Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Metacognative for Heart of Darkness

Of the many assignments we had to do this year, I thought this one to be the most fun (not to be confused with easy), which, I believe, comes from the fact that we usually do not get assigned homework of this sort. Though the novel "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad had many topics and themes to choose from, I have a natural instinct to loathe poems. However, I am rather content with my poems' outcome. Picking out a theme and writing out the poem beforehand did not present to be the problem; finding words and phrases that matched the words I chose did. Though I encountered more hardship then a fun time with this assignment, my editing partners approved of my themes and even complimented on my writing styles.

My first poem I centralized on the tone of the poem. I tried to get across a mysterious, eerie feeling I got from reading the first passage. Conrad writes of the untrustworthy cannibals, Marlow's desperate attempt to save Kurtz, and ends the first section not allowing the audience to know if Kurtz is alive or dead. Using words like "mystery," "horror," not knowing," "deadly," "cry," and "darkness" I was able to set the tone. I wanted the tone to resemble the fact that Marlow did not know what awaited him when he went to retrieve Kurtz; confusion and distrust towards the Europeans' delay filled Marlow's heart.

Once I accomplished setting the tone, I moved on to rhythm I wanted the poem to have. Like the first part of the novel, my poem is rather uneventful and drags on, yet is questioning of what lies ahead. Being the only poem I used a question in, I wanted the question to have significant meaning. I used Shakespeare's line "To be or not to be?" and substituted the "be" to "trust." With this I was attempting to convey the fact that the men in the poem could not trust one another--would one kill the other... or should he kill the others first? At first, my editing partners were confused at the line "But for the bodies they had not conquered," which is a reference to the untrustworthy cannibals from the novel, so I added "For the bodies still not devoured" to allude to the cannibals. In reality, the "bodies not conquered" and the ones "not devoured" are meant to be an emotional consumption--the savage men wanted the men pure at heart to be miserable like they were.

In my second poem I focused on the topic of racism. Conrad used a lot of color references (mostly black and white) in his book. Though black is usually left to symbolize the dark and gloomy and white the pure and innocent, Conrad uses the colors in opposite meaning. Also, I thought this section was where the action really began, and the characters’ personality showed the most. Conrad’s theme of racism and darkness began to develop during this section. In my poem, I used imagery of white supremacy towards black. “We two whites stood over them”—“them” being the “black shapes crouched, helpless”. For the first two stanzas the narrator speaks of how they (the white men) are superior to the black men. And in the last line of the second stanza, the narrator realizes that these men they are mistreating are “perhaps” equal to them—“perhaps” they deserve to be respected as humans. But, as the third stanza speaks, the idea that they are somehow equal is killed, because the white men are ruthless.

Another tactic I used for the second poem was the usage of capitalization. I capitalized all the first words of each line, except for the last three lines: “abandoned//killed//beaten.” Through the lower case letters, I was attempting to imply the ruthlessness of the narrator. Unlike there thoughts of supremacy that will never be “abandoned//killed//beaten,” these black men’s lives will soon be ended. I also tried to add a little bit of irony into the last stanza. The narrator’s “glorious” idea ironic to the first two stanzas, in the sense that he is the one inflicting pain on the people, however the thought that they are equal is “glorious.”

And lastly, for my third poem I concentrated on the beat of the poem. Except for the last two lines in the first stanza and the last two lines in the last stanza, all the lines in the poem consist of six syllables. I chose the number six, because according to the Bible, the fall of men makes every human imperfect (the number seven is considered the number of perfection in the Bible). So, naturally, this poem is about the fall of every man—how every man has a dark side and cannot be fully trusted. The narrator of the poem does not even trust himself, referring to his heart as a “heart of darkness.” The four lines that are not making up of six syllables represent the human attempt to be good and civil. However, the two lines from each stanza add up to six, figuratively making the narrator imperfect again.

My use of diction in my last poem is also important (but then again, when is it not?). I used the words “sunshine” and “darkness” to contrast the idea that we as humans attempt to be moral, but corruption is in everyone. The last line two lines of this poem is repeated, “To you all//To you all!” for an emphasis on the fact that some kind of evil is in all of us, no one is spared.

