The Illusions of War

Merry-Go-Round

The Merry-Go-Round by Mark Gertler depicts soldier and formally dressed up women riding around on a child’s ride known as a merry-go-round. The people on the ride appear stiff and their expressions doll-like, like they are forced to appear as such. The depiction of the doll-people on this ride is just like the picture the government tried to paint of World War I. War and battle was almost celebrated as this good thing, like it was the best thing in the world to go off and give your life on the battlefield for your country. The Merry-Go-Round depicts the twisted perspective of war that the government tried to pass off during World War I. However, as many writers of the time pointed out, war was not a happy thing in the slightest. It might have been see as honorable to die in battle, but, as Wilfred Owen points out in his poem “Anthem for Doomed Youth,” no one is going to celebrate your death on the field of battle. It is not a happy thing to go to war, it is a sad, lonely, scary, and horrible thing. In his work, Owen states the following: “What passing-bells for these who die as cattle? /Only the monstrous anger of the guns. /Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle /Can patter out their hasty orisons.” (pg 161). The lives of soldiers are not cared for, and the only ones on the field of battle that will pray for their safety or care if they are fallen are themselves.

Works Cited

Gertler, Mark. The Merry-Go-Round. The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries. 10th ed. Stephen Greenblatt, General Editor. W. W. Norton, 2018. p. C2.

Owen, Wilfred. “Anthem for Doomed Youth” The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries. 10th ed. Stephen Greenblatt, General Editor. W. W. Norton, 2018. p. 161-162.

Greatness Depicting Greatness

Christ in the Carpenter's Shop.png

The artpiece Christ in the Carpenter’s Shop by John Everett Millais depicts the everyday life of child Jesus, long before he would go forth to preach his word and become known as the Messiah. The piece shows a rather ordinary scene, men working in their shop, a mother comforting an injured child, and another child fetching water, presumably to clean his brother’s wound. However, anyone who knows the story of the New Testament would easily be able to notice that the prick on the child Christ’s hand foreshadows his eventual death, nailed by his palms to a cross. In this work, Jesus is also the only character depicted fully dressed in white, representing his purity and sinlessness. The painting is able to depict the ordinary upbringing that Jesus went through, while also foreshadowing the events that would lead him to becoming the head of the most practiced religion in the world.

Christ in the Carpenter’s Shop expresses the beauty of the New Testament’s story, of God being born into an everyday family and growing to change the world forever. The art style used to convey this message may garner negative criticism, but as John Ruskin conveys in “A Definition of Greatness in Art:” “It is not by the mode of representing and saying, but by what is represented and said, that the respective greatness either of the painter or the writer is to be finally determined” (384). Critics will say what they will on their opinions of the art work, however the message depicted in Christ in the Carpenter’s Shop is surely enough for the piece and artist John Everett Millais to be considered great.

 

Works Cited

Ruskin, John. “A Definition of Greatness in Art.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Victorian Age. 10th ed. Stephen Greenblatt, General Editor. W. W. Norton, 2018. pp. 384.

Millais, John Everett. Christ in the Carpenter’s Shop. The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Victorian Age. 10th ed. Stephen Greenblatt, General Editor. W. W. Norton, 2018. p. C2.

