Alice in Isolation

This work is in collaboration with Chandler Danner.

The story of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) is about a little girl named Alice that jumps down a rabbit hole and falls into a place called Wonderland. In Wonderland, from the talking animals, to the magical cakes and potions that change her height, nothing quite makes sense. Our goal is to portray Alice as a character who has been sequestered in a house in Wonderland against her will due to a widespread virus that plagues the land. But staying true to the spirit of the original novel, many things will not make sense. The decisions that she makes in the original story will be used to inform how she acts in isolation. Perhaps Alice’s most distinguishable trait is her pettiness. Being a Victorian child of a presumably high end family, Alice is used to getting what she wants when she wants it. In one such scene, after recently arriving in wonderland, she comes to the conclusion that she has “been changed” for a lower class girl she knows named Mabel. Alice becomes distraught at the thought of being Mabel and having to “live in that poky little house, [with] next to no toys to play with” (Carroll ch. 2). This shows that Alice is more concerned about having no toys than the more troublesome fact that she may be stuck in someone’s else’s body away from the comfort of her real family. Likewise, Alice’s impatience will increase rapidly over the course of the letters, highlighting the perspective of a Victorian era child with a sophisticated vocabulary used for unsophisticated means. In this manner, we hope to create an interesting tale that reflects the sentiments of isolation many of us feel in quarantine while staying true to the original character design of our protagonist, Alice. 

4 May 1865

I have found myself in a peculiar situation after having jumped down the rabbit hole and falling into Wonderland. It appears that a viral outbreak has occurred and I, along with the inhabitants of Wonderland, have been thrust into quarantine. I was made aware of this after having passed the home of the March Hare. He called to me from his window, commanding that I take refuge in the empty home across the street before the Queen’s guards began making their runs. It seems that the Queen has given strict orders for everyone to stay inside and that her guards have been demanded to fulfill these orders. Having been warned of the lunacy by the March Hare and his comrades the Mad Hatter and the Dormouse, I was skeptical at first, but upon hearing a resounding “Off with their heads! Off with their heads!” coming from down the road, I elected to make haste towards the vacant house across the street and take shelter for the time being. 

5 May 1865

After a bit of time in quarantine, I’ve grown quite bored of this place. I’ve decided to write about my experience thus far because it is one of the few things that I have found to keep myself occupied with. After managing to get the attention of the Mad Hatter from across the street for some time, he finally entertained me with a short game of charades. It was rather difficult to convey from across the street, but we made it work nonetheless. I have wondered how my cat, Dinah, has been doing. Oh, how nice it would be to see her right about now! I surely hope that they are taking good care of her back at home. Oh I know! She must be coming here to save me! I only need to wait a little while more and Dinah should appear any minute, ready to lead me out of this place!

7 May 1865

I’ve been cramped up in this house for quite some time now and frankly, I just want to go home. I really miss my toys and there’s absolutely nothing to do in this blasted place! I’m beginning to doubt that Dinah really is coming to save me. Maybe the Queen found her? No, no, that can’t be as Dinah is much too fast to be captured by such a woman. All my attempts to socialize with the March Hare, Mad Hatter, and Dormouse have all been futile as they wholly refuse to see me in person. Have we not become friends? The White Rabbit comes by every so often repeating the same lines: “Stay away! Stay away! Haven’t you any sense? Stay away, stay away for your and my defense!”. I don’t quite understand why he gets to be out and about, telling me to stay away when truly he should be the one staying away from me! Really it is his fault for leading me down into this mess. The Queen’s raids have increased in number as of late. She once attempted to apprehend the Cheshire Cat threatening to behead him, but to no avail as he simply fades away leaving nothing but a toothy grin. I’m not sure how she intends to behead something with a seemingly detachable head, but knowing the Queen I wouldn’t put it past her to try it. Many times have I broke down crying, utterly frustrated with this peculiar situation. I hope that I will wake up from this nightmare soon and be able to embrace my sister and all my loved ones. I never realized the importance of socialization until now. Never before have I been so frustrated at being so close, yet so far from what I want, and essentially, what I need.

My outline for writing this activity.

Works Cited

Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. 1865. Project Gutenberg, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/11/11-h/11-h.htm. Accessed 29 April, 2020.

A Mood of Mutability

Having grown up in an environment surrounded by prolific writers, Mary Shelley has a history of exposure to many grand works of Romantic literature throughout her childhood. From that of her parents, Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, Romantic writers of progressive ideology, to the famous family friend, Lord Byron, one of the leading figures of the Romantic movement. But one of her biggest literary influences comes from her late husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley. In a thorough analysis of her most famous work, Frankenstein, one may notice several references to the works of Percy Shelley. Perhaps the most notable reference is the direct quotation of the last two stanzas of Percy Shelley’s “Mutability,” a poem detailing the instability of human emotion and its tendency to change. Throughout one’s reading of Frankenstein, one might draw parallels between the theme of change in “Mutability” and that of key aspects in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, specifically in encounters with the monster. 

In the story of Frankenstein, scientist and university student Victor Frankenstein has always had an interest in discovering and learning about the rules and inner workings of the world. However, when he decides to test the rules of nature himself by attempting to create life, he quickly regrets his actions as he successfully manages to create the monster, a hideous humanoid who “had the shape of a man, but … of gigantic stature” (20). After about a year, Victor seems to almost forget his worries about the monster when his younger brother is murdered by a mysterious assailant. Beloved adopted family member Justine is accused of the murder and put to death. Victor realizes it must be the monster’s doing and takes a trip out into the swiss countryside to collect his thoughts and calm himself. 