Conclusively, I put much thought into making my poem fully connect to the ideas Conrad was attempting to convey. Though poetry is not my strongest point, I hope that my poems reflect the deliberation I put into them. My editing partners seemed to understand what I was conveying, and were helpful in pointing out which parts were confusing. For the most part, I took their suggestions—I added a few lines to make the confusing parts less confusing, and changed some of my diction to help send my message. Overall, this assignment was an interesting, yet stressful (because I had a hard time finding the words I wanted to use) one.

Something on Skoglund

The instant realization of chaos is caused through the audience's knowledge that the over-grown babies will roll into the pond and no one will help him/her out. The desire to reach out and help the children are one of the very first instincts. Skoglund not only succeeds at incorporating her dark and edgy side, but also succeeds at instigating a feeling of compassion towards the subjects of her artwork.

Too often is Frankenstein dismissed as simply being a horror novel. Through Skoglund's artwork, the audience realizes that the connection between her artworks and Shelley's creation of a beast are quiet similar, and more than just about violence--it's about connecting to other humans and feeling comfort in knowing that they feel the same way as you do. The usage of "animal presence," (4) be it in a beastly form or a normal household pet, "is the link between ourselves and the natural world," where Skoglund hints to her belief that we cannot co-exist with creatures who have a different conscious level than ourselves without creating chaos. By using Frankenstein's themes in her drawing, Skoglund supports her idea of "common language" (5) that humans, whether we know it or not, face the same obstacles and difficulties. Skoglund urges us to face and share their feelings of discomfort, so that together we can attempt to find stability in a chaotic world.

Death is only the beginning of the common ground that Skoglund struggles to build. The death of her mother, brought Skoglund to conclude that with death comes the agony of not being able to control our destiny, loneliness, emotional chaos, and eventually monstrosity--our feelings get so bent out of shape that all we know is to live in negative emotions. With an attempt to share her feelings, Skoglund "relentlessly focuses [on] metaphors that reflect human fear and vulnerability" (7). Through Skoglund's art pieces we can conclude that her belief of making a common ground to help us all feel the same is based off of negative circumstances. Skoglund finds strength in sharing the most sensitive moments of her life just to have her audience understand that they are not alone, but have a powerful and helpful tool to help them pull through: each other and art. Among the many uncertainties and contradictory aspects life brings (we live to die, we fight to win, we work hard to relax), what better way to connect then through feelings? With her affiliation of "powerful juxtapositions and contradictions" (8) in all her artwork, Skoglund ends with her belief that "the end is still the same: to make each other feel more comfortable in a world that does not make much sense. And we make each other feel more comfortable by sharing our discomfort." Skoglund photographs death, loneliness, and discomfort simply because death, and the negative feelings that follow, are the only certain outcome of life; it is the solemn event that we, as humans, can count on. And having this common ground to work off of, Skoglund brilliantly and differently portrays her work of compassion for the human race.

Heart of Darkness Poems

Part I: The Fog
Let there be light
The lights shone strongly, but the mystery of an
Unknown earth crept on.
O' the horror of not knowing exactly what to do;

To trust or not to trust?

The savagery, like hearts of wild men, is deadly.
But they did not cry out in suffering;
But for the bodies they had not conquered
They did not cry out in suffering;
But for the bodies still not devoured.

They lived in the hear of darkness.

Part II: Black Purity
"For those in misery perhaps better things will follow."
Black shapes crouched, helpless
In pain, abandonment, and despair.
They were not enemies
Nor were they criminals.

The brown current ran swiftly
Out of the heart of darkness.
But we were still wrapped in
Shadows of disease and of profound evil
We two whites stood over them; Higher here
But not in spirit.
Perhaps they were the same as us...

But we kill this
Glorious idea before long;
Before it forms.
No doubt, our ideas
Never can be

Part III: Within Every Rib
"A man to a man is like a wolf."

But the truth of things is:
I let the wilderness
Find a home in my heart.
I thought I could spare me
From the horror
From the shadows

But he truth of things is:
Its in all of us men;
Black men, white men, no one
Escapes the hand of darkness.
A monstrous gloom in
Sunshine, I lay with grass
Growing through my ribs. Tall
Enough to hide my bones.
Yes, a heart of darkness
Circles this once body of sunshine

And it will do the same
To you all;
To you all!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Filler Page// Memoir Project

October 14, 2008

Assignment #2: Filler Page for “A Shot at It” and “Epilogue”

The Acceptance

El mono puede tal vez vestir de seda, pero el mono sigue siendo un mono.

