for it.

I developed the story from the ‘For sale: baby shoes. Never worn’ quote. For me, that showed loss of hope. That developed my central theme, that we should never give up hope in others.

I feel like the activities we have done in the class have made my story more organized. There are certain things that come in a certain order, and I have a better grasp of it. But it has also made my writing process feel more mechanical, less creative. It feels like a checklist where I’m checking off different things I need, such as two conflicts, certain types of symbolism, etc. This has, unfortunately, made it more difficult for me to focus on the creative aspect.

After we deconstructed the writing process, I feel like I understand the psychological elements behind it better. Things like why we need rising action, what the role of the symbols, and peaks vs. plateaus, make more sense now. But it has also disrupted my creative processes. It feels more like a psychological checklist than an art. I feel like looking at the process has made it harder for me because I now have to stop and consider whether I have all the elements. I personally have always worked better by putting the creativity on the page and then going back and ensuring I have the elements. Now, I am forced to do it in reverse. It is frustrating having to change something I have done forever and reversing it. I kinda wish we had approached our learning of the elements differently so it was more fluent for my style of writing.

A Rant On Ayn Rand

When our teacher set out the task to find a book to read, they mentioned a specific book as an example of a short, but hard piece. Though Anthem only has a meager 105 pages, it is certainly a challenge. As we like challenges, we decided that this would be our book of choice.

We had to read this twice to understand it. Why is it so confusing? Let us tell you…

Firstly, the philosophy is utter garbage. If you have heard anything about the author, Ayn Rand, it was probably negative. This is because they had a tendency to believe in some pretty strange philosophy. They would take this and use it as the basis for their story. In Anthem, the basis of the story is that the ego is a great thing. Not individuality, not uniqueness, specifically ego. Not the greatest message to send across. We feel that this moral could have and should have been improved on. The story was interesting as a story for us, but the philosophy behind it killed it. This book literally spends the last chapter explaining that “ego” is the heart of the world and “the sacred word”. Really? We don’t need any more support for egotistical people.

Another problem with this book is its fluidity. The speaker tended to jump between thoughts. They would start to detail what is happening and then interrupt it with some information that wasn’t always relevant to the event at the time. There were times where something happened in the book that required some of that information, but that knowledge was located elsewhere. This caused confusion, especially with us constantly flipping back and forth between the pages.

And the last major element of confusion? This one was simultaneously frustrating and brilliant. This is the one and the only book I’ve ever read that almost completely cut out the most common and important words in the English language. Perhaps you have noticed our lack of these words throughout our blog. We did that to give you a taste of this strange style. This book almost never used the words “I”, “she”, and “he”. The most basic words, the essential words of English, and here they are blatantly missing. This was brilliant in the sense that it drove the plot of a dystopian communist society where these words were obliterated. Instead, they used “we”, “they”, “us”, and “you”. But this made it so much more complex because “we” could refer to an individual or a group. And it is up to the reader to figure that out! How confusing!

While not our least favorite book, this one needs some definite work before it is on our recommendation list.

The Devil and Tom Walker

This week, our class has been reading the story “The Devil and Tom Walker” by Washington Irving. My initial response was a disappointment. I have read the other works of Washington Irving, and I have to say, this did not live up to my expectations of him. My favorite story from him is “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. Another one I liked is “Rip Van Winkle”. Compared to these two, The Devil and Tom Walker fall behind them. All three are a bit dark and have a moral. But this one is so much less of a story than the others.

Irving’s best talent in writing is creating the setting. He is particularly skilled in painting mysterious and strange landscapes while blending them seamlessly with the general mood of the piece. In all these stories, he succeeds tremendous;y with this. However, he fails to carry this artistic skill over to his characters in this story. When he portrays a character, they tend to be more shadows of people than actual personalities. They are often defined by only a single trait. The characters in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow were better in this respect. But in this story, they are disappointing paper dolls rather than true characters. In Tom Walker, it is his wickedness and miserly characteristics that distinguish him. In his wife, her greed and abusiveness are all there is to her. Without these traits, they would be indistinguishable from each other. Perhaps it is just me, but I would much rather characters that don’t feel like mere cookie-cutter outlines with a single characteristic to tell them apart. A true artist should use more than one color, more than one brushstroke.