The Implications of Fate

The themes of fate and destiny have riddled pieces of literature since ancient times, showing themselves in nearly every culture across the world. Normally a bi-product of religious beliefs, the stories often speak of heroes destined to save their people or of protagonists trapped in a tragic fate. These stories and beliefs were commonplace a few thousand years ago, and while their representation remains oversaturated in literature, most modern people are aware that they are in full control of their own actions, the captains of their own destinies, so to speak. This idea is echoed to wonderful effect in Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Mutability,” but no so much in his wife’s best known work, Frankenstein. In Frankenstein, Mary Shelley recounts the tale told by a man named Victor Frankenstein who messed with the natural limits of science and created life, but then abandoned his creation. These actions spiraled into many misfortunes in his life, causing misery for both himself and the people that he loves. Victor Frankenstein is often blaming fate for his actions while telling his tale, always pushing off part of his blame to this intangible force. Victor Frankenstein’s belief that he is trapped in a terrible uncontrollable fate is the exact opposite of the ideas expressed in “Mutability,” which enforces the idea that each person is in control of his or her own life, and the direction that they choose to lead it.
Victor Frankenstein is a man deeply rooted in science. His understanding of the natural world is so great that he was able to create life from nothing. Thus, it is ironic that such a man would also put such heavy faith in the belief of a intangible force such as fate. In fact, it seems that Victor puts such a large emphasis in the inevitability of his actions and the consequences that they caused as a sort of coping mechanism. It may be his fault, but because it was fated to happen, he isn’t entirely to blame. In the preface of the tale, Victor says the following to Robert Walton, an arctic explorer who saved his life: “You seek for knowledge and wisdom, as I once did; and I ardently hope that the gratification of your wishes may not be a serpent to sting you, as mine has been. I do not know that the relation of my disasters will be useful to you; yet, when I reflect that you are pursuing the same course, exposing yourself to the same dangers which have rendered me what I am, I imagine that you may deduce an apt moral from my tale; one that may direct you if you succeed in your undertaking, and console you in case of failure” (Shelley, M. pg. 25). Victor Frankenstein fears that Captain Walton may also be heading down a road of tragedy fueled by his own curiousness. Frankenstein’s mindset, at this point, seems to be that the search of any knowledge beyond what he perceives to be the human limit will inevitably lead to tragedy. In this he believes that he is powerless against the torrent of despair the world has wrought against him, the tragic fate that he has found himself in.
Frankenstein’s beliefs are in direct opposition to the message conveyed in the poem “Mutability.” Through his work, Percy Bysshe Shelley speaks of the fragility and short-lived nature of the individual. Making it seem as though the work of the individual is meaningless in the grand scheme of the world. Yet, the final stanza reads as follows: “For, be it joy or sorrow,/The path of its departure still is free:/Man’s yesterday may ne’er be like his morrow;/Nought may endure but Mutability” (Shelley, P. 766). This last stanza puts the rest of the poem into context. That despite man’s fragility and short lives, each one is still free to choose what it is that they make of themselves. Each person can choose their own destiny, and each is responsible for the consequences of their actions. Compared to Frankenstein’s belief that he is destined to a tragic fate caused by his own actions, “Mutability” offers a much more hopeful and realistic outlook on the choices that we make every day.
While Victor Frankenstein always blames the tragedy around him on his own horrid fate, “Mutability” offers a much more realistic outlook on life, that each person is the captain of their own destiny. Frankenstein pushes the blame off himself in order to cope with the consequences of his actions without facing his own responsibility in the matters. The two works paint drastically different outlooks on the choice and accountability of the individual.

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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.

The Duality of Love and Suffering

marriage of heaven and hell

When looking at The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, it is difficult not to immediately be reminded of The Daemon Lover. The poem details the story of a woman who runs away from her husband to be with her lover, only to learn that said lover is a demon and that she is on her way to hell. When the woman learns the truth the surrounding area begins to twist and change: “The clouds grew dark, and the wind grew loud/And the levin fill’d her e’e/And waesome wail’d the snaw -white sprites/Upon the gurlie sea” (pg. 39). While she thought she had escaped away to be happy, she had instead rushed herself into her own damnation. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell depicts a duality of good and evil, of pain and suffering. It is a great example of the woman’s perspective when she learns the truth of her journey. Her happy and loving world begins to distort as she realizes her ultimate destination is suffering in the lake of fire and brimstone.

 

Works Cited

Shirley, Jackson. The Daemon-lover. The Norton Anthology of English Literature: 10th ed. Stephen Greenblatt, General Editor. W. W. Norton, 2018. pp. 37-39.

Healthy Activity or Just a Pastime?

The following research was done in collaboration with Jason Dunford.

 

This semester, we have been tasked with routinely playing Scrabble in order to help our learning and writing ability. However, after reading Jonathan Kay’s “Scrabble is a Lousy Game,” I was left wondering if board games, especially such linear and predictable ones, could truly help train the mind and provide health benefits to those that played them. I myself am a very avid fan of board games, and I wanted to know if playing them was only for entertainment, or if they could provide actual benefits. Thus, using “Scrabble is a Lousy Game” to jumpstart my research, I began my dive into the very scarce amount of research there is on the topic. What I did find seemed to point to board games being able to both accelerate learning in the healthy and also to help the processes of those less fortunate.

There seems to be a drought of board game research in recent years. Instead, the vast amount of research put into video games is flooding the topic of gaming. This made finding decent articles hard, and usable articles most difficult. However, the research that has been done provides some promising results. The bibliography that I have created includes Kay’s criticism of Scrabble, the birthplace of my question, along with three other research articles that help to answer if board games truly provide health benefits. Two of these research articles focus on the benefits that linear board games can give to preschoolers trying to learn mathematics. The other article delves into the cognitive effects that the game Mahjong can have on patients with dementia.

