Home » Posts tagged 'Literature'
Tag Archives: Literature
By Sophie Chiang, V Form
The William Otis Smith Prize for English Verse: “blue break of dawn”
The William Otis Smith Prize for English Verse is given in memory of a member of the Class of 1907 and is awarded to one student, who, in the judgment of the English Department, has submitted the outstanding verse during the past year.
“blue break of dawn”
no one ever crosses the cracked crosswalks
in the blue break of dawn. your mind flickers
into a sea-bloom of blue lights and credit cards,
of white powder and rolled-up dollar bills. you’ve
never been too cautious, these mannequins seem
to hold a gaze so intense it’s like you’re 17 and
speeding past red & blue flashes all over again.
you cry out and pick at your scalp, the one thing
holding together everything you’re made of,
the one thing you’ve ever been terrified to grasp.
there’s not much room to hold your new life next to
your mother’s faltering punch and your father’s
drunken breath. you wonder if this is universal. you
wonder if this is where it starts for people like you. you
wonder if that’s why when it matters, no one ever
crosses the concrete where you come from.
By Madison Hoang, V Form
The Coleman Prize in English: Is Atonement Always Attainable?
The Coleman Prize in English, endowed by Joseph G. Coleman Jr., Class of 1899, is awarded to that student, who, in the judgment of the English Department, has submitted the outstanding essay during this academic year.
“She [Briony] was calm as she considered what she had to do. Together, the note to her parents and the formal statement would take no time at all . . . She knew what was required of her. Not simply a letter, but a new draft, an atonement, and she was ready to begin. BT” (McEwan 321).
In a shocking conclusion to Part III of Atonement, author Ian McEwan inserts the initials “BT,” revealing the crucial fact that thus far, the whole novel had been a written retelling by none other than the novel’s protagonist herself, Briony Tallis. It is only after her confrontation with her victims, her sister Cecilia and childhood housekeeper Robbie, that Briony finally “begin[s]” her process of atonement. Readers soon realize that the narrative portrayed in Part III is entirely a product of Briony’s imagination; in reality, she never gets the chance to confront Robbie and Cecilia, and she never did write a “letter” or “formal statement” to begin her atonement. Instead, “a new draft” – alluding to the entire novel in of itself – shows how Briony’s role as a writer throughout earlier stages of her life is linked to her inability to face her wrongdoings. She thinks that an opportunity to retell her story is the only way for her to seek true atonement. As a writer, Briony grows by exploring new perspectives, experimenting with new stylistic devices, and developing her stories’ plots. As an adult, Briony also matures by becoming a more empathetic, accountable, and courageous figure, which ultimately allows her to attain atonement for her past wrongdoings.(more…)
The Ely Prize is presented to the student who gave the best speech in the III Form Global Seminar Public Speaking Competition each spring.
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 Catie Summers, V Form
Tantalizing Taboos: Homoerotic Language in The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald does a fantastic job of lacing taboos throughout The Great Gatsby. The most common, however, is homosexuality and homoerotica. Of course, the outlook on homosexuality and the rest of the LGBTQ+ community has changed dramatically over the past one hundred years. It was quite negative and derogatory during the time of the story, commonly referred to as the Roaring Twenties. F. Scott Fitzgerald incorporates aspects of homosexuality in The Great Gatsby through the narrator, Nick Carraway, and his interactions with other male characters throughout the novel. Specifically, Nick’s descriptive language carries a homoerotic affect, meaning his presence in the narrative invites, at least, a queer reading of The Great Gatsby.
Fitzgerald premiers Nick’s homoerotic tone in his description of male characters, particularly in Tom Buchanan. When Nick first meets Tom, Nick speaks as though in reverence of Tom’s physique by stating, “not even the effeminate swank of his riding clothes could hide the enormous power of that body — he seemed to fill those glistening boots until he strained the top lacing, and you could see a great pack of muscle shifting when his shoulder moved under his coat” (Fitzgerald 7). This passage has a sexual appeal to it, a climax, one might argue. Fitzgerald alludes to this by tantalizingly and purposely influencing readers to anticipate a sexual reference after “he seemed to fill those glistening…” but then dropping off and finishing with the word “boots.” By primarily setting a homoerotic tone for Nick’s description, it is natural to assume that this phrase should be an innuendo or euphemism. Yet, Fitzgerald’s writing is so meticulous and nuanced that by ending the phrase with the word “boots,” he allows an ambiguous reading of the phrase, implying a simple in-depth physical description of a character or a subtle hint as to Nick’s sexual tendencies and a queer side to his character unrecognizable before that point.(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 Grace Kingsbury, VI Form
HER(short)story: Silenced Women in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Stories
Chimamanda Adichie’s book of short stories, The Thing Around Your Neck, follows African men and women and attempts to explain the ties between the genders. The short story “Jumping Monkey Hill” describes the conflict that a Nigerian writer, Ujunwa, faces during a writing retreat in Cape Town. The head of the writing retreat, Edward, repeatedly ogles her body and makes sexual comments to Ujunwa such as “I’d rather like you to lay down for me” (Adichie 106). The story “The Thing Around Your Neck” depicts a woman who receives a visa to live in American with her uncle. Her uncle sexually assaults her during her stay with him, so she runs away for a fresh start in Connecticut. Besides the obvious gender and race similarities between these two main characters, both women are sexually harassed in their stories. Adichie’s normalization of sexual harassment in “Jumping Monkey Hill” and “The Thing Around Your Neck” reflects the existing culture of silencing women through the unresponsive and accepting women, the bystanders, and Adichie’s cursory acknowledgment of the events.
By creating characters that do not respond to sexual harassment, Adichie demonstrates how women minimize their assault to ignore it more easily. Ujunwa in “Jumping Monkey Hill” “laugh[s]” in response to Edward’s comment “because it was funny and witty… when [one] really thought about it” (Adichie 106). She convinces herself that it is funny to diminish the pain that his comment causes her. In “The Thing Around Your Neck,” the woman “lock[s] [herself] in the bathroom closet, and the next morning” she runs away from home, in response to her uncle’s assault (Adichie 116). This represents the woman physically running away from confrontation with her uncle by putting as much distance between her and the event as possible and refusing to stand up for herself. In both of these instances, the women avoid the conflict of sexual harassment by opting to ignore the problem. By ignoring sexual harassment and sexual assault, the women facilitate further offense because they give their abusers room to repeat their actions.(more…)