There, Shelley describes the trip with such sophistication detailing the “glorious presence-chamber of imperial Nature” which “afforded [Victor] the greatest consolation that [he] was capable of receiving” (86). Upon reading this, one may experience a sense of uneasiness given the overly exaggerated light and pleasant mood that Shelley has forged which is offset by the tense nature of the story of Frankenstein. Naturally, the next day, the weather takes a turn for the worse where “the rain was pouring in torrents, and thick mists hid the summits of the mountains” who were previously described as “mighty friends” (86). Victor notices the new gloomy environmental changes of the next day but resolves not to allow its sinister state to affect his good mood. It is then that Shelley decides to include the last two stanzas of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem “Mutability”.  Soon after, the monster makes its appearance bounding across the unsurpassable mountain with ease towards the startled Frankenstein. Victor’s mood, like the weather, changes drastically upon recognizing the “tremendous and abhorred” monster (87). He becomes infuriated and vows to slay the monster in a duel, exhibiting emotions characteristic of the raging storm that surrounds him. Readers who may have previously questioned why Shelley decided to include a quotation from “Mutability” now realize its significance to the story as foreshadowing of Victor’s sudden change in mood upon seeing the monster, his scorned creation. 

Considering Percy Shelley’s “Mutability,” one might wonder why Shelley decided to specifically include the last two stanzas rather than the first two. Upon close inspection, it is clear that the last two stanzas relate to Frankenstein in a way the first two do not. In the first two stanzas, Percy Shelley describes the mutability of clouds which when “Night closes round, … are lost for ever” (4) and the sound of a wind harp which “Give[s] various response to each varying blast” (6). While both describe instances of change, only the examples from the last two stanzas pertain to humans and emotions where “A dream has power to poison sleep” or where “one wandering thought pollutes the day” (9-10). Moreover, these lines can be directly correlated to instances in Frankenstein. Pertaining to dreams, after creating the monster, Victor rushes in horror to his room and throws himself on his bed falling asleep. He has a dream where he sees his lover, Elizabeth, who was “in the bloom of health” (51). However, as the dream progresses, Elizabeth morphs into “the corpse of [Victor’s] dead mother,” both indicating a sudden change in mood from happiness to horror and a reference to dreams as mentioned in “Mutability” (51). Likewise, one can draw parallels between Victor’s internal thoughts and dialogue, the source of much of his worsening anxiety and distress, and Percy Shelley’s recognition that a thought can pollute the day. This is seen as Victor regretfully dwells on his decision to create the monster as “the thought made [him] shiver” (54). This is further contrasted by the excitement and ecstasy he experienced that morning before the realization that he created a monster.

By considering Mary Shelley’s decision to include a portion of “Mutability” in Frankenstein, and by analyzing its relevance to the story, it becomes evident that change is certainly a theme of importance. Mary Shelley uses the elements of surprise and consternation brought about by sudden change to her advantage, creating truly horrific incidents and atmospheres befitting of a Romantic age horror story. This comes as Mary Shelley is no stranger to drastic change given her tragic past in losing several close family members including her husband, the author of “Mutability,” Percy Shelley. Therefore, Shelley’s use of “Mutability” in Frankenstein is not merely a well placed quotation, but one of relevance that reflects the theme of change both in Frankenstein, and in life, reminding readers that “Man’s yesterday may ne’er be like his morrow; Nought may endure but mutability!” (51).

My reading notes on an initial exercise concerning the role of “Mutability” in Frankenstein.

Works Cited

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Introduction and Notes by Karen Karbiener. Barnes and Noble, 2003.

Shelley, Percy Bysshe. “Mutability.” The Norton Anthology of British Literature: The Romantic Period. 10th ed. Stephen Greenblatt, General Editor. W.W. Norton, 2017. pp. 766.

Wreaths of Reclamation

Tintern Abbey, J. M. W. Turner, 1794 / W. W. Norton

Interior of Tintern Abbey, a watercolor painting completed by the romantic painter J. M. W. Turner in 1794, depicts the ruins of the glorious Tintern Abbey now weathered and covered in plants and trees that adorn the abbey’s many arches. A pair of sightseers can be seen on the lower left side of the painting, surveying nature’s work on the remains of the magnificent abbey, a symbol of religion and the marvelous work of man. Upon seeing the once almighty abbey reduced to such a state, Turner must have felt moved to capture nature’s process of reclaiming her land. 

A man of the times, Turner was not the only Romantic artist to depict themes of the forces of nature in his work. The author Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley also raised questions about the relationship between man and nature in her novel, Frankenstein. The protagonist, Victor Frankenstein, experiences the repercussions associated with attempting to experiment with the laws of nature by recreating life from the dead. Only after realizing the consequences does Frankenstein remark: “many things …  appear possible in these wild and mysterious regions which … provoke nature” (Shelley 25). A statement Turner would agree with after also witnessing the wondrous powers of nature that reclaimed the arches of Tintern Abbey.

Works Cited

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. 1818, 1831. Introduction and Notes by Karen Karbiener. Barnes and Noble, 2003.

Turner, J. M. W. Tintern Abbey. The Norton Anthology of British Literature: The Romantic Period. 10th ed. Stephen Greenblatt, General Editor. W. W. Norton, 2017. p. C5.

The Struggles of Having a Parent with Bipolar Disorder: Educated Annotated Bibliography

The following research project was produced in collaboration with Paige Lewis and Josh Sloan.

In Tara Westover’s memoir, Educated, she recounts her life growing up in a survivalist family in backcountry Idaho, where extremist Mormon principles strictly dictated the family’s life. For example, the family didn’t believe in visiting the doctor when they were ill and instead used home remedies made from essential oils and fungi. Additionally, the father and mother believe that education leads to sinfulness and should be avoided at all costs. With an unpredictable, reckless father, and an abusive, sadistic brother named Shawn, Tara lives in an unstable home environment that is far from what is generally considered stable and healthy. 