Indeed, research seems to suggest that board games can in fact give beneficial health effects to those that play them. Perhaps the Scrabble sessions that we have had in class have provided me with more than just easy one-hundred’s. It is good to know that such a fun hobby of mine does actually help me mentally, and can act as more than just a past time. I hope that research into this topic continues to be done so that a larger amount of people can learn of the benefits of board games.

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Annotated Bibliography

Cavanagh , Sean. “Playing Games in Classroom Helping Pupils Grasp Math .” University at Buffalo , University at Buffalo , 29 Apr. 2008,
www.buffalo.edu/content/dam/www/news/imported/pdf/April08/EdWeekClementsBoardGames.pdf.

In “Playing Games in Classroom Helping Pupils Grasp Math,” Cavanagh summarizes the research of  Siegler and Ramani. Cavanagh explains that Siegler and Ramani had the pupils play the board games four times, for fifteen to twenty minutes, over a two-week period. Cavanagh expands, saying “Many children from poor families have limited exposure to board games and simple math-related activities at home. Spending even a small amount of time on fun, basic board games could spark an early interest in math and produce an academic payoff later, some researchers say” (pg. 2). He also discusses “Number Worlds,” a program created by Sharon Griffin that uses specifically selected board and card games to promote math understanding in young children.

This source can be used to better understand and summarize Siegler and Ramani’s article, as well as to gleam new information related to the study and its findings. Researchers can use this information to further the discovery of the health benefits of board games. Teachers can use the information to use programs such as “Number Worlds” and the board game designed by Siegler and Ramani to further the knowledge and understanding of their students.

Cheng, Sheung‐Tak, et al. “An Exploratory Study of the Effect of Mahjong on the Cognitive Functioning of Persons with Dementia.” The Canadian Journal of Chemical Engineering, Wiley-Blackwell, 15 June 2006,
onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/gps.1531.

“An Exploratory Study of the Effect of Mahjong on the Cognitive Functioning of Persons with Dementia” attempts to focus on research that was conducted on 62 older people, average age of about 84), that had been tested previously diagnosed with dementia according to standards upheld by the DSM-IV. A group of researches, Sheung-Tak Cheng, Alfred C. M. Chan, and Edwin C. S. Yu, selected people at random to either play Mahjong two or four times a week for a sixteen week period. During the sixteen week period, researchers continuously kept testing the mental capabilities of the subjects, trying to determine associations with the number of times played and any sort of effects it had on the people. After the period had ended, the group had finally conducted their last assessments, giving a generally positive reaction to the effects that playing Mahjong had on cognitive ability across all measures. The study concludes that Mahjong has little drawbacks to institutions but huge gain to patients, and, therefore, should be implemented as a viable treatment option for dementia.

Many psychologists and psychological institutions can use this research to further their own advancements in the world of psychological sciences. Using this information, many psychologists can attempt to better help their patients as well as provide them with knowledge and an enjoyable activity. As well as this, psychological institutions can attempt to initiate programs in which newer treatment options like this can be implemented at almost no cost with much benefit to the patients.

Kay, Jonathan. Review. “Scrabble is a Lousy Game.” The Wall Street Journal, 6-7 Oct. 2018, p. 5.

“Scrabble is a Lousy Game” speaks of Jonathan Kay’s suspicions of the benefits of the popular word game Scrabble and how he believes that it doesn’t help people to memorize words or learn to associate them with anything. In this, he states, “The only reason people play it [Scrabble], I suspect, is blind habit” (para. 3). Kay begins to present that Scrabble treats worlds less like words and more like something to be memorized and regurgitated when pressed. This is why, he believes, Scrabble doesn’t seem to have many positive effects on actual learning and word usage. He admits, however, that Scrabble players have very keen minds and have shown to be very spatially intelligent while also pondering why the avid players seem to enjoy the game so much. Then, he begins to discuss the viability of playing other board games in opposition to Scrabble, including other word games that combine the application of luck and skill, which, as Kay states, is imperative to typical game balancing.

Using this, board game fanatics can educate themselves and question the effectiveness of the games that they play. And, while Scrabble can prove to be a fun game to play with friends, its positive health effects upon an individual deserve to come into question. Therefore, as a way to appease the audience of avid Scrabble players, Kay also introduces the readers to two other similar word games that he believes provides a good balance in gaming and good experiences for a table of casual party gamers.

Siegler, Robert S., and Geetha B. Ramani. “Playing Linear Number Board Games—But Not Circular Ones—Improves Low-Income Preschoolers’ Numerical Understanding.” Carnegie Mellon University, American Psychological Association, 2009,
www.psy.cmu.edu/~siegler/sieg-ram09.pdf.

