Sunday, October 28, 2012

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

1. Briefly summarize the plot of the novel you read, and explain how the narrative fulfills the author's purpose (based on your well-informed interpretation of same).

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee takes place in the sleepy town of Maycomb in Alabama during the middle of the Great Depression. Scott Finch and her brother, Jem, live with their widowed father, Atticus, a respected Lawyer. One summer a boy named Dill came to stay in Maycomb and he, Scott, and Jem became quick friends. Dill takes a special interest with the neighborhood “haunted house” called the Radley Place. The Radley Place is owned by Nathan Radley and is occupied by his brother Arthur, better known as “Boo”, who rarely goes outside the house.
            As summer turned to fall Scout found herself at school for the first time and found it to be horrible. Over the school year she and Jem find little gifts in the knothole of a tree on the Radley property. Again as summer came around again so did Dill. The tree become absolutely fascinated with Boo Radley to the point they believe it would be a good idea to sneak into the Radley Place. They are quickly driven off by Nathan but not before Jem manages to lose his pants. As summer turned to fall and fall to winter Scout and Jem go back to school and continue to find gifts, which include Jem’s pants now mended, in the knothole but the knothole is then filled with cement by Nathan. Jem tells Atticus of the presents and his mended pants, convinced it was Boo.
            As summer rolls around again a new issue arises in Maycomb, a colored man by the name of Tom Robinson is accused of raping a white woman. Atticus decides that he will defend Tom in court causing the town to look down upon the family. Dill joins the group again this time, however, he had run away to Maycomb. The night before the trial a mob attempts to kill Tom before his trial can start. Atticus faces down the mob but Scout is the one that disburses it when her polite questioning shames the leader of the mob. At the trial it became clear that Tom was innocent, Mayella and her father, the accusers, had made the story up. Mayella propositioned Tom and was caught by her father who proceeded to beat Mayella. The all-white jury quickly convicts Tom, sentencing to prison. Tom is later shot while attempting to escape.
            Despite winning the court case the father, Bob Ewell, feels that Atticus made a fool of him and vows revenge. Bob eventually ends up attacking Jem and Scout on their way home from a Halloween party. Jem and Scout are protected by Boo who kills Bob. Boo is protected by the sheriff and the matter is excused. After awhile Boo disappears, once again, into the Radley Place leaving Scout with a feeling of what life is like for Boo. The author’s purpose is clear throughout the narrative, to show how innocence can be so easily destroy by the evils around us.
2. Succinctly describe the theme of the novel. Avoid cliches.

The most prominent theme of To Kill a Mockingbird is the destruction of the innocent by evil. Throughout the novel several characters can be described as Mockingbirds, innocent people who are injured or destroyed by evil they came in contact with. “…it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

3. Describe the author's tone. Include a minimum of three excerpts that illustrate your point(s).

The tone of To Kill a Mockingbird can most easily be explained as naïve. The novel is described through the eyes of Scout and it gives a child’s perspective of rather serious topics and ideals.

“’Are we poor, Atticus?’” (pg 21) Scout and Jem do not understand the economic troubles of the time. To them it is a simple matter, even maybe a trivial one. The fact that this question was dismissed with a simple answer shows that Scout and Jem are particularly naïve when it comes to the issues of “adults”.

“’Jem’ I asked, ‘what’s a mixed child?’” (pg 161) Scout doesn’t understand the culture’s ideas about race and color. She doesn’t see the difference between people and only has what others tell her to go off of.

“Hey Mr. Cunningham.” (pg 153) Scout breaks up a mob that was ready to lynch Tom, but not purposefully. When she finds herself in the middle of the mob she makes small talk with the one familiar person in the mob. This quickly defuses the mob and they leave but Scout still doesn’t understand what happened. To her she was just being polite.

4. Describe a minimum of ten literary elements/techniques you observed that strengthened your understanding of the author's purpose, the text's theme and/or your sense of the tone. For each, please include textual support to help illustrate the point for your readers. (Please include edition and page numbers for easy reference.)

