When I signed up for this Introduction to Literature course I was not expecting it to be one of the most insightful and interesting classes that I have ever taken. Nevertheless, over the years I have learned to expect the unexpected and that truth held to it’s own with this course. After five years of avoiding any type of English Literature course I knew it was time to finally take one, as did my academic advisor.
My expectation was that I would be sitting in class watching the clock tick or trying to text message friends to pass the time. Ergo I do not believe my cell phone left its holster all semester. From the very first day of class when I was walking to my car, a classmate and I talked about how we thought it was going to be a great class, and on the last day of class that same student and I talked about how we were actually going to miss it, so our prediction was dead on. Normally the last day of class is a celebration for the fact that everyone is so happy that it is finally over, but that was not the case.I was dreading the fact that we would have to read books and stories that I wasn’t interested in and write about them. I was also worried because I sometimes have a hard time remembering books and things that I read when I am taking a test on the facts of the material. I figured I would be taking long exams on long books and struggling to remember what I read which was one of the reasons why I was not looking forward to any sort of Literature course.
I did realize that annotating in the margins and re-reading the stories helped me remember more, but I still don’t think I would be too interested in re-reading a very long book.I have always been a good writer and English Composition courses were never hard for me, although they were never my favorite’s ether. As a Business Management major with a minor in Coaching, math and sports management classes have always grasped me the most. I never exceptionally liked math but have always been a very strong student in it so I thought that business would be a good major for me. Never in a million years would I expect a Literature class to be one of the best classes I have taken though college. The reflective essays were much different then any writing assignments I have previously had.The second page where we were able to write about our own personal connections and feelings was the part that I became very fond of.
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The chance to relate the work to our own lives was a great way to express myself and it was something that I found myself looking forward to. I am guilty of normally leaving my writing assignments till the last minute when I barely finish them in time to make it to class on-time, but I would often write the reflective essays right after we left class so I would not forget the ideas that I wished to write about.I will discuss how each essay helped me to grow more as a student and how a couple of the pieces really touched me personally next. The first reflective essay was on “The Story of an Hour”, written by Kate Chopin in 1894. This fittingly was the only essay I did not receive a check plus on showing that I took the mistakes I made in it and improved throughout the semester. I enjoyed the short story and found it to be one of the more ironic pieces that we read. In my essay I talked about one of the lines that came out at me the most.
“And yet she had loved him-sometimes. Often she had not. (227 Kirszner) This line reached out to me because not only was it the first time in the story that you realize everything is not as it seems, but it is a very sad but true statement that expresses how many married couples may feel. The grammatical problems I had on the first paper had to due with that fact that I was using present tense in the first page and I needed to keep the tone general, with no I’s. I related the shock that she went through with the shock that the people from Haiti were going though on the first page when I should have saved that for the second.The line I liked the most from that story was the very last sentence, “When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease-of joy that kills”. My reason for that was because it turned the whole story upside-down and made me realize and possibly even her realize that she really did love him.
Our second essay was on “A&P”, which was written by John Updike in 1961. The one mistake that I managed to make again in this essay was to simply introduce the work, a mistake I will not make again. I had an instant connection with the main character Sammy in this story because I too worked t a grocery store for my first job and also have had a weakness for beautiful girls as he did. My boss was also very uptight, sexiest and just not a happy person. This made the personal experience section of my paper very easy for me to relate to the story and I was able to talk about the way in which I had also decided to quit that horrible job, the only job I have ever left without two weeks notice. One part of this story that I thoroughly enjoyed was the great detail that Updike would go into.He tells us; “with a good tan and a sweet broad soft-looking can with those two crescents of white just under it, where the sun never seems to hit”(259 Kirszner), parts like this along with the reference to the word “chunky” several times do a great job of illustrating what the group of girls look like in ones head.
The next reflective essay I wrote on was that of “The New York Day Women”, written by Edwidge Danticat in 1991. The part of this story I enjoyed most was the child whom she has a soda “conspiracy” with, “The child’s face lights up as she puts the straw in the can for him.This seems to be a conspiracy just between the two of them” (408 Kirszner). I loved that because that part of the day could possibly be the one thing that the boy looks forward to almost every day, small acts of kindness can go a long way. Also this was the first time were my view on the reading completely changed once we had our class discussion. So much so that I almost wanted to re-write my essay even though I received a check plus on it. I had thought that the mother was a mute until I heard everyone else’s view on the reading.
