School

Critical Analysis of a Short Story (Eng 101 Essay)

So I had to write a critical analysis essay on a short story for my English 101 (critical thinking) class, so I figured I’d put it up on here. Since I know that not everyone has read the story I wrote the essay on, I’m also including a link to the story: “How to Date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl, or Halfie” by Junot Diaz

And , without further adeau, my essay:

Uncle Tomming

     The short story “How to date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl, or Halfie” was written by Junot Diaz, a writing professor at MIT (Colbert Report), and follows the seeming advice of the narrator as he walks the reader through exactly how a date will or should go with a “Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl, or Halfie.” In this story, the narrator addresses the reader in a very casual sort of “how-to” language, and uses specific situations and language to support the ideas presented in the narrative, and to make a bold, yet subtle statement about racism in America:

Dinner will be tense. You are not good at talking to people you don’t know. A halfie will tell you that her parents met in the Movement, will say, Back then people thought it a radical thing to do. It will sound like something her parents made her memorize. Your brother once heard that one and said, Man, sounds like a whole lot of Uncle Tomming to me. Don’t repeat this.

[…] Black people, she will say, treat me real bad. That’s why I don’t like them. You’ll wonder how she feels about Dominicans. (99)

The narrator begins by addressing the reader as “you,” which he does throughout the entirety of the text. The very casual language he utilizes, such as “You are not good at talking to people you don’t know” implies a familiarity with the listener. This has the function of making the reader feel more comfortable with the narrator, and making them more open to the internal messages of the text. When he says “Your brother once heard that one,” he relates to someone whom the reader may feel a close connection to. Even if the reader doesn’t necessarily have a brother, the idea of a brother further implants that idea of loyalty and closeness. The narrator supplements this sense of trustworthiness by using confident language: a repetitive use of “will be,” “will tell,” “will sound,” etc., gives a sense that he knows—for sure—what he is talking about.

Once the reader has been led to feel an attachment with the narrator, they are more easily receptive to the messages thrown into the text. Here he mentions “the Movement,” which is referring to the African-American Civil Rights Movement (1955-1968), whose goal was to end racial segregation in the United States. This gets the reader thinking about a sensitive, political topic, even amidst a seemingly pointless (except for its entertainment value) story about a teenager trying to get laid. “Dinner will be tense,” shows the awkwardness between different peoples; in this case, it’s between not only a boy and a girl, but a “Dominican” and a “halfie.” Here, the narrator begins to mention the importance of “the Movement” to the girl (as well as her parents) by saying “It will sound like something her parents made her memorize.”

The narrator then states “Your brother[‘s]” response to her story: “Man, sounds like a whole lot of Uncle Tomming to me.” “Uncle Tomming,” is a reference to the culture-shaking novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which is a story about an African-American slave named Uncle Tom, and, according to Wikipedia, “helped lay the groundwork for the Civil War (Kaufman).” This reference to Uncle Tom is implied to have been taken offensively when the narrator says “Don’t repeat this” in response to the “halfie[‘s]” story. The implication that the “halfie” is upset by the comment is hinting at the sensitive subject of race and racial equality. The fact that “your brother” would say something like that also implies an amount of racial insensitivity amongst Americans, which shows that people are starting to look at these topics as something for the history books. The idea of racial inequality being something from a time long-passed is supported when the girl starts her story with “Back then,” showing that even she looks at it as old-news.

The idea that racial stereotypes aren’t a modern problem anymore is blatantly shown to be untrue throughout the entire essay with comments such as “the white ones are the ones you want” (98). Even the title implies significant differences in ethnicities and the way that people look at each other. When the girl states that “Black people […] treat me real bad,” the narrator again, is addressing the topic of racism as a very real problem for many Americans—something that stems from all peoples, and breeds only negative emotions: “That’s why I don’t like them” is an example of those feelings. These general statements such as “Black people” and “I don’t like them” lump everyone of a single ethnicity into a single body, and shows one person’s feelings towards an entire people based—likely—on the actions of a few. Lastly, the narrator says “You’ll wonder how she feels about Dominicans.” This is another example of the negative feelings that are bred when the subject of racism is raised. The narrator addresses the worry that the listener might feel when put in a situation where someone has opinions about an entire people without intimately knowing the individuals. This goes back to the first line of the passage where the narrator says “Dinner will be tense,” where he then goes on to explain that what should be a pleasant date will turn into a minefield of sensitive topics.

