Closed Prompt 2 11/18

Evening Hawk describes a hawk flying around, and its viewpoint, during sunset. Robert Penn Warren uses his poetic language to describe the majestic hawk, and relates it to embracing how powerful life is. He talks about Time, and the world to show us the different aspects of life..

The first stanza has many references to geometry, with “plane of light” and “black angularity”. Warren is paints a picture of a perfect place through his use of mathematical terms. He talks about light, and describes the contrast with the darkness of the peak. He uses these lines to describe the setting that the hawk is flying through and exploring. The reader gets the impression that the hawk is going from the light of the setting sun, and into the darkness of the mountain willingly, representing how life has its ups and downs.

The second stanza focuses on a different aspect of life: aging. The hawk “Scythes down another day”, showing how we are always losing time. The scythe is a reference to Kronos, who was considered the Titan of time by the Greeks, wielding the same weapon. The rest of the stanza talks about time passing, such as the “crashless fall of stalks of Time”. The next stanza, of one line, states that we all have regrets, that each stalk is “heavy with the gold of our error”. Warren is also alluding to increasing consumerism, which happened during his lifetime, by using the word gold.

The fourth stanza references the Sun. The “last light” alludes to this, but the phrase “world… swings into shadow” makes it clear. Warren is trying to say that only celestial objects can be perfect. Humans make mistakes, and inanimate objects cannot make mistakes.

The last two stanzas describe how all humans can do is learn while we live. Warren mentions a bat whose “wisdom, Is ancient, too, and immense”, telling us that there are other creatures than the hawk, who are part of this world. He is telling us to be like the bat, and learn as much as we can while fumbling through life, before Time catches up to us and the inevitable happens. The description of history “drip in darkness” is simply reinforcing that humans must learn about our past as well. He is asking us to make sure that history is embraced in the light, and not forgotten in a cellar.

Warren uses his language, with powerful diction and allusions, to describe the scene and convey his interpretation of the meaning of life, and how humans can do better. While he may be a little critical of our society, similar to Albee, his words have good intentions behind them. He is hopeful that humans can change the way we look at life.

Response to Course Material

We started out this unit talking about Absurd theatre and comedy. I hadn’t heard of these topic before in a school setting, especially not Theatre of the Absurd. The definition of comedy was very interesting as well. I hadn’t thought about humor following a defined set of rules.

 

Our main focus was The American Dream. I learned so much about Albee, and the time period surrounding that literature. I always feel like literature is a reflection of a time period, and this piece was no exception. This was also the first time I had seen an author critique their time period. I was used to praise of the time they lived in, not outright attack of the era.

 

This was the first Absurdist play I had read, and it was a good introduction. Based on what I have seen so far, this play had absurdist elements, but it wasn’t the best example. The play was non-circular, because the Young Man replaces Grandma at the end. This play has had so many different interpretations as well. We read one interpretation that Grandma represented the old American Dream, while the Young Man represented consumerism and what society was moving towards. While I agreed with this interpretation, I also felt that being given an interpretation was bound to influence the rest of our discussion, which I saw in our theme statements. Most of them seemed to take for granted what the Young Man and Grandma represented.

 

The vocabulary we learned through vocabulary.com was useful in describing the themes from The American Dream. I knew some of the words already, but a few were new to me. Learning new words that can be used to describe is always a good thing. The terms we learned, on the other hand, is only useful to literature. Some of the terms, such as poetry, blank verse, and foot, I will use throughout my life, but words such as epizeuxis I am likely to forget once I get to college. Still, learning all of these terms was an interesting challenge, and recognizing them will be another challenge.

 

Learning about how to tackle the MC AP Lit questions was difficult. Literature is inherently open ended; asking students to narrow choices down between two options was tough. The questions are written so that most of the viewpoints are defensible, but only one is correct. I personally hated that, but I can think of no other way of incorporating MC questions into a literature based class. That is why I enjoyed the writing assessments we had more, because they asked us about our thoughts, and we were free to pick from whatever we wanted to.

 

We covered many different topics over the course of this last month. Most of them can be related to each other, especially the essay writing and the American Dream. I look forward to reading more great literature!