At the disapproval of her family, Tara makes it into college and obtains the education she has always wanted. While attending classes, Tara learns about famous occurrences like the Holocaust and general things like basic geography for the first time, things that average American students would have learned about in grade school. In her psychology class, Tara learns about bipolar disorder which is characterized by sudden manic symptoms in those affected. Tara then realizes that her father meets several symptoms of bipolar disorder and concludes that he might  have the disease.

When considering Tara’s toxic home environment, we figured that there was a correlation between Tara’s father’s disorder and the volatile atmosphere in the Westover household. While Tara’s situation is unique in itself, we were curious as to whether a notable amount children of parents with bipolar disorder experience a stressed childhood similar to Tara’s. This inquiry prompted us to investigate the effect that parents with bipolar disorder have on their children’s mental health.

The bibliography below contains four scholarly articles and one video that addresses the concerns accompanying the effects parents with bipolar disorder can have on the mental health of their children. Out of the four scholarly articles, one analyzes the effects that having parents with bipolar disorder have on preschool children while another article analyzes these effects on older adolescent and young adult offspring. A combination of these two articles gives the reader a thorough look into the status of a given child’s condition throughout the upbringing in their parents’ household and on into their young adult lives. The third article offers the reader a reflective perspective of a daughter whose father had bipolar disorder and the effects his mania and depression had on her mental health. Next, our fourth article focuses on fathers with bipolar disorder analyzing the profound effects of the disease on sons specifically. When considering Tara Westover’s story in Educated, Ramchandani and Psychogiou’s research in this article may provide insight into the reasons for why Shawn became such a cruel person. Lastly, we have included a video that gives a first-hand account of an individual who was fathered by a parent with bipolar disorder. 

When it comes to the world of psychology and the inner workings of the human brain, many agree that there is still a lot left to learn. We may never know exactly why mental illnesses like bipolar disorder manifest, or how to completely cure someone of said disorder, but we can still do all that we can to address the issues at hand. With that being said, we can’t be certain that every child of parents with bipolar disorder has a troubled home life like Tara, but after analyzing the following sources, one might agree that the chances of Tara’s story repeating are high. Thus justifying our cause to educate ourselves on the world around us while doing our part to bring awareness to diseases like bipolar disorder and their effects they have on the children of today, the generation of tomorrow. 

Annotated Bibliography

Birmaher, B., M.D., Axelson, D., M.D., Goldstein, B., M.D., Monk, K., R.N., Kalas, C., R.N., Obreja, M., M.S., . . . Kupfer, D., M.D. (2010). Psychiatric disorders in preschool offspring of parents with bipolar disorder: The Pittsburgh bipolar offspring study (BIOS). The American Journal of Psychiatry, 167(3), 321-30. Retrieved from https://login.proxy032.nclive.org/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/220482997?accountid=9935

“The Pittsburgh Bipolar Offspring Study” analyzes the effects parents with bipolar disorder have on the mental health of their preschool children ages two through five. The study compared 121 children of parents with bipolar disorder with 102 children of parents without bipolar disorder using standardized instruments to evaluate the symptoms in the offspring. The study found that the offspring of parents with bipolar disorder had eight times the cases of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD as well as cases of “significantly higher rates of having two or more psychiatric disorders compared to the offspring of the comparison parents” (2010). The authors concluded that preschool offspring of parents with bipolar disorder have significantly increased risks of developing ADHD as well as manic and depressive symptoms compared to children of parents without bipolar disorder and that follow-ups would be required to find out the risks of children with bipolar parents for developing mood disorders later in life. 

For those interested in learning or researching about the effects that parents with bipolar disorder have on the mental state of their young children, “The Pittsburgh Bipolar Offspring Study” is a great choice. The authors set up a seemingly strong study evaluating both the children of parents with bipolar disorder and the children of parents without the disorder to create an effective comparison to pinpoint the differences between the two groups. This source would be great compared with another study that looks into the prevalence of mood disorders in older children of parents with bipolar disorder.

Khare, S. R. (2016, September 14). Bipolar Disorder: A Daughter’s Experience. Retrieved December 3, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5394376/.

“A Daughter’s Experience,” tells the first-hand account of a woman whose father had bipolar disorder. In this article, Satya Rashi Khare tells the story of the turbulent relationship between her and her father up until his death. Khare states that during her father’s manic episodes, she can recall him “laughing uncontrollably for what felt like hours” (2016). However, when his mania took a turn for the worse, Khare compares her father to “a school bully” (2016), someone that she would run and hide from. When her father would reach his low point, he would lock himself in his room, sobbing, and entirely ignore the people and the world surrounding him. Between these phases was a state of rage that would spark fights between Khare and her father that only Khare’s mother could break up. Khare’s father eventually passed away from congestive heart failure, forcing her to realize that their spats and differences boiled down to his mental illness rather than genuine hatred.

After Khare’s father’s death, she reflected upon the impact his mental illness had on her, stating that his cycles of manic and depressive episodes resulted in “feelings of sadness, confusion, anger, and injustice, all of which culminated in intense guilt” (2016). She never learned to cope with her own feelings since she believed that “[her] father was sick, not [her]” (2016).

“A Daughter’s Experience” is an ideal resource for researching the impact that parents with bipolar disorder have on their children. Khare tells her own personal story of how her father’s mood swings made her feel. His mood swings left her with an intense amount of guilt before and after his death. Within the final lines of the article, Khare states that “mental illness is not a patient illness but rather a family illness; one that requires a whole family approach to treatment”, as her father’s mental disorder affected not only him but his daughter as well (2016).