“How to date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl, or Halfie” is—at first glance—an entertaining story about a person (presumably a young man by the language) explaining to the reader/listener how to successfully go on a date with girls of various ethnicities, and when accepted as nothing more than that, is quite entertaining. However, when the text is broken down and the internal messages are brought into light, this seemingly innocent story is revealed to be a very powerful statement about racial prejudices in America. The narrator shows that, while some people may consider racism something from the past, others still have strong feelings about the different peoples of America.

Works Cited

Diaz, Junot. “How to Date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl, or Halfie.” Literature to Go. 2nd Ed.

Ed. Michael Meyer. Boston: Bedford St. Martin’s, 2014. 97-100. Print.

“Junot Diaz.” Colbertnation. Colbert Report, 25 March 2013. Web. 24 Feb 2014.

“Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 14 Feb. 2014. Web. 25 Aug. 2014.

Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus

So I just finished reading “Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus.” Here are my thoughts on that:

If I could sum this story up in one word, it would be “Misery.”

This book was published in 1818, and was written by Mary Shelley, wife of Percy Shelley, a famous poet of the romantic era. Mary was nineteen years old when this book was published, and it is one of the most famous, timeless novels in history. Amazing. I am seriously jealous of this girl. I mean, as a writer, I find myself very, very jealous.

I honestly didn’t know what to think going into this novel. I saw that it was less than two-hundred pages, and so thought that it would be an easy read. I was wrong. The language in this book is amazing, and while I understood most of it, I found myself occasionally reaching for my dictionary

Anyway, so I knew that this book was a classic, but I didn’t realize what that meant. Seriously, this book has stood the test of time–200 years and still relevant. Also, it’s nothing like the Frankenstein we grew up with. The whole thing is just a mind-blower. Anyway, I really recommend this novel to anyone who hasn’t read it and can handle its eloquence.

I also want to turn this into a movie. . .

Poetry by William Wordsworth

Since the poems by Blake were so popular, I thought I would give you guys a little more poetry. All these are from The Longman Anthology of British Literature Volume B. I had to read these for my British Lit Class, and since the book is like 1500 pages, the paper is so thin that I couldn’t highlight or write in it, so I’ve spent the last hour or so typing them up from the book on a school computer. Since I would lose the data anyway, I figured I’d put it up on here. Enjoy!

Lines Written in Early Spring

I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mod when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it griev’d my heart to think
What man has made of man.

Through primrose-tufts, in that sweet bower,
The periwinkle trail’d its wreathes;
And ‘tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.

The birds around me hopp’d and play’d:
Their thoughts I cannot measure,
But the least motion which they made,
It seem’d a thrill of pleasure.

The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.

If I these thoughts may not prevent,
If I such be of my creed the plan.
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?

 

Song (“She dwelt among th’ untrodden ways”)

She dwelt among th’ untrodden ways
Beside the springs of Dove,
A Maid whom there were none to praise
And very few to love:

A Violet by a mossy stone
Half-hidden from the Eye!
—Fair, as a star when only one
Is shining in the sky!

She liv’d unkown, and few could know
When Lucy ceas’d to be;
But she is in her Grave and Oh!
The difference to me!

Strange fits of passion have I known

Strange fits of passion have I known,
And I will dare to tell,
But in the lover’s ear alone,
What once to me befell.

When she I lov’d, was strong and gay
And like a rose in June,
I to her cottage bent my way,
Beneath the evening moon.

Upon the moon I fix’d my eye,
All over the wide lea;
My horse trudg’d on, and we drew nigh
Those paths so dear to me.

And now we reach’d the orchard plot,
And, as we climb’d the hill,
Towards the roof of Lucy’s cot
The moon descended still.

In one of those sweet dreams I slept,
Kind Nature’s gentlest boon!
And, all the while, my eyes I kept
On the descending moon.

My horse mov’d on; hoof after hoof
He rais’d, and never stopp’d:
When down behind the cottage roof
At once the planet dropp’d.

What fond and wayward thoughts will slide
Into a Lover’s head–
“O mercy!” to myself I cried,
“If Lucy should be dead!” 