 

American Dream Summary and Analysis

The American Dream, by Edward Albee

Setting

An apartment, set in the 1960’s. Multiple shops near by. The apartment is spacious enough for 3-4 people.

Author

Edward Albee  was adopted when he was very young by rich conservative parents, who he always felt apart from. His parents sent him to multiple boarding schools and academies, which he kept changing. He always felt like a poster child, a toy on display. He left his family in the 1940’s because he wanted to be a writer. He wrote mostly plays that critiqued American culture. He was also a homosexual man, and his parents still forced him into an engagement with a woman.

 

Characters

Grandma – A unique old woman who critiques Mommy, and tries to be caring to most others. She argues with Mommy at the beginning, then says that she is quitting her act and talks normally with Mrs. Barker. Later, she encounters the Young Man, and compliments him on being “The American Dream”. She looks around the house, missing it, before walking out with her boxes. The boxes contain her past 86 years of living, and her dog. She then leaves, escorted by the Young Man. At the end of the play, the audience can see her as an outsider, where she breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience, closing out the play.

Daddy – A man who doesn’t feel right in his own gender. He doesn’t have much say in what goes on, and tends to simply accept what is happening. He shows suicidal thoughts, hoping he could just get it all over with. He is tired of what happens every day in his household. On the whole, he is a hollow character, unusual for the time period. We don’t know his job, but he recently had a gender change surgery.

Mommy – She has most of the lines in the play. As a child, she was a decietful little girl, tricking kids into giving her candy. As an adult, she argues frequently with her mother. She states that “the van man”  is coming to take Grandma away. When she doesn’t get something that she wants, she belligerently attacks the person who is denying her satisfaction. When Grandma leaves, she appears to show some remorse and misses her, however this quickly passes once the Young Man replaces Grandma.

Young Man –  He is in his twenties, and was an identical twin. He claims that he feels hollow inside, after incidents occurred to his twin.He seems  to represent a Gilded Age, where everyone just wants what they can buy with money. He is quite happy to comply with whatever if someone has money. Despite with the young man says, he is still quite caring towards others. At the end of the story when Grandma is walking out, he offers to escort her to the elevator.

Plot

The play starts with Mommy and Daddy complaining that some visitors are late. As they complain about how they can’t get satisfaction, Mommy recounts how she went to go buy a hat, and returns it after she feels the color was off. Daddy nods along and just goes with the flow.

Grandma enters the scene, carrying many nicely wrapped boxes. She complains about the bathroom which leads to Daddy insulting her. Grandma then goes off on a tangent, saying old people are always treated unfairly.  Mommy recounts her childhood remembering how nicely Grandma wrapped boxes for her during lunch. She talks about how she was able to convince her classmates to give her food everyday.

Grandma calls Mommy a tramp for marrying a rich husband, just for the money. Mommy seems proud of the fact that she was a able to marry him. The doorbell rings, and Mrs. Barker enters the scene. Mrs. Barker removes her dress, and asks Mommy and Daddy why they called her here. Grandma and Mommy get into a fight, with Mommy leaving to get Mrs. Barker some water. Daddy leaves to break Grandma’s television.

Grandma and Mrs. Barker talk about the “bumble”, Mommy and Daddy’s child from 20 years ago. They mutilated the child until it died because they were unhappy with how imperfect it was. Grandma leaves Mrs. Barker with this thought, not explaining much about it.

The Young Man enters the home, and immediately attracts the attention of Grandma. She describes him as the “American Dream”. The young man says that he will do anything for money, to which Grandma replies that there is plenty of money around here. the young man recounts his tale,  explaining how he felt being mutilated throughout his childhood. He says that he was born with a twin, and that they were separated at birth. He explains how as life went on, he started to lose the feelings that normal human beings are able to have. Grandma seems to realize that the “bumble” and the young man were twins.

Grandma decided to leave the house and replace herself with the Young Man.  Mrs. Barker explains to Mommy and Daddy how the van man came and took Grandma away. Mommy is emotional for a moment, but then Mommy and Daddy realize that the Young Man is there.  mommy directs the young man to get out some drinks, so he gets out 5 glasses. Mommy admonishes him for bringing out 5 instead of 4, signifying that she can no longer see Grandma while the Young Man still can.

