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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…)