 

Three years she grew in sun and shower

Three years she grew in sun and shower,
Then Nature said, “A lovelier flower
On earth was never sown;
This Child I to myself will take
She shall be mine, and I will make
A Lady of my own.

“Myself will to my darling be
Both law and impulse, and with me
The Girl in rock and plain,
In earth and heaven, in glade and bower,
Shall feel an overseeing power
To kindle or restrain.

“She shall be sportive as the fawn
That wild with glee across the lawn
Or up the mountain springs,
And hers shall be the breathing balm,
And hers the silence and the calm
Of mute insensate things.

“the floating clouds their state shall lend
To her; for her the willow bend,
Now shall she fail to see
Even in the motions of the storm
Grace that shall mould the Maiden’s form
By silent sympathy.

“The stars of midnight shall be dear
To her, and she shall lean her ear
In many a secret place
where rivulets dance their wayward round,
And beauty born of murmuring sound
Shall pass into her face.

“And vital feelings of delight
Shall rear her form to stately height,
Her virgin bosom swell,
Such thoughts to Lucy I will give
While she and I together live
Here in this happy dell.”

Thus Nature spake—The work was done—
How soon my Lucy’s race was run!
She died, and left to me
This heath, this calm and quiet scene,
The memory of what has been,
And never more will I be.

The world is too much with us

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The Winds that will be howling at all hours
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

Composed upon Westminster Bridge, Sept 3, 1802

Earth has not anything to shew more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth like a garment wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendor, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! The very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

It is a beauteous Evening

It is a beauteous Evening, calm and free;
The holy time is quiet as a Nun
Breathless with adoration; the broad sun
Is sinking down in its tranquility;
The gentleness of heaven is on the Sea:
Listen! The mighty Being is awake
And doth with his eternal motion make
A sound like thunder—everlastingly.
Dear Child! Dear Girl! That walkest with me here,
If  thou appear’st untouch’d by solemn thought,
Thy nature is not therefore less divine:
Thou liest in Abraham’s bosom all the year;
And worshipp’st at the Temple’s inner shrine,
God being with thee when we know it not.

London, 1802

Milton! Thou should’st be living at this hour:
England hath need of thee: she is fen
Of stagnant waters: altar sword and pen,
Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,
Have forfeited their ancient English dower
Of inward happiness. We are selfish men;
Oh! Raise us up, return to us again;
And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power.
Thy soul was like a Star and dwelt apart:
Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea;
Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free,
So didst thou travel on life’s common way,
In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart
The lowliest duties on itself did lay.

I wandered lonely as a cloud

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Outdid the sparkling waves in glee:–
A Poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

 

 

My heart leaps up

My heart leaps up when I behold
A Rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a Man;
So be it when I shall grow old
Or let me die!
The Child is Father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

Surprized by joy

Surprized by joy—impatient as the Wind
I turned to share the transport—Oh! With whom
But thee, long buries in the silent Tomb,
That spot which no vicissitude can find?
Love, faithful love, recalled thee to my mind–
But how could I forget thee? Through what power,
Even for the least division of an hour,
Have I been so beguiled as to be blind
To my most grievous loss!—That thought’s return
Was the worst pang that sorrow ever bore,
Save one, one only, when I stood forlorn
Knowing my heart’s best treasure was no more;
That neither present time, nor years unborn
Could to my sight that heavenly face restore.

Song (“A slumber did my spirit seal”)

A slumber did my spirit seal;
I had no human fears:
She seem’d a thing that could not feel
The touch of earthly years.

No motion she has now, no force
She neither hears nor sees
Roll’d round in earth’s diurnal course,
With rocks, and stones, and trees.

Two Poems by William Blake

THE SICK ROSE

O Rose thou art sick.
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm:

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

The CLOD & the PEBBLE

Love seeketh not Itself to please
Now for itself hath any care;
But for another gives its ease,
And builds a Heaven in Hells despair.

     So sung a little Clod of Clay
     Trodden with the cattles feet.
     But a Pebble of the brook,
     Warbled out these metres meet.

Love seeketh only Self to please
To bind another to Its delight:
Joys in anothers loss of ease,
And builds a Hell in Heavens despite.