·      Symbolism – “…it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” (pg 98) Mockingbirds refer to the innocent that are consumed by evil. Examples of “mockingbirds” are Tom, Scout, and Boo.
·      Foreshadowing – “It was Miss Stephanie’s pleasure to tell us: this morning Bob Ewell stopped Atticus on the post office corner, spat in his face, and told him he’d get him if it took the rest of his life.” This is predicting Bob’s impending attack on Scout and Jem as well as his death at the hands of Boo.
·      Point-of-view – “Scout’s yonder’s been readin’ ever since she was born, and she ain’t even started school.” (pg 7) Scout as the novel’s narrator adds a lot to the novel. It shows the view of the culture and time period through the eyes of someone who hasn’t fully experienced it yet and isn’t fully influenced by it.
·      Personification – “The fire was well into the second floor and had eaten its way into the roof: window frames were black against a vivid orange center.” The fire is offered as a threat and the personification of its description adds to it threatening appearance.
·      Hyperbole – “’Fore a while’ in Maycomb meant anything from three days to thirty years.” (pg 145) This exaggeration of time helps to illustrate the slow ability of Maycomb to adopt progressive ideals.
·      Alliteration – “…starched shirt, the soft-sound of his breathing.” (pg 152) Throughout the novel repeated letters, in this case “s”, are used to slur sentences together. This helps the novel to flow more smoothly.
·      Theme – “’You ain’t got no business  bringin’ white chillun here – they got their church, we got our’n. It is our church, ain’t it, Miss Cal?’” (pg 119) Racism is a reoccurring theme in the novel that lends quite a lot to the overall plot. The fact that Atticus overcomes the general racist sentiment to help Tom ends up being one of the main points in the novel.
·      Metaphor – “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” (pg 36) This is similar to a common saying we have now, “You don’t know a man till you’ve walked a mile in his shoes” but I don’t think Atticus is telling Scout to tear someone’s skin off.
·      Figurative Language – “The Radley place fascinated Dill. In spite of our warnings it drew him as the moon draws water…” (pg 8) Harper Lee uses figurative language throughout the novel to help the reader envision the events of the novel.
·      Conflict – “Your father’s no better than the niggers and trash he works for!” (pg 102) The conflict during the majority of the novel is a social one. Scout and Jem watch as Atticus fights against racism but in the end ultimately fails.

1. Describe two examples of direct characterization and two examples of indirect characterization.  Why does the author use both approaches, and to what end (i.e., what is your lasting impression of the character as a result)?


“When I was six and Jem was nearly ten…” (pg 6) Quick establishment of the two main character’s ages. It help explains the narrator’s view of the world because of her age.
“Being Southerners…” (pg 1) This helps to establish the ancestry of the characters and the setting of the novel. (I have to admit, there really wasn’t that much direct characterization.)


“’Shoot no wonder, then,’ said Jem, jerking his thumb at me. ‘Scout yonder’s been readin’ ever since she was born, and she ain’t even started school yet.’” (pg 7) This sets up Scout as being both an intellectual and young at the same time.
“’You’re too scared even to put your big toe in the front yard.’ Jem said he reckoned he wasn’t, he’d passed the Radley Place every school day of his life. ‘Always running.’ I said.” (pg 7) This quote sets up Scout’s and Jem relationship as sister and brother. They have a good relationship that often involves much teasing and good natured fighting.

Lee wants to paint a good picture of Scout before the plot really begins to pick up. It seems like indirect characterization is favored of direct.

2. Does the author's syntax and/or diction change when s/he focuses on character?  How?  Example(s)?

The author’s syntax and diction does not change as much as you would expect when she is describing characters. It seems to me like Lee is more descriptive when describing situations and allowing the situations to establish the characters as compared to describing them directly.

3. Is the protagonist static or dynamic?  Flat or round?  Explain.

The protagonist, Scout Finch, is a dynamic character. In the beginning of the novel she is quite naïve about racism and the problems that encircle Maycomb but the trial of Tom Robinson and the death of Tom and Bob Ewell make her very aware. In the end she learns to  “climb into [their] skin and walk around in it”, to try and understand their prospective on the situation before judging them. Also Scout learns about “mockingbirds”. She now knows very clearly that the innocent, at times, are threatened and killed even if they did nothing wrong. Her sense of justice is questioned thoroughly.

4. After reading the book did you come away feeling like you'd met a person or read a character?  Analyze one textual example that illustrates your reaction.

I think in the end I have met a real person. I think what did it for me was the lack of direct characterization and instead letting the situations define the characters. I feel like I’ve “climb into his skin and walked around in it.”

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Who Was Shakespeare?