Mesman, E., Nolen, W. A., Reichart, C. G., Wals, M., & Hillegers, M. H. J. (2013). The Dutch bipolar offspring study: 12-year follow-up. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 170(5), 542-9. Retrieved from https://login.proxy032.nclive.org/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1368605609?accountid=9935

“The Dutch Bipolar Offspring Study” is a long-term study in which the authors followed 108 children of parents with bipolar disorder from adolescence to adulthood to determine the onset and prevalence of mood and other mental disorders in the offspring. The subjects were psychiatrically evaluated in one, five, and twelve-year periods. Results saw that 72% of the offspring had developed an axis I disorder which defines any mental disorder other than a personality disorder or intellectual disability. Out of the 72% characterized by an axis I condition, “54% [developed] a mood disorder, and 13% bipolar [developed] spectrum disorders. Only 3% met DSM-IV criteria for bipolar I disorder” (2013). With this data, the authors concluded that children of parents with bipolar disorder are at a high risk of developing a mood disorder while being at a low risk of developing bipolar I disorder like their parents. 

The Dutch bipolar offspring study is a valuable source for those looking to learn more about the effects that parents with bipolar disorder can have on their older children’s mental health.  The authors make known that there is obvious evidence to support the conclusion that children of parents with bipolar disorder are at risk of also developing a mood disorder. Moreover, the authors conclude that based on their study, children of parents with bipolar disorder do not necessarily have an increased risk of inheriting bipolar I disorder, making this a good source for those looking for support to deny the supposed genetic inheritability of the disease. However, this source does not include a control group in which the authors compare the data from children of parents with bipolar disorder versus children of parents without the disorder raising questions about the basis for their conclusions.

Ramchandani, P. & Psychogiou, L. (2009). Paternal psychiatric disorders and children’s psychosocial development. The Lancet, 374(9690), 646-53. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(09)60238-5

“Paternal psychiatric disorders”, as the name suggests, focuses on fathers with mental disorders and the effect that their mental instability had on their children. This particular study found that children with fathers that have psychiatric disorders “are associated with an increased risk of behavioural and emotional difficulties” (2009). Additionally, it was found that sons of the investigated fathers bear the brunt of their mental unpredictability and are more emotionally and behaviorally affected by it.

This article could potentially be useful to those researching parents with bipolar disorder because the article specifically focuses on fathers with mental illnesses, which is a rare focus of articles pertaining to parental bipolar disorder. The study highlights the emotional effect that the father’s instability has on the children. Additionally, the study compares the effects of maternal psychiatric disorders, providing insight into both sides.

Smith, P. (2014, February 6). Living with a bipolar father. Retrieved December 3, 2019, from 

In “Living with a Bipolar Father”, a young man known as Robin describes his experiences growing up with a father affected by bipolar disorder. While he was diagnosed a year before Robin was born, Robin’s father continued to exhibit manic episodes well into Robin’s life. Like Gene Westover, Tara’s father, Robin’s father was also a devout Christian. In fact, his father claims that he first came to Christ during a manic episode where he considered himself to be insane. In addition to this, during this religious experience, he claims that God gave him a vision of what he should do to serve Him best, much like Gene’s revelations about the End Times. Then, in later manic episodes, Robin’s father would bankrupt his own family multiple times, sometimes in pursuit of this vision, sometimes not. In one instance, his dad bought his mom ten thousand pounds, or about thirteen thousand dollars, worth of flowers in the span of a week. Robin even mentions that his dad once tried to buy a Boeing 747 jet and nearly got it. Despite all of these crazy things, Robin says that he finds it rather funny. He isn’t embarrassed by his dad, because he knows that it’s not his dad’s fault. However, on the other hand, he also says that he believes that his father’s antics have led directly to his anxiety disorder. Overall, Robin remarks that his relationship with his father is a complicated one, but nonetheless, he doesn’t harbor any anger towards his father.

Paul Smith’s interview could be useful to anyone who’s looking for a quick but descriptive summary of the stages of bipolar disorder and how to identify a manic episode using Robin’s five-stage list. With Smith growing up with a parent afflicted with bipolar disorder, his interview provides an ideal source for those looking to learn more about a child’s experience in the matter. Additionally, the interview provides a firsthand account of the toll that a family member with bipolar disorder can take on his loved ones. As Robin states, not only did his father nearly drown their family in debt several times, but his manic episodes also may have helped Robin develop an anxiety disorder later on in life. However, Robin and his family learned to cope with these episodes by realizing that his father’s actions weren’t his own, but an effect of his mental illness. It was simply his dad being “ridiculous, with a capital ‘r’ ” (2014).

My summary on annotated bibliographies.

References

Westover, T. (2018). Educated. Random House.

Selena: Movie Review

-Spoiler Alert-

The movie Selena follows the true story of Selena Quintanilla and her rise to fame as a Mexican-American musician in the 1980s and early 1990s. Growing up in a musical family, Selena was born to sing. Her father had been a part of a band called The Dinos as a young man and had his love for music rejuvenated when he heard young nine year old Selena’s voice. After being moved by Selena’s apparent talent for singing, he felt inspired to create a family band which he named Selena y Los Dinos consisting of Selena as the lead vocalist alongside her brother and sister on the bass guitar and drums. Selena’s father began teaching Selena spanish to embrace their Mexican heritage in their music and made Selena y Los Dinos continuously practice for long periods of time to master their songs. His dream was to showcase Selena’s amazing voice to the world believing she had what it takes to become a star to connect people in both Mexico and the United States.