My personal favorite piece that we read was “Cathedral”, written by Raymond Carver in 1983. Carvers writing style reminded me of my uncles favorite author, Ernest Hemingway, whom I have come to enjoy reading as well. His great use of imagery and short sentence structure makes for reading that I thoroughly enjoy. The story intrigued me so much that I went on to read a few more short stories of Carvers. I especially liked a poem I stumbled across called “Gravy”, which he wrote shortly before his death about his eleven year battle with cancer. Don't weep for me," he said to his friends. "I'm a lucky man.
I've had ten years longer than I or anyone expected. Pure Gravy. And don't forget it. " (Carver) This poem made me think of my mother and how tremendously brave and optimistic she has been though her fight with cancer. The reason why I was so captivated by “Cathedral” was because I almost lost my vision at a young age. One day while I was in the fifth grade, my eyes started to hurt and I found myself squinting just to see. When I eventually went outside the sun hurt so much that I knew I needed to go see the school nurse.
As she shined her bright light in my eye she knew that something was not right because of my reaction and the fact that my pupils were not dilating or responding to the light. She had no idea what was wrong with me and I was sent to Hartford Hospital where they also knew little to nothing of what was wrong with me. I remember being extremely scared and worried when the doctors did not know what to tell my parents when we left other than the fact that they were going to run tests on my blood and try to figure it out (I think they took my blood about six times which I was not too happy about).After many trips to the eye specialist and children’s hospital and a drudgingly long two weeks, the doctors found out that I had a very rare condition that had not been diagnosed in Connecticut. So rare, that I surprisingly could not even find the name of the condition on Google. However, after wearing my “special” sun-glasses inside and out for two weeks they treated me and also let me know that if I hadn’t come in and seen them right away or hadn’t been wearing my sun-glasses that I would have had a very good chance of damaging my retinas to the point of legal blindness.I am happy to say that I have perfect vision to this day, but anytime I see a blind person I think of what could have been and my heart goes out to them.
Obviously it is easy to see how my personal experience related to this story and how it touched me so. I took pleasure in writing about this story and believe I could have written seven pages on “Cathedral” alone. I felt as though this was my best work of the semester and with little to no corrections on my paper besides the remark “your best effort yet”, my feeling was confirmed.The ending of the story was the part that will continue to stick with me for many years past this course. “My eyes were still closed. I was in my house. I knew that.
But I didn’t feel like I was inside anything. “It’s really something,” I said”. (537 Kirszner) These lines have far more meaning than any words could even begin to describe and I will leave it with the fact that it was one of the most touching and influential endings to a story that I have ever read. The most important thing that I learned in this class was to write about things that I have had a hard time talking about.After I choose to write about a few very touchy subjects and hard times in a couple of my reflective essays, I realized that writing about those hard times really helped to relieve some of the stress and sadness that I have carried with me since I lost my uncle to suicide. Throughout the semester, the word suicide or phrase “killed themselves” came up more then it normally does in class, or maybe its just that I now always heed those words like never before. In “Antigone”, Creon and his son Haimon both end up committing suicide.
“Then she must die.But her death will cause another”. (1879 Kirszner) This line by Haimon was the line I chose to talk about in our class discussion and the most influential line of the play for me, personally. At this point, Creon realizes that his decision to have Antigone prosecuted could result in his only son remaining committing suicide. If he changed his decision here and handled the situation differently, then everything could have been resolved, but he could not overcome his own ego and ended up not only losing his son, but his wife and his own life in the end.On our last assignment, “The Turn of the Screw”, written by Henry James, also entailed the part when the previous governess, Miss Jessell killed herself by jumping off a bridge. It even came up in a few of our class discussions, when we were talking about the school shooting and the signs that the parents might have had to realize that their son might harm himself or others.
I found myself distraught during these conversations and I can’t wait for the day when I don’t get upset when talking about suicide, but I was glad that I learned I could go home and write about these times in a journal that I now keep.Hopefully that will help me and I believe that it will also make me a better writer and English student, as I look at writing in a whole new light now. As the class went on I also believe my class participation in discussions rose and I became more and more comfortable with my fellow students. I tend to be quiet around people who I don’t know and I really open up around those whom I am acquainted with. We had quite the group of classmates and I would love to see where everyone ends up ten or so years from now because I believe many of the people in our class are going to be very successful in their journey through life.
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