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By Daniella Pozo, V Form
Spiritual and Intellectual Challenges
In “Teddy,” J.D. Salinger provides the reader with an onslaught of observations and religious teachings in order to challenge even the most highly educated. Through Nicholson’s eyes, the audience feels hostility towards Teddy stemming from deeply ingrained American close-mindedness. How the reader experiences the ensuing conversations depends on one’s ability to welcome doubt. The core story is not meant to sway one’s spiritual beliefs in any direction but rather to make one aware of how susceptible or hostile they are. Themes of American elitism and consumerism seep into Nicholson’s everyday life and nearly keep him from considering any outside perspectives. Through the character of Nicholson, Salinger challenges the reader to focus on nuance and open consideration of ideas instead of focusing on the objective correctness or conclusion to spirituality.
Nicholson is introduced as a young man with “a kind of poise about him” and wearing a jacket “properly aged in some of the more popular postgraduate seminars at Yale, or Harvard, or Princeton” (Salinger 76). The audience identifies with Nicholson because he seems to be respectable and highly educated. Among his circle, there exist two views: those who are premature to devalue radically different ideas and those that hail those ideas as pure genius. Teddy is a novelty to the Leidekker examining group who choose to play his tape at a party, a setting that trivializes Teddy’s insights and the research process. Nicholson does not approach Teddy out of good faith or love of research but rather because he wants to disprove Teddy for his own ego. He interrupts Teddy and disrespects his beliefs by calling them “mystical” (78). His voice and demeanor falsely suggest that he is above most Americans who do not want to engage with differing ideas. When Teddy decides to teach and ask him how he knows his arm is truly an arm, Nicholson is defensive. This reaction aligns with the resistant attitude American audiences may feel towards Teddy’s personality, insights, and spiritual beliefs. Unfortunately, Nicholson can not understand the merits or downfalls of Teddy’s arguments until he can genuinely engage with them first. Salinger is demanding the audience set aside any preconceived notions so they may understand “what [their] arm really is, if [they’re] interested” (79). In order to read Nicholson’s journey and draw conclusions, readers must balance their American socialization and academic nature.(more…)
By Nick Sparrow, IV Form
The Nickel Boys: The Formation and Destruction of Elwood’s Moral Compass
Colson Whitehead’s latest novel, The Nickel Boys, is a story based on true events, which follows a bright and promising African-American boy with a strong moral code growing up in the Jim Crow South. The main conflict of the story is his sentence to a reform school where he finds himself facing a racist and corrupt sovereignty, which uses torture to discipline students. Elwood Curtis was on his way to college when nothing but bad luck and prejudice got him arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. Throughout the novel, Elwood seems to be the only person willing to take a stand and face the system, unable to see that everyone else had already been defeated. After his first week of trying to do good at The Nickel School, Elwood is taken to “The White House” where he is flogged until he passes out. He ends up in this situation as a result of his bravery and nobility, which is what ultimately causes Elwood to lose sense of his moral compass and any hope of escape. This novel tells details the ways in which hate, racism, and prejudice will find a way to take good people down, even when they live sincerely and by the book.(more…)
By Sam Wang, V Form
Listen to the Echo of Silence: Sound in Salinger’s Nine Stories
J.D. Salinger’s Nine Stories opens with a Zen koan: “We know the sound of two hands clapping. But what is the sound of one hand clapping?” Reading through the book, the audience may find the unusual plots and characters do not make sense when interpreted logically. The only breakthrough to these unresolved and thought-provoking endings of Salinger’s stories is through reflecting on “the sound of one hand clapping,” to break the logic and hear the impossible sound.
In the first story, “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” the conversation between Seymour, a veteran of the war, and the little girl Sybil seems random but profound. For instance, Seymour talks to Sybil in a nonsensical way. When asking where is Sybil from, Seymour playfully annoys her by asking, “Is that anywhere near Whirly Wood, Connecticut, by any chance” (Salinger 21). Seymour suggests to Sybil what they can do after going to the water: “we’ll see if we can catch a bananafish,” and when Sybil mentions another child, Sharon Lipschutz, Seymour says to himself, “how the name comes up. Mixing memory and desire” (Salinger 19). The audience may find Seymour strange at first sight. However, looking back to his interaction with Sybil after knowing about Seymour’s suicide at the end, these words may intrigue the audience to think about their connotations. Seymour implies his suffering in the postwar society by bananafish, and he longs for spiritual salvation by Sybil, an innocent child, when almost everyone around him is acting like a bananafish.(more…)
By Lina Zhang, V Form
The Multifaceted Moral Man: Morality and Free Will in Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange
“And what, brothers, I had to escape into sleep from then was the horrible and wrong feeling that it was better to get the hit than give it. If that veck had stayed I might even have like presented the other cheek” (Burgess).