After quitting his job and opening a Mexican restaurant in an attempt to make more money to cover the extra cost of performing, Selena’s father began to arrange for Selena y Los Dinos to perform at various restaurants and fairs to get Selena’s voice out in the community. With a time skip to around the age of 17, Selena’s career had begun to gain substantial popularity especially amongst people of hispanic origin. She performed in fairs all across Texas drawing in massive amounts of people. Her fame only rose from there with a performance in an outdoor venue in Monterrey, Mexico where people crowded in as far as the eye could see to hear her. With an underlying theme of the forbidden relationship between Selena and her lead guitarist, Chris, the movie progresses with no signs of Selena’s fame slowing down. After the supposed climax where Selena wins a Grammy in best Mexican-American album, tragedy strikes as Selena is shot and killed by her trusted financial secretary who had been suspected of tampering with Selena’s finances. Selena ends with the mourning of family and fans alongside pictures of the lively Selena as a tribute to her short lived life.

Overall, I moderately enjoyed the movie. As an individual who knew nothing about Selena Quintanilla upon watching the movie, I thought it was quite boring at first watching the rise of an artist I had never heard of before. Selena’s rise to fame was rather cliché as the movie mainly focused on how great of a singer she was in addition to her qualms with not being able to love Chris, the guitarist, at the disapproval of her father. Additionally, the movie could have done better in transitioning between scenes to support its gradual progression to the sudden ending. In one instance, the movie shows Selena bungee jumping but then immediately cuts to her arguing with her boyfriend reflecting poor transitioning in my opinion.

One element I commend the developers of Selena on is the ending where Selena is suddenly rushed to the hospital and pronounced dead shortly after. The ordeal was handled very abruptly which I believe holds a symbolic sense. This sudden, unexpected death of Selena symbolizes the unpredictability of life and reminds us all that we are not guaranteed what is deemed a full life in this world and can be swiftly removed at any time. This is amplified by the development of Selena’s bright and lively character throughout the movie. In sum, I feel like Selena would have been much more enjoyable for someone who knew about the story of Selena Quintanilla beforehand or was a fan of hers during her time in this world. I think the directors intended for people to know about Selena before watching so that the exceedingly happy mood in the first portion of the movie would create a sense of impending doom in viewers who knew of Selena’s fate. This would bolster the significance of her death at the end making it a far more impactful watch.

Works Cited

Nava, Gregory, director. Selena. Q-Productions, 1997.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

In Tara Westover’s memoir, Educated, she describes her experiences in growing up with a survivalist family whose religious beliefs strictly dictated the family life. With a father who distrusts the government, education system, and medical establishments, Tara lives a life isolated from the rest of society and the world. When one of her brothers, Tyler, makes the decision to leave the family in search of education, Tara begins to question everything her family stands for and considers following in Tyler’s footsteps. She contemplates staying with her family enduring the abuse from her brother Shawn and the recklessness of her father or embracing the unknown in an attempt to become educated in the things Tara’s family raised her to fear. This is a monumental decision Tara must make that defines who she is and tests the bonds of loyalty to her family. By analyzing the symbolism in a vision Tara has about her future, one might come to find that despite what Tara may tell herself, she has always subconsciously wanted to escape the treacherous confines of her family in search of knowledge. 

In the chapter “No More a Child”, Tara experiences a sort of vision where she sees herself in the future in her parents’ house pregnant with a child. With dreams and visions oftentimes being regarded as a gateway into the mind’s true desires, it is safe to say the desires of the Tara in the vision will reflect and closely resemble the aspirations of Tara outside of the vision. With that being said, rather than asking her midwife mother for help with birthing the baby, Tara in the vision “[takes] her mother’s hand and [says] she [wants] the baby delivered in a hospital, by a doctor” in which her mother agrees (132). This is a significant decision Tara defiantly makes in the vision that blatantly goes against the beliefs of her father indicating that Tara has already subconsciously made up her mind on which life she wants to live. It is important to note that this vision occurs before she questions whether she truly wants to become “a wolf among sheep” by attending college (147). Furthermore, the presence of a baby in the vision is characteristic of her desire to embrace the unknown by attending college. When considering Tara’s past in helping her midwife mother, it is apparent that she knows first-hand of the uncertainty accompanying the birthing process. In terms of the vision, Tara being pregnant symbolizes the uncertainty she has cultivated in the form of a baby. Similarly, her desire to have a child in a hospital symbolizes her will to give in to this uncertainty despite not knowing the consequences. 

As the vision progresses, the pregnant Tara moves to leave the house, presumably heading towards the hospital but is stopped by her father. Tara “draw[s] to herself all his conviction, all his weightiness … set[s] him aside and move[s] through the door”, overcoming the influence of her father (132). With her mind made up, Tara acts upon her decision and physically stands up to her father in the vision. This reflects the strong will she has to carry out her desire to make something more of her life in seeking an education. In a symbolic sense, Tara’s father standing in the way, represents a sturdy barrier to the outside world, not unlike the surrounding mountain landscape that envelops the everyday life of the Westover’s on Buck’s Peak. Moreover, Tara’s father represents the family’s loyalty and obedience that strives to keep Tara grounded at home. In the vision, her father seems to be giving her one last chance to turn around and right her traitorous acts. As can be seen, Tara has indeed managed to overcome this last obstacle demonstrating that she has already decided to carry out her plans for college.

Westover’s vision ends with her recognizing the fact that she must choose between her family and the education she desires. However, when considering the vision, it is apparent that Westover has already subconsciously made this choice. By analyzing the symbolism in Tara Westover’s vision, readers experience both Tara’s will to embrace the unknown with her decision to go to a hospital, as well as her desire to act upon her decision by standing up to her father. In doing this, Tara has figuratively removed herself from the toxicity of her family and opened the door to a world of opportunity through the acquisition of education.

My Literary Analysis draft.

Works Cited

Westover, Tara. Educated. Random, 2018.

Wait, all Research Papers Aren’t the Same?