“Playing Linear Number Board Games—But Not Circular Ones—Improves Low-Income Preschoolers’ Numerical Understanding” details Siegler and Ramani’s experiments in using board games to help preschoolers from less fortunate households to understand math. According to them, “Among the most serious educational challenges facing the United States is the large discrepancy in academic performance between children from different economic backgrounds. Children from impoverished backgrounds achieve at a much lower level than other students throughout the course of schooling” (para. 1). They believe that the nature of linear board games can help children to develop an understanding of linear number lines that are used in the understanding of mathematics all the way up to adulthood. Siegler and Ramani developed an activity very similar to chutes and ladders. They had 124 different students from impoverished backgrounds move pieces around numbered squares. They conclude that “an increasing body of literature indicating that efforts to improve the numerical understanding of preschoolers from low-income backgrounds can yield large, broad, and rapid improvements. The benefits of playing the linear number board game extend to a variety of aspects of early numerical understanding: knowledge of numerical magnitudes, counting, numeral identification, and arithmetic. All of these are foundational skills that contribute to later mathematics learning” (pg. 13).

Using this information, school teachers can implement linear board games to help children from less fortunate backgrounds understand mathematics and keep up with their more fortunate peers. Teachers can change their curriculum to include board games as a fun way to expand their student’s understanding and ability to learn. Researchers can use the results of this study to kickstart more research into the benefits of board games in both students and in the populus in general.

Run Tiger, Run

Adrienne Rich is a feminist writer best known for her poems and essays written in the second half of the twentieth century. One of these poems, “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers,” gives a beautiful and heartbreaking insight on the lives of women pre-suffrage. The symbolism used in the poem shines a bright light on the oppression faced by women of the early-to-mid twentieth century.

The first stanza of “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers” appears to be just like any poem that centers on the themes of beauty and nature, however, by the context clues of knowing when the poem was written and the history of Ms. Rich, a whole new meaning begins to take shape. The first hint to this meaning comes in line three: “They [the tigers] do not fear the man beneath the tree” (Rich, l. 3). This is the first line that indicates that the poem has a heavier meaning than it first seems. This line turns the tigers into a metaphor. The tigers represent women, but not just any women, women who are able to run free, without being scared of what men will do.

The second stanza brings readers back to earth, back to reality. Back to the reality of the time, the reality that women can’t actually run free like the tigers can. The second stanza shows what it is actually like for a woman of the time period. Aunt Jennifer is weighed down by the weight of her marriage. Best case scenario: her marriage causes others to cease taking her seriously, and to instead default to her husband to make the decisions and lead their lives. Worst case scenario: Aunt Jennifer’s husband is actually the one dragging her down, refusing to allow her to have a voice and perhaps even punishing her if she goes against him even in the slightest. Either way, Aunt Jennifer is trapped by her marriage. No longer able to do what she desires to, and to live how she wishes, Aunt Jennifer must instead allow her husband to control both of their lives, living instead through her art, but even that is hard to do with her marriage weighing itself heavily over her life.

And that is simply the life that Aunt Jennifer leads. As Rich writes in stanza three, Aunt Jennifer will die, “Still ringed with ordeals she was mastered by” (Rich, l. 10). Aunt Jennifer will die, never fulfilling the dreams that she lived through her tigers. But that doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. Even after her death, her tigers will prance on. Her art and her dream and her death can inspire generations to come to fo forward and do what she never could. To go run with her tigers.

At the very least, Rich hope it does. The choice to make Jennifer be the narrator’s aunt is significant. It provides distance between the narrator and Aunt Jennifer’s pain and struggles. When coming across pain and difficult situations, many run. Distancing themselves from the situation, telling themselves that it’s not their fault or it’s not their problem. That they aren’t the one that needs to change things, to make a difference. Rich worries that not enough people with empathise with her cause. That even though they see Aunt Jennifer’s art, they won’t believe that it is in their place to interfere. Of course, modern day readers know that this worry was eventually proven to be unfounded, that the feminist movement did convince enough people and brought enough people to its side to make a difference. However, this must have been a common fear among feminists at the time, and “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers” is a great gateway into the mind of mid-twentieth century feminists. Of their hopes and their fears.

To conclude, Adrienne Rich’s “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers” is an interesting look into both the life of women pre-suffrage, but also to the thoughts and feelings of feminists of the time period. It provides a great looking glass into a past mindset and, a hindsight on a time that we will hopefully never repeat. “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers” is the culmination of Rich’s feelings during her time fighting for women’s rights, and her hopes and worries can be felt while reading every single line.