Anthony Burgess’ most famous novel, A Clockwork Orange, debates the essence of morality and the role of free will in achieving the moral man. Through following the imprisonment and release of the novel’s antihero, Alex, the story exposes the flaws and consequences of three different understandings of morality and the importance of free will. Alex’s first significant improvement occurs under the influence of Ludovico’s Treatment, where he finds himself both unable to sin and find pleasure. He then receives a version of liberty by F. Alexander, only to realize that absolute freedom is hypocritical and can only be theoretical. Ultimately, Alex comes to a natural maturation and adopts a morality devoid of any outside influences or expectations. Through providing sharp contrasts between the ideals and realities of morality, Burgess expands on the shortcomings of all three systems of thought while making a consistent strong argument in favor of the individual free will.(more…)
By Colin Capenito, Laura Drepanos, Will Figueroa, Katherine Gao, Nathan Laudani, Zoe Maddox, and Gunnar Vachris, VI Form
Read the First Season of a TV Series: 404
Editor’s Note: 404 is a six-episode television drama written in Getting LOST II: The Writers’ Room during the Spring Semester. This course examines the process that any network goes through to establish and produce a tv show. The class forms a “Writers’ Room,” in which all of the students collaborate on brainstorming ideas and writing episodes for a full premiere season of a show of the class’ design.
By Daniela Martinez, VI Form
The Picnic: An Original Short Story
Editor’s Note: In the elective Rise of the Short Story, Ms. McCann presented these parameters for this assignment–“Write an atypical scary story. It should be existentially scary, not something about ghosts or vampires. Whatever scares you is fair game for this story, a scary story with truth and heart. Since your subject matter is atypical, the way you tell this story should be, too. How can you push beyond the typical plot line that goes: exposition, building tension, climax, falling tension, resolution?”
Rey was born coated in honey. Bees flew out of his mother’s open womb, and saw themselves out the window. The doctor shuddered but did not scream. His wrinkled fingers simply scraped the nectar from the soft folds in the baby’s skin.
Carmen, drowsy on the chloroform, was too exhausted to mind the bevy of bees. During her pregnancy, she’d had the most desperate of cravings for honey. How many times had she jammed the overflowing spoon into her mouth when no one was looking? Or sucked on honeycombs during afternoon tea? She dismissed her folly and kissed the honey dripping from her son’s eyelids.
“A totem child,” was all the doctor said, his eyes welled with worry.
It is Rey’s eighth spring. He and Carmen are on a picnic in the Botanical Gardens. The bright blue sky is brilliant against the multicolored flowers. There is no one around but he and his mother. It’s the perfectday, Rey smirks. He takes off into the open field. Carmen watches him run around barefoot. When he’s had enough, he falls next to his mother onto the picnic rug. Grass blades press into Rey’s back. He watches the clouds drift overhead. His chest rises and falls quickly. His heartbeat drums in his ears. (more…)
By Jake Oblak, IV Form
The Absurd Act of Looking for Meaning in Camus’ The Stranger
What is the meaning of absurdism? How are absurdist people perceived by others? How can someone be impacted by this lifestyle? These are all questions that arise from The Stranger by Albert Camus. This philosophical novel follows a man named Meursault through a portion of his adult life. His experiences in the book range from his romantic relations with his girlfriend Marie to being sentenced to the guillotine after being convicted of murder. Throughout these events, problems emerge as a result of Meursault’s absurdist lifestyle, and personal values. Consequently, Camus delivers an eloquent introduction to absurdism and negative impacts of believing in a counter-cultural philosophy, but based on his own logic looking for a message in his writing would be ignorant.
Absurdism is an uncommon philosophy compared to modern day ideologies, but its outlook on life is unique. Absurdism is defined as “a philosophical perspective which holds that the efforts of humanity to find meaning or rational explanation in the universe ultimately fail (and, hence, are absurd) because no such meaning exists, at least to human beings” (New World). As this definition explains, absurdism is based on the idea that life has no meaning and is completely arbitrary. As a result, looking for any kind of meaning in life would be considered futile. Through an absurdist lens partaking in events in order to fulfill a requirement created by society is ridiculous. This is a common theme which occurs repeatedly throughout The Stranger. Absurdists believe in doing what feels right to them, rather than doing what is right in the eyes of the norm manufactured by society. (more…)
By Lindsay Davis, IV Form
Survival With God: On Piers Paul Read’s Alive
Alive by Piers Paul Read, a survival story of a plane crash in the Andes Mountains, recounts how the survivors’ trust in God influenced their resilience during a crisis of life and death. In 1972, a plane carrying Uruguayan rugby players and other Uruguayan citizens crashed in the middle of the Andes. While the travelers suffered many injuries or died from the crash, the fight on the mountain came most from their will to survive and the actions needed to outlast the miserable conditions of the Andes. The rations of food, sleeping conditions, injuries, and pre-existing relationships affected the mental status of each survivor. Their bond with God helped them to make life at the Fairchild fair and optimistic. The survivors who boarded the Fairchild came close to death in the Andes, but their hope for survival and reliance on God pushed them through the mental pain and helped inspire their faith in physical recovery.
The survivors ate the flesh of their dead companions knowing that was their only way to survive. God had inspired the courage to engage in repugnant cannibalism. Over the course of the seventy-two days, while the survivors’ mentality fluctuated, food supplies ran out and the concern of starvation became apparent. The injuries and losses suffered by some of the Fairchild passengers would not matter if they could not feed themselves. Although most of the boys were expecting the point at which they would need the protein of their fellow dead friends and passengers, Canessa was the first to discuss aloud with the group. After eliminating the idea of eating the seat cushions and digging deep for grass, the bodies that surrounded them on and in the snow were the last plan. (more…)