Being an engaged student that is dedicated to learning new things, rather than being a student that is solely dedicated to receiving a good grade is surprisingly a foreign concept in the college realm. Applying myself in every course has never previously been a problem, but putting my all into every college course has proven to be an immense personal challenge that I have struggled to overcome. It is a constant battle of give and take, and the only way to succeed is to pace and never doubt yourself. The subject of English altogether, especially academic writing, has never been my strong suit. Not only does my English 131 class allow professor feedback on academic writing, but transferring my writing outside of the classroom by posting it to my blog allows for my peers to comment on my work as well. Being academically challenged through reading, writing, and blogging allows me to broaden my horizons and acquire valuable knowledge that I never would have otherwise obtained.
Reading book length texts is not something I consider to be a fun past-time; however, the task of completing a hard read is an immense personal accomplishment for me. I am always searching for new ways to improve my writing, and there is no better way to improve those skills than to further develop my vocabulary. The intellectual challenge of reading a bonafide college level text is excellent conditioning for the brain. Having something to say is one thing, and making the information engaging and presentable enough to include in academic writing is another. The more I read, the more confident I feel about my writing skills.
Mysteries and crime genres always contain a certain allure that is irresistible to me, and I am constantly spectating to see how they end. Naturally, Erik Larson’s book, The Devil in the White City, which surrounds a sly serial killer’s visit to the Chicago World’s Fair, appeals to me more than any other text that was read throughout the semester. Holmes has a clever way of luring in his victims, and they do not realize that they are in trouble until it is too late. In fact, some of the women who stayed in his hotel describe him as, “warm and charming and talkative and touched them with a familiarity that, while perhaps offensive back home, somehow seemed all right in this new world of Chicago” (245). Holmes uses his charm to his advantage and lures young women, who are often times alone and new to Chicago, to stay in his hotel.
Larson transforms the crime spree of H. H. Holmes into an engaging text that captivates my attention while also teaching me about an actual part of United States history that I would otherwise be completely oblivious to. Reading Larson’s book, The Devil in the White City, helps me to understand why reading is so important. History is my worst and least favorite subject of all, but reading books that are based on fact and read like novels can revolutionize the way I learn history. It fills me with a desire to read other books that are based on actual history not because I am forced to, but because it is such an easy and captivating way to expand my knowledge.
Prior to English 131, I have never considered myself to be a strong writer. I never would have imagined that I would be publically exposing my work online for someone other than my professor to see. However, blogging has turned out to be a very favorable experience. This not only gives my work meaning beyond just a grade, but it also builds confidence knowing that someone other than my professor read the paper and had something positive to say about the work. I am planning to continue blogging after this course to further develop my writing skills.
The critical analysis of Thornton Wilder’s play, Our Town, was by far the most challenging paper I attempted to develop this semester. It was not until I received a very positive comment from Professor Lucas that I realized I may not have given myself enough credit. The task at hand was to draw parallels between the paintings of Norman Rockwell and the theme present in the play, Our Town. I felt as if I had some amazing ideas, but transferring them onto paper seemed like an obstacle I would never overcome. I wanted to portray the idea that both Wilder and Rockwell may have garnished the truth about the history of actual small town life, but both men have a gift for incorporating the ideal aspects of a world in which there exists a feeling that all is happy and well.
Wilder includes a particular scene that plays out between husband and wife, Mr. and Mrs Gibbs. Mrs. Gibbs arrives home late from choir practice, and her husband knows she walked home with some of the other ladies in the choir. Her husband also seems to know that this is the time in which his wife indulges in her weekly gossip session with her friends, because Mr. Gibbs greets her by saying, “[w]hat were the girls gossiping about tonight?” (41). This scene draws a perfect connection to one of Rockwell’s paintings, “The Gossips”. The piece displays a number of people telling each other what seems to be the gossip of the day. Making this connection between the two works was easy, while redirecting those connections into an intelligent thought on paper did not come so easily.
When I first submitted the paper, it felt like the worst one I had written all semester. However, when I received an encouraging comment from Professor Lucas urging me to further develop my paper for a future writing course, it seemed like the best comment I have received all semester. Although I am only just beginning my college academic career, I truly believe I have gained some valuable skills in English 131. Writing for a purpose means having something intelligent to say, and finding an eloquent way to say it. I believe English 131 has helped me gain tremendous skills in the writing department. Being academically challenged in English has allowed me to broaden my horizons not only in reading and writing, but has also helped me gain a desire to read more nonfiction books because it is such a captivating way to learn new things. The confidence boost I received from this class encourages me to continue to give each course my all, because I am here to learn and be engaged. English 131 helped me come to the realization that maybe English has been one of my stronger subjects all along, but until this point, I just was not engaged enough to notice. I am thankful that this course has peaked my interest in reading, writing, and possibly even blogging.
Larson, Erik. The Devil in the White City. Vintage, 2004.
Rockwell, Norman. The Gossips. The Saturday Evening Post, 6 Mar. 1948. Norman Rockwell
Museum, 2016, http://collections.nrm.org/search/do?id=592147
&db=object&page=1&view=detail, Accessed 17 Nov. 2017.
Wilder, Thornton. Our Town. 1938. Harper Perennial, 2003.
Junod, Tom. “The Falling Man.” Esquire, Sept. 2003, http://www.esquire.com/news-politics
/a48031/the-falling-man-tom-junod, Accessed 8 Sept. 2017.