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Blending Narrative and Education, All Because You’re Mad at Phone Games

In Sam Anderson’s “Just One More Game,” he discusses the origins and ramifications of what he calls “stupid games,” games with no real end that can be played nonstop for hours, generally mobile puzzle games like Angry Birds or Candy Crush. Anderson explores the impact of these games that cause people to spend hours idling away without realizing how much time they have spent. He explores the optimistic views that Jane McGonigal and Frank Lantz have towards stupid games, and their belief that the gamification of society can be used to change the world for the better. Anderson’s narrative style and impressive writing technique allow for his essay to feel open to readers of all kinds and to differentiate his work from the other, more complex and educational informative essays. Instead of reading like a school paper, Anderson’s work reads more akin to a narrative, which allows readers to get invested and interested in his writing.

A great narrative is one of the best ways to get audiences engaged and interested in a writing. “Just One More Game” reads like a story. The introductory paragraph is one of the best examples of this. Anderson introduces the concept of “stupid games” by first introducing their origin, “…Nintendo reached across the world to unleash upon America its own version of freedom. The new product was the Game Boy…” (Anderson, 105). By introducing the origin of his topic in such an interesting way, Sam Anderson draws readers in, investing them into his writing and trapping them in his words until they finish the last sentence. Anderson’s involvement in his own essay is also a major player in why his writing works so well. By speaking of his own experience with “stupid games” and of his fear of them and their impact on society moving into the future, Anderson shows that this is a topic that affects and involves everyone, including himself. By connecting himself to his writing, Anderson makes “Just One More Game” exude relatability, allowing readers of all kinds to feel comfortable reading the essay and understand its context. It doesn’t alienate any readers like a lot of educational writing does.

Anderson displays fantastic writing techniques throughout his essay. His imagery is descriptive enough to see, hear, and feel exactly what he’s describing. When Anderson describes Tetris, it almost makes me feel like I’m playing the game: “Tetris, a simple but addictive puzzle game whose goal was to rotate falling blocks – over and over and over… – in order to build the most efficient walls possible.” (Anderson, 105). Additionally, his viewpoints and opinions are explained by an ample amount of figurative language, allowing them to be easily understood without being too wordy. His writing really forces readers to think about the effect that “stupid games” have had on our society, and the effects that they will continue to have, what it would mean if we allowed these games to run amuck in our easily influenced world. I can only imagine what Anderson would say if he were to write this article today, after the widespread phenomenon of Fortnite has trapped thousands of children and teens in their rooms, glued to their screens.

In conclusion, “Just One More Game” is a work of educational and narrative blend. Drawing readers in with its story-like writing and then throwing at them hard-to-answer questions about the amount of influence we have allowed simple puzzle games to have over our lives, and about the future of our society if we continue with this “gamification.” Anderson’s work makes you question the impact of “stupid games” without shoving the author’s opinions down your throat, all while telling a fun story with great humor and unbiased information.

 

Work Cited

Anderson, Sam. “Just One More Game…: Angry Birds, Farmville, and Other Hyperaddictive  Stupid Games.” The Norton Field Guide to Writing with Readings and Handbook. 4th ed., by Richard Bullock, Maureen Daly Goggin, and Francine Weinberg, 2016, pp. 105-10.

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I Love Story Telling

I have loved stories all of my life. When I was a small child, my parents would have to read me a book every night, or I wouldn’t sleep. A great majority of my childhood was dedicated to finding new great stories to entertain myself with, may they be books, games, or movies. I loved great novels like Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia. I was enraptured by the epic scale of the Star Wars and Lord of the Ring movies. I dumped hours upon hours exploring the worlds of giant RPG video games such as Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda. I loved stories so much that I began to write my own. I would come up with grand adventures and massive worlds in my head, only for me to explore. However, I eventually became frustrated that I was the only one that could interact with the worlds that I built. This was around the same time that I stumbled into Tabletop RPGs randomly one day when I was scrolling through YouTube. Tabletop RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder allows one player, the “Game Master,” to narrate to the rest of the players. To build a world for them to explore, interact with, and adventure in. Over the past year, me and my friends have been spending countless hours in worlds that we have built. It has finally given me an outlet to dump all of my creativity and ideas. I love to weave great tales of adventure and splendor. Of challenge and of triumph. I believe that stories have the unparalleled power to tug at our emotions, to release the greatest parts of humanity. There isn’t any feeling like finally closing the cover of a really great story, and I think that for the rest of my life I will be constantly chasing that feeling, like a moth drawn to a flame.