Being a student in the course “Writing and Research” requires one to research information and then write about it as part of a disciplinary approach to academic writing commonplace in college-level courses and an integral part of select professions. As a student who has experienced many English Language Arts classes as well as a few college courses, I have an elementary understanding of the process of research and how to use it in one’s writing. However, upon reading the chapter on the fields of study in my textbook, The Norton Field Guide to Writing with Readings and Handbook, I was surprised to learn that the different academic fields practice research and writing in uniquely different ways from each other. I came to find that there is no one way to conduct research to encompass all fields, but many, each specialized depending on the unique discipline. 

My experience with conducting research and then writing about it is rather limited as I have found the topic to be rather uncommon in the realms of English Language Arts of middle and high school. More often than not, I have found myself simply writing about a particular piece of one individuals’ writing rather than compiling and incorporating different sources to cite as scholarly research. Naturally, I was rather confused and frustrated when I was asked to write a research paper on the fashion industry of the world in my English I class of ninth grade. We were instructed to find our own sources and make our own claims based on a documentary we had watched prior to researching. The teacher provided several sites packed with thousands of scholarly articles to pick from to aid us in making our claims. I remember being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of articles to choose from as I found it near impossible to find just the right scholarly source to support my claim that the media has a profound influence on consumerism. Additionally, the highly sophisticated language used in these articles made it very difficult to read and understand when applying it to my own writing. After typing in a few keywords into the search engine, I ended up settling on a few select scholarly articles that may have remotely supported my claim in the long run. 

My second experience with writing and research comes from my first semester of sophomore year in Psychology 101. For our final project, we were divided into groups and given a movie and instructed to diagnose a character from the movie with a mental illness. We then had to develop a presentation, case study, and research paper for our client by citing scholarly sources. My group ended up getting the movie Benny & Joon which follows the story of Joon, the mentally disturbed sister of her brother and caretaker Benny. After watching the movie, my group and I diagnosed Joon with schizophrenia, a mental disorder that affects an individual’s ability to think, feel, and behave. In contrast to my experience with writing and research about the fashion industry the previous year, I found the process of researching schizophrenia and developing a paper on it with my peers to be unexpectedly fun and interesting. By working together, we managed to incorporate information to support why we thought Joon had schizophrenia and outline treatments for her in our paper. A task that proved to be far less daunting than my first experience with research and frankly an interesting and engaging experience at that. 

After receiving a writing prompt encouraging me to look back on my academic writing experiences, I am reminded of these two research papers and how I felt contrasting feelings about them. I figured that since both papers were classified under the word “research”, that I should feel generally the same about both. Whether that be feelings of dread and annoyance, or enthusiasm and interest. So I began to think of some differences between the two papers that may explain why I favored the psychology paper over the English paper. One difference that comes to mind, is the formatting. My psychology paper about schizophrenia was written in APA format while my English paper about the fashion industry was written in MLA. I didn’t think very much about these differences until I read in my textbook about the fields of study and their writing styles. For instance “the purpose of writing [in the humanities] is to explore and analyze aspects of the human experience across time … [it] is usually [written] in MLA or Chicago style]” (Bullock et al. 307), while “[the social sciences] explore human behavior and society … usually done in APA or Chicago style” (Bullock et al. 311). As it turns out, psychology and English belong to different fields of study and therefore contain different researching and writing styles. 

As someone who finds the inner workings of people, relationships, and the mind to be very interesting, it is of no surprise that I would have enjoyed writing about schizophrenia as part of my psychology research paper. By reflecting on my personal research experiences throughout my disciplined classes in general education, I have inadvertently discovered my interest in the social sciences, a field that characterizes the study and research of human behavior. This marks an important step in the process of determining my career and what direction I would like to go in life as I continue my transition into adulthood. 

My responses to some writing prompts for the research reflection taken from my journal.

Works Cited

Benny & Joon. Directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik, MGM Home Entertainment, 23 Apr. 1993.

Bullock, Richard et al. Chapter 26: “Writing in Academic Fields of Study.” The Norton Field Guide to Writing with Readings and Handbook. 5th ed. Norton, 2019. pp. 305-320. 

My Top 5 Anime

In the coming decades after World War II, the country of Japan experienced a massive growth in technological and industrial advancement. As the third largest economy in the world today, Japan has expanded its technological and cultural influences throughout the world in various ways. From large vehicle corporations, to video games and entertainment companies, evidence of Japanese influence can be seen in many areas of American life. One of these areas consists of Japanese animated television shows commonly referred to as “anime” that have captured the interest of many people like myself from around the world.

Unlike american cartoons that are generally thought to be geared towards children, anime has brought animation to people of all ages. Just like there is no one genre of music or live television, there too is no one genre of anime. From action and adventure, to romance or comedy, there is an anime to spark the interest of just about anyone. Moreover, in contrast to television and movie productions, anime is able to portray anything anyone can think of. The only downside is that just like in American animation, it takes time for the artists in Japan to draw, write, and digitalize whatever story they are concocting.

Personally, my favorite anime are the action and dystopian genres that define my favorite titles of Attack on Titan and Akame Ga Kill as well as psychological thrillers like The Promised Neverland, Steins;Gate, and Death Parade. As my most recommended and favorite anime thus far, Attack on Titan is a wildly popular anime that follows the journey of three childhood friends living in a fictional walled nation. When a portion of the outer wall is unceremoniously knocked in and large man eating humanoid creatures called titans flood the nation, the three childhood friends must fight to save their friends, family, and humanity itself. I just really love the engaging plot and amazing animation in this show and highly recommend it to fellow action lovers.