The excerpt from his article, “The Falling Man”, Tom Junod describes a captivating photograph he snaps in the midst of all the madness during that day. The day is September 11th, 2001. The image shows a man preparing to jump off the tower, faced with the inevitability of what that jump will mean for his life. While Junod describes what the photograph comprises of, he also offers an insight into the mindset it takes to retrieve such an image. Any normal pedestrian would likely run for their life during the attack, but this was a prime opportunity for a photographer. Junod gives a new perspective on tragedies such as 9/11, and describes what it means to have the guts to snap a photo during terror and confusion.
Larson, Erik. The Devil in the White City. Vintage, 2004.
Erik Larson tells the story of serial killer H. H. Holmes’ appearance at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair in his book, The Devil in the White City. Holmes, later discovered to be Herman Mudgett, builds a hotel at the Fair to serve as a coverup to allow Holmes to lure in potential victims. Larson also gives background what it takes to build the Chicago World’s Fair by introducing one of the most important architects of the fair, Daniel Burnham. Larson shifts between the two stories by setting up the book as a dual narrative and cross cutting back and forth between Holmes and Burnham.
Lucas, Guy. “Loss of Unwelcome Burden Devastates Me.” guylucas.com/2017/10/05/percy/,5
Oct. 2017. Accessed 6 Oct. 2017.
Only hours after the passing of his beloved pet, Guy Lucas copes with his loss by producing a memoir, “Loss of Unwelcome Burden Devastates Me”. The piece offers an insight into the cat’s relationship with his family by describing the cat’s journey into their lives. Lucas begins the memoir by stating that he originally did not want the cat. However, it seems like fate whenever the cat somehow ends up in his home. Lucas offers sentimental stories about the cat’s potty training exploration in his home, and about a time when the cat temporarily ran away and Lucas had to search for him. Lucas concludes by describing how the cat’s health has been declining in recent years; unfortunately, the family decided it was best to put the cat down. Although Lucas did not originally plan to want the animal, the memoir ends with a question showing how his affection for the cat grows over the years by asking: “[w]hen the hell will I stop crying?” (paragraph 19).
Lucas, Jane. “Through a Glass Darkly: Girl at the Mirror and Grover’s Corners.”
20 Nov. 2017. Accessed 26 Nov. 2017.
In her analysis of the play, Our Town, Jane Lucas draws parallels to the common theme present in both the play and Norman Rockwell’s painting, Girl at the Mirror. Lucas focuses on the issues of self confidence and sexual innocence that face women in our society today, and how those ideas are portrayed through one of the main characters of the play, Emily. Lucas mentions multiple quotations from the play, one of which includes Emily seeking reassurance from her mother about her outward appearance and how other people perceive her. Emily desires to feel pretty just as every girl seems to, and Lucas compares this with the desires and thoughts of The Girl at the Mirror.
Lucas, Jane. “Window-Dressing History.” janelucas.com/2017/09/26/peeling-away
-the-window-dressing-of-history/. 26 Sept. 2017. Accessed 26 Nov. 2017.
Jane Lucas offers an insight into the contrasting effect of Colson Whitehead’s alternate inclusion of fact and fiction in her analysis of the novel, The Underground Railroad. Lucas focuses on the protagonist, Cora, and the scene in the novel where she works as a live exhibit in the Museum of Natural Wonders. Lucas demonstrates how this scene is contradictory in itself because Cora explains how the museum falsely displays scenes from a slave ship while the novel itself is a fictional work. Lucas points out that Whitehead transforms a metaphorical Underground Railroad into a physical series of actual underground train tracks. Rather than producing a new version of history, Lucas argues that Colson Whitehead sheds light on some of the harsh truths about actual history through fictional characters. Lucas argues that while Whitehead may create an alternate history, his version of the story is a “less sanitized” depiction of the truth of slavery.
Schreck, Heidi. Creature. Samuel French, 2011.
Heidi Schreck’s play, Creature, surrounds the curious spiritual journey of main character, Margery Kempe, who is based off the real life figure from the fifteenth-century. Margery claims to have been visited by a demonic character, Asmodeus. After this visit, she loses connection with her husband newly born child while she attempts to take on the journey towards sainthood. All throughout the play, Margery begins to confess a sin she once committed, but never gets a chance to finish. The people surrounding Margery question whether or not her vision was real, but she stays true to her original story about the vision.
Whitehead, Colson. The Underground Railroad. Doubleday, 2016.
Colson Whitehead fuses a fictitious version of an alternate history with some of the harsh and all too real cruel realities of slavery in his novel The Underground Railroad. Whitehead incorporates magical realism and uses it to transform the metaphorical Underground Railroad into a literal set of train tracks with a locomotive that runs beneath the surface. Whitehead uses the journey of the protagonist of the story, Cora, to represent what life may have actually been like for a slave during the antebellum period in the south.
Wilder, Thornton. Our Town. 1938. Harper Perennial, 2003.
Thornton Wilder displays a simple kind of living in the small town of Grover’s Corners in his play, Our Town. Things in the town move slowly, change is unwelcome, and all of the citizens of Grover’s Corners know everything about everybody else in the town. The main character of the play, Emily, dies an unfortunate and sudden death during childbirth. Wilder incorporates how Emily feels after death, and forces Emily to rethink her outlook on living. Every moment passes so quickly, and Emily concludes that it may be impossible to properly cherish anything. People are too preoccupied with focusing on the future, and it causes them to miss most of what is happening at any given time.