The society he presents is conniving, hypocritical, and fake. I think he wrote this to make people face and realize the monsters they try to hide. Some say that life is a stage. This certainly true, considering how talented people are at acting like the innocent and good characters. All acts are fallible, however. This story shows that these acts will eventually be seen through. I believe this was the point Irving was trying to make.

A big thing with modern audiences is getting their attention. This story does nothing towards that. As intriguing as the setting may be, the characters simply fail to keep the attention of the audience. I would make the characters more solid. Currently, they are about as substantial as smoke. This weakens the structure of the story because characters are the foundation. Without a strong foundation, the greatest architectural achievements crumble. This would infinitely improve the story.

 

 

Image from: CNT Foundation

A Noteworthy Week

How was my week this week? Informative I would say.

Why?

Because I learned a great truth about life.

There are only three things that are certain in life. Taxes, death, and endless note taking in school.

Image from Studypool

Another thing I’ve learned this week, you can’t have too many highlighters.

Image from Pinterest

 Despite my reluctance to once again begin the dreaded note taking, I must admit our more recent notes in American Literature have changed my perspective on books and films.

In one way, I feel more cheated. After learning about Aristotle’s Ethical Imperative, I feel more aware of my emotions being manipulated. I understand why authors use this. They do want to sell more books after all. But I now understand why I want to continue reading books and movies, especially in a series. I just feel slightly used now.

For example, the Harry Potter book and movie series follows this pattern. The books start off at a certain emotional point. It then proceeds to build until we finally come to a climax. One such point is Harry’s confrontation with Voldemort in the first book. following this climax, certain issues are resolved…

EXCEPT

the minor issue of Lord Voldemort still out there yearning to kill everyone!

Gif from Giphy

So yeah, I’m going to want to read the other books!

 Because I become so attached to these characters, I become an active participant in the story. To be an active participant, I have to feel the emotions of the characters, not just observe them and keep plodding through the novel. You need to have a reaction to the characters and develop opinions.

Such as sympathy,

Gif from Giphy

respect,

Gif from Giphy

and a sincere desire to rid the world of loathsome vermin like this creature.

Gif from Tenor

Considering how emotionally attached (or disgusted) I become with characters from the books I read, I believe I am a more active participant than passive.

All people can be active participants in reading! All one needs to do is focus on the text and let it become a picture in the readers mind.

WARNING:

Be aware that doing this may lead to crying, laughing out loud, screaming at fictional people, throwing the book across the room, losing sleep to finish another chapter, and steadily becoming addicted to each new book.

Image from BookBub

Happy Reading!!!

First Week Back!

What a week it’s been! It feels like the summer months just flew by!

When they school year was about to start up again, I knew I was going to miss a lot of things about the summer. Last year had its ups and downs, but during the summer I was able to take a break. When it started getting into August, I thought of some goals for this year, including being more positive and being better organized.

 

Walking into school on Tuesday, I had a lot of mixed emotions. I felt a bit anxious and nervous due to having more responsibilities and harder classes. But overwhelmingly, I felt positive about this new year. I just felt like this was going to be a good year for me.

Throughout the week I was able to meet new teachers, start learning new material, and reconnect with old friends. And you know what? It went fantastic! All my new classes are proving to be interesting and challenging. If there is one thing I cannot stand in school, it is boredom. I loved that my teachers got right into the first lessons. Most of my other years started out boring and without much to do. This year wasn’t one of them!

One of the things that certainly helped this year is that all the classes I have are classes I really wanted and are interested in. It’s harder to get into school when you are sitting in a class you really didn’t want. I am particularly enthused that this year, I finally was able to schedule Voice class. I have been trying for the past two years, but it hasn’t fit in my schedule until this year. Because I love and am so involved in music, I think this will be an exceptionally good class for me.

I was surprised to see so many staff switches this year, but am open to the change. In fact, our new vice principal has proved to be very supportive and involved in this school so far. Earlier this week, he came into our voice class and participated with us in singing. I am quite impressed with how he is connecting with the students and is involved in our learning experience.

While I am glad to be back and learning, that doesn’t mean I am thrilled about the homework. As much as I love learning, I can’t say I savor the idea of staying up late solving problems or writing essays after a long day at work.

Based on how this first week has gone, I think this year is promising and has great potential to be one of my best years!

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