Second on my list is Akame Ga Kill. This anime follows the story of a group of assassins as they attempt to overthrow the corrupt government in a large scale coup d’etat. Things get interesting when weapons and gadgets with special abilities are thrown into the plot to effectively distinguish this anime from the others. Fans of unpredictable storylines will surely love Akame Ga Kill.

Next in the list of my favorite anime comes The Promised Neverland. The Promised Neverland is a new ongoing series that just came out winter of 2019 with its first season quickly gaining popularity amongst anime watchers. The anime follows a group of orphaned children in a lone house seemingly in the middle of nowhere. However, the anime soon leaves viewers feeling uneasy as the show progresses indicating that this orphanage may not be what it seems. The Promised Neverland is a wildly fun anime to watch and takes viewers for a loop through its multitude of plot twists and turns. This anime is a great choice for individuals who like mystery mixed in with a touch of horror.

Coming in number four, we have Steins;Gate. This anime follows the self acclaimed mad scientist Okabe Rintarou in his seemingly peaceful everyday life with friends in Tokyo, Japan. However, when tragedy strikes, Okabe and friends are sent in a mad race to create a time machine to alter reality itself. Steins;Gate is masterfully paced as the writer slowly incorporates their plot into the series expertly cultivating it into a great work of art. It is known for its excellent character development and is sure to be a treat for all viewers.

Lastly we have Death Parade. Death parade is a rather short anime that forms its storyline off of the hypothetical question of “what happens when we die”. Taking inspiration from the Buddhist principle of incarnation, Death Parade progresses in the perspective of individuals called “arbiters” who put people to the extremes through small rather cruel minigames to decide whether their souls are worthy of reincarnation or dissolution. Death Parade explores the raw depth of humanity raising questions about the true value of life and who is fit to judge it.

This is a picture of my notes I used to create my blog post.

TVography

Hiroshi, Hamasaki and Satou Takuya, directors. Steins;Gate, White Fox, 2011.“Akame Ga Kill.” Hozumi, Gouda, et al., directors. Akame Ga Kill, White Fox, 1 June 2014.

Hozumi, Gouda, et al., directors. Akame Ga Kill, White Fox, 1 June 2014.

Mamoru, Kanbe, et al., directors. Yakusoku No Neverland, CloverWorks, 2019.“Akame Ga Kill.” Hozumi, Gouda, et al., directors. Akame Ga Kill, White Fox, 1 June 2014.

Shuuhei, Yabuta, et al., directors. Shingeki No Kyojin, Wit Studio, 2013.

Yuzuru, Tachikawa, et al., directors. Death Parade, Madhouse, 2015.“Akame Ga Kill.” Hozumi, Gouda, et al., directors. Akame Ga Kill, White Fox, 1 June 2014.

Remembering Pens, Envelopes, and Rhymes

Throughout my time in English 111 this semester, I have completed several unconventional assignments that differ from those of my high school English classes. Some of these assignments include activities such as writing longhand on paper, composing letters, and completing unique extra-credit assignments. As with the nature of all things new, I was initially unsure as to whether I would like these assignments or not after reviewing the syllabus on the first day of class. After a semester’s worth of time writing with pen and paper, taking the time to carefully craft snail mail, and frantically coming up with words that rhyme for the extra credit assignment, I have grown to become rather fond of these activities. Moreover, upon reflection, I have come to find that these assignments are not only enjoyable, but have also aided in my growth as a writer and critical thinker.

As a student in the digital age, writing longhand with pen and paper is a thing of the distant past in the perspective of a sixteen-year-old. Once I discovered all of our drafts for this semester would be written longhand on paper, with a pen, and without the assistance of the “grammar-checker” on the computer, my heart practically skipped a beat. However, after actually writing a few drafts, I found that the process was not as dreadful as I anticipated. In fact, it was almost enjoyable as I found the flow of the pen on paper to be tangibly pleasing. Taking the time to write out each sentence on paper has forced me to become a more detailed writer. This is because of the simple fact that a writer’s hand naturally moves slower than the experienced typer’s hand on the keyboard. Writing slower requires the writer to think solely about the sentence that their hand is on for if their thoughts stray too far ahead, their hand will soon follow and the result will be one disheveled sentence. Moreover, writing my drafts with a pen has also greatly contributed to a more detailed draft. Writing in pen creates a certain permanence on the paper where corrections of one’s mistakes are hard to come by. This requires writers to think about their sentences before they write so as not to create a mess on the paper marking out ink with more ink to make room for a corrected sentence.

In addition to writing our drafts by hand this semester, we also wrote letters each month commonly referred to as snail-mail. Surprisingly, I had never written a letter to anyone so naturally, the archaic process was very painstaking and strenuous for me. I regretfully admit that I did, in fact, waste an envelope in writing the incorrect post office address on my first try. Nonetheless, I’ve managed to send three letters thus far all to my friend Maia, who is, unfortunately, leaving our school after this year. In my letters to her, I wrote about past and present recollections of good times in hopes of them serving as captured memories that she can refer back to in the future to remember some of her high school friends. Writing letters to Maia has been a very rewarding and reflective process that has benefitted both me as a writer and in the sincerity of friendship. Moreover, after Maia receives a letter, she always thanks me and comments on how she enjoyed it. As Susan Shain says in “We Could All Use a Little Snail Mail Right Now”, “Because of snail mail’s novelty, what you say — and what it looks like — often matters less than the act itself” (par. 20). This brings to mind how simply sending a letter can go a long way. Even if one is required to send a letter as an assignment, the fact that one is even selected to be the recipient of a letter is gratifying in the least.