Well from what I can remember from English class he was a play-write who lived in England around the 1500s and his plays were preformed in the Globe Theater in London. His plays (all 38 of them) were written in Iambic Pentameter, the style of speaking/writing the strikes fear into the hearts of high school students. As it turns out Shakespeare in fact did not get famous off of his plays but instead from his poem "Venus and Adonis". The Elizabethan Era in which Shakespeare live actually viewed him as an uneducated man, and his writing as for the common man. If in his time he was viewed as little more than a commoner then why is his worshipped as a literary genius in our time? And what is it about his works that cause students to drop classes simple at the sound of his name? The first question I truthfully have no answer to, I wonder that myself, but I can shed some light on the latter question. What sends students running for the hills when Shakespeare is mentioned is partly the Iambic Pentameter, a strange way of writing/reading to most it cause most to just put down the play immediately. Once you get past the Iambic Pentameter you have to deal with interpretation. Interpretation is always a difficult part of literature but Shakespeare makes it especially difficult. If Shakespeare said "The curtains were blue"there will always be that teacher out there who says that "The use of the color blue signifies that the main character has a deep feeling of sorrow that causes him to become suicidal and he jumps off a cliff trying to fly, or become free, in the sky which is also blue." while 90% would agree that we were just trying to get the color of the curtains and nothing more. Shakespeare is probably the most dreaded subject known to high school and it will stay that way.

Notes on Hamlet

Ok, so in my AP Literature class we are reading a little play called Hamlet. So far we have finished up Act III and are beginning Act IV and the play is starting to reach the exciting portion. Through Act I through Act III we have met some interesting characters, Hamlet, Hamlet's father, King Claudius, and even the fair Ophelia. The basics of the story goes as follows. Hamlet sees the ghost of his dead father (also named Hamlet) and the ghost tells him that he has been murdered and the murderer is Polonius, an advisor in the King's court. Hamlet hatches a plan to try and prove Polonius is indeed the murderer that involves Hamlet acting raving mad and a performance from some ok actors. During the performance Hamlet judges Polonius as guilty and kills him to finish up Act III. Act IV begins with King Claudius wanting to send Hamlet away incase Hamlet reveals the circumstances of his father's death. A quick summary in less than ten sentences. Truthfully I haven't really been interested in the play till Act III, the first couple of Acts just seemed a little dull to me but now that things begin to pick up as Hamlet extracts his revenge I can see my interest beginning to peak.   

To Facebook or Not to Facebook

Facebook dominates our society whether we like it or not. It acts as a social catalysis, speeding up social interactions between people through the internet. There are those who disagree with the usage of Facebook, they say that it distracts too much from normal life or it limits our social interactions to just those whom we share common ideas. At school we constantly hear about how Facebook contributes little to society. I have never seen Facebook as such. My peers and I use Facebook for projects or to organize events or to even work on our own works of literature. Facebook is, like most things in the world and on the internet, neither good nor all depends on how you use it.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Vocab #9 (PICTURES!!)

This week (as part of the remix assignment) I decided to make a little illustrated dictionary instead of just definitions.







In medias res







Quid pro quo







Sunday, October 21, 2012

Vocab Midterm Autopsy

On our vocab midterm I believe I got a 55 out of 80. Not a very good score but I did the best I can. I did good on the first 3 sections but failed the last one. I wish the score would be higher but truthfully I'm used to these sort of scores on vocabulary test/quizzes. I have never had a good memory and combined with a degree of dyslexia so I would say a 55 is good for me. I will redouble my studying and try new ways to study but I have a feeling I will be just back in the same boat as before. 

Hamlet Remix

My "remix" for Hamlet is not here, it is on the classes youtube channel (which I don't know) and I believe it will appear on the director's (Josh Montero's) blog eventually but the video was not shared among the group. I worked in a group that included Josh, Sarah, Alex, Christa, and Beka so don't be surprised if they have a similar post. And because of this situation I'm unsure how the comment requirement will work out. Sorry for the inconvenience Dr. Preston.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Dear Ophelia

[A fictional advice column for Ophelia from Hamlet]

Dear Ophelia,

     The best advice I can give you is not to dissimulate your feelings, especially to your father & brother. Have empathy towards your family and try to understand their point of view but don't give in to mellifluous words of others but at the same time don't give up your hedonism. Don't pander to the consensus of others, but follow your own path no matter how quagmire or parlous it may be. Don't let others constrict your free will to the point that you feel you must appease others no matter what the affect on yourself. If this happens you will only feel an acerbity for the rest of your life. Follow your own mind and use volition to challenge the protocol set forth by your family. You are your own person.