The play ends with Mommy promising how she will tell the Young Man what happened to their previous child, and Grandma breaking the fourth wall, saying “Good night”.

 

Notes

There is no point of view, since this is a play. Albee is criticizing American culture and the path that we are on, and he longs for the true American past (Grandma).

The historical references here are quite important. This is a period right after WWII, with the baby boomers still growing up. Most of the people watching this play would have remembered some effects of the Depression. Grandma at one point says “150 years”, which in context means the start of the American way of life. Mrs. Barker may be related to Eleanor Roosevelt, as both have husbands that had wheelchairs, and both were women of power.

 

Quotes

“I no longer have the capacity to feel anything. I have no emotions.” – Young Man

This is showing the despair the Young Man feels inside, while looking fine on the exterior.

“She’d have you carted off too, if she thought she could get away with it” – Grandma

Grandma is pointing towards how conniving her daughter is, and how she would have Daddy removed if possible. Hints towards Mommy having power, rather than the patriarch.

“The truth is, there isn’t much you can say to old people that doesn’t sound just terrible” – Grandma

Grandma is criticizing the way the world is today, by saying how nothing that is said to her nowadays feels nice. She actively feels the passage of time.

Theme Statement

In Albee’s American Dream, he argues that modern American ideals are leading us to a path of destruction, and that our older American values are vanishing.

Grandma is an old lady who disappears with her values. The Young Man describes himself as a broken person, and laments the death of his twin. These two are important plot elements.

The way the Young Man describes his inner self being terrible, while Grandma simply says he looks nice, draws a contrast between new and old through diction. Albee is stressing that the Young Man lives a terrible existence, and just because he looks good doesn’t mean he feels good.

Closed Prompt 1 2008

Author 1A

Overall, this author does a great job analyzing Keats and Longfellow’s poems and meaning. The thesis statement is made well, and quite defendable. Saying that Keats and Longfellow have different viewpoints on life is the answer this prompt is looking for. The claim that both authors feel that life is short is well backed with textual evidence. The usage of the word anaphora is correct and shows that they know what they are talking about. The second paragraph analyzes the differences very well, pointing towards the contrast between the lives of Keats and Longfellow. The meaning that they are able to extract from a few words makes sense. The last paragraph fully backs the thesis and establishes the different viewpoint on life and death. The only thing I believe the author could have done better is add more to the thesis, by adding the first and second paragraphs’ argument. I would have mentioned the differences in love in the thesis, rather than say vague words about regrets they both have. This disconnect feels like the author started writing their thesis, found a better argument, but forgot to modify the thesis to fit their argument. Still, the body paragraphs and conclusion are very strong.

Author 1B

This author’s thesis is not as strong as the Author 1A’s. The only difference that this author finds is actually a similarity. He says that each one symbolizes a wasted life, but lists it as a difference. This author ties their claims and warrants together very well, along with supporting textual evidence. The first body paragraph is a good example of how one should approach one of these prompts. Evidence is all metaphor based, but all of the in text quotes make sense and are not mislabeled. The next body paragraph outlines more similarities between the two poems. However, no differences are discussed except for in the thesis, when the author states that they both have different feelings about death. There isn’t any in text evidence used to prove that claim. The conclusion is very abrupt and doesn’t do well to sum up their argument. This author needs to find more varied sources of evidence to back up their claims, and make more claims. The thesis needs to have a compare and contrast, not just a compare. The essay as a whole is lacking in substance, like the author was rushed. This piece could use a bit more time on the conclusion, and a third body paragraph where the differences are discussed.

Author 1C

This author focuses on only one aspect of both poems: the rhythm. The thesis statement does not discuss anything about the viewpoint of the poems. Furthermore, the thesis only focuses on similarities between the two. The first body paragraph doesn’t mention what type of literary device is being used to convey that the author is close to death, or has a fear of dying. The second body paragraph lacks explicit references to the text. Both of these body paragraphs come up with defensible conclusions. However, the author fails to back them up with claims, evidence, or warrants. The conclusion is also weak, as the author simply comments on how the two poems are similar and different. There is a sense of wrapping things up, but there is no argument to wrap up. The entire piece is rather weak, and it is hard to see what argument is being made, and how.