Furthermore, I also participated in an extra credit assignment this semester. Ordinarily, I do not complete extra credit assignments due to some cheeky excuse that I somehow always seem to come up with. But when I heard we simply had to submit our work, regardless of what the content was, to a teen publication program called “The Alexander Muse” for extra credit points, I jumped on the opportunity. As a student who takes two English classes, I figured there would most definitely be some form of writing that was ideal to submit. After some thought, I finally figured I would submit a poem that I drafted for my high school English II class this semester. It was rather depressing with a theme about the Holocaust, but I figured some of the best writings are those of strong emotion. Initially, I was not expecting my poem to be accepted, but I suppose that is how most people feel when participating in a competition. Much to my amazement and elation, my poem was actually accepted in “The Alexander Muse” for publication. I realized afterward that had I not received this extra credit opportunity, I would have never been awarded the honor of being published into something and for that, I am grateful. This accomplishment has provided me with much-needed confidence as a writer that I would have deprived myself of had I not seized this opportunity.

As I reflect upon my time in English 111 and note the qualities that have aided my development as a writer, I am reminded of my textual analysis, “The Pompous Priorities of Lenoir Rhyne”, that I wrote during the semester. I consider this piece to be my greatest work as I feel that I connected my ideas very well and used more diverse, complex vocabulary. Moreover, I am also reminded of the key features in the course that have allowed me to write successful works such as my textual analysis and published poem. Out of those, I sincerely recognize the details derived from writing longhand, the candor in writing snail mail, and the confidence and resolve to write derived from the extra credit assignment. I genuinely feel these features and other qualities of my time in English 111 have truly made me a better writer and critical thinker.

My Reflection Draft

The Pompous Priorities of Lenoir Rhyne University

An advertisement from Lenoir Rhyne University featured in Our State magazine in 2015 attempts to showcase the school to entice potential students to the University. While the advertisement strives to present a positive light on the school, one might argue the opposite effect is achieved, as several factors indicate that Lenoir Rhyne prioritizes appearance over academics. By analyzing the main heading of the advertisement, the paragraph beneath it, and the students featured, one might also come to recognize the true ostentatiousness of Lenoir Rhyne’s advertisement.

Lenoir Rhyne begins their pretentious advertisement with a title that reads “with sophistication, style, and southern charm, LRU welcomes you” (1). While first impressions of this heading may be positive due to the welcoming atmosphere, upon analyzation of “sophistication, style, and southern charm”, individuals may come to think otherwise. In order to analyze this advertisement, we must recognize that Lenoir Rhyne university is, in fact, a school where students come to learn and strive to get a higher education. However, the phrase “sophistication, style, and southern charm” seems to lack elements that define an educational institution. Rather, one might associate this phrase with the inner workings of a fashion show or some other establishment that takes pride in showcasing their luxury apparel. This may inform the viewer that Lenoir Rhyne is more concerned about outward looks and elegance rather than developing the intellect of its students.  By simply analyzing Lenoir Rhyne’s title of the advertisement, it becomes apparent that Lenoir Rhyne prioritizes fashion over the more important pursuit of knowledge that colleges should exhibit.

Moreover, Lenoir Rhyne continues their attempt at enticing the viewer with the body paragraph of the advertisement found below the heading. It reads “Donned in suits, skirts, and seersucker, students at Lenoir Rhyne University bring a sense of style as polished as our programs of study. Our campus welcomes students to a close-knit community of people where leaders of tomorrow have emerged for over a century. Higher education has never been so dapper” (1). Here, Lenoir Rhyne seems to merge the idea of fashion and style with education for its students. However, this stylistic approach clashes with the southern charm mentioned in the header. Generally, when one thinks of southern charm, words such as hospitality, sweet, and warm come to mind. Contrastingly, none of these elements are reflected in the body paragraph as words like “donned” give the impression students at Lenoir Rhyne are very serious about their “seersucker” appearances just as a knight becomes serious when he dons his armor in preparation for battle. This may inform viewers that they must conform to this serious, close-knit community because Lenoir Rhyne only welcomes students that are serious about their uniform and pompous appearance.

As the highlight of the advertisement, viewers are treated to a scene of some students at Lenoir Rhyne University. Upon first glance, the blue dress shirt of the young man seen sitting at the base of the bear statue and the same blue color of the shorts of the young man next to him immediately catches the eye of viewers. Any nice stroll out in public will inform an individual that this vibrant light blue is rather uncommon among the clothes of the everyday populace. Let alone a college populace. The purple bow tie on the young man with the blue dress shirt and the formal clothing of the other students featured bolsters this statement, which leads viewers to believe that the students displayed are preparing for a nice party or just came back from a venue of formal attire. However, based on the heading and information given in the body paragraph, it is apparent that these students dress in this fashion simply for daytime classes at the university and may even dress like this every day. This mirrors the claim that “higher education has never been so dapper” at Lenoir Rhyne and may indicate only well-dressed people with money that can afford these kinds of expensive clothing will be welcomed at the University. Additionally, a theme of blue clothing is discernable by looking at each student featured. This highlights a sense of conformity at Lenoir Rhyne and illustrates that students should strive to fit into the bombastic atmosphere. In exhibiting this conformity, potential students at Lenoir Rhyne may be discouraged from being themselves, which is certainly not a favorable characteristic for a University.

As seen through the heading, body paragraph, and the photograph of the students featured in the Lenoir Rhyne advertisement, it is apparent that Lenoir Rhyne may value the appearance of the students and the school over the academic prowess that a University should strive to foster for its constituents. In the wake of the recent college admissions scandal where many wealthy parents unlawfully bought their children’s way into prestigious universities, it is concerning that colleges like Lenoir Rhyne are advertising for qualities such as elegance, conformity, and wealth rather than merit, intelligence, and good character.

Works Cited

Lenoir-Rhyne U. Advertisement. Our State, Aug. 2015, p. 1.

My rough draft.