Although the monkey might dress in silk, monkey it still is.

I didn’t sleep the entire following week, and Mami began to worry. All her remedies were foreign to my stomach. Day in and day out I felt more uneasy and my stomach knotted at the thought of the interview. It had been a cold, rainy week and I remember sitting at the window sill when I felt a hand on my shoulder.

“Que pasa, Negi?” Mami asked.

“Nada, I’m just tired.”

I looked at her. Her weary, sad eyes were replaced by bright, hopeful eyes. They had taken on that trance ever since we moved to Brooklyn. Mami became someone completely different from the Mimi I knew back home. The long house dresses worn with flip-flops and the long, black hair pulled back into a loose pony-tail were replaced with short dresses worn with heels and a tight, sleek that sat on her head. She wore make-up almost every, and I grew to hate her artificial look. Mami traded in everything she knew and had back in Puerto Rico, for the artificial life. She no longer smelled of the spices that I so loved and knew her by. If she ever did go out smelling like the Puerto Rican salchichas or sancocho, she would storm out complaining.

“Where I work, no one goes about smelling like oregano! Nadie! They look at me strangely when I arrive smelling like Puerto Rico!” she steamed.

I knew I couldn’t be too harsh on her. I was following in her footsteps. Many of the times, after she left for work early in the morning I would sneak into her room and steal a few sprays of perfume. I didn’t want the school kids to think I was any more different than I was already perceived as.

Mami sat down across from me on the window sill. She looked at the rainy day and her eyes filled with tears. I looked away, because I was almost crying too. This was my last chance to prove I was worthy of setting a good example for my younger brothers and sisters, that I could stand out from my siblings and make Mami proud. If I was accepted into Performing Arts High School I would be able to have Mami’s lap one last time. She would wrap her world around my success and I would finally see some good in coming to America. My redemption lay in the hands of the people that Mami said hated us most, the Americanos, but I hoped they would be kind to me this first and last time.

I was sitting in English class, my favorite class, when Mr. Barone called me into his office. I felt my heart squeeze and release, squeeze and release. I walked down the hall and into his office. The sun shone in and warmed up my face.

“Have a seat Esmeralda,” he directed me towards the seat in front of his desk, the same one where he told me about sending me to a private school. I sat, nervous and frightened at the thought that I might not have made it.

“How are you doing?”

“Did I get in?” I asked, without even remembering to respond to his question.

He sat back into his seat, put his glasses on his head, and smiled.

“Congratulations. They want you.”

I don’t remember exactly how everything went after that, but happiness flooded my body for the first time since I came to Brooklyn.

At home, Mami was in the kitchen cleaning. I ran up the stairs and threw myself into her arms. I started crying, shocked that I had been accepted into the school of opportunities.

“What’s going on, Negi?” she asked, pulling me back.

“I made it Mami, I made it!” I said in between tears.

She hugged me and together we cried, still holding onto that last strand of hope. We had uprooted from what we knew best, but this the beginning of a better life we had always wanted.

Ordinary Feelings// IND AFF

September 24, 2008

Ordinary Feelings

In this "sad," yet remarkable journey of a much-needed epiphany, the narrator of "IND AFF" experiences a realization that neither her feelings nor the affections in her life are permanent. Having an impulsive decision to leave behind her beau, a professor 21 years older, and continue her current life flying solo, the narrator comes to the reality that even though the circumstances of her life look gray now, it is sure to have sun in the future. Through the usage of rain on an unexpected summer day in Sarajevo, Fay Weldon creates an ironic atmosphere and ending for the young narrator in her short story.

The setting of this short story intertwines greatly with the atmosphere. The weather "black clouds swishing gently all over Europe" (202), is described to foreshadow the end of a once great love. Having a light-hearted conversation, the narrator sits inside a confined box that she calls a “restaurant.” Away from rain and the “too wet” (203) outside, the atmosphere between the narrator and her professor/lover is already tense. The professor is at a crossroad where he must decide if he wants to live the remainders of his days with the narrator or his wife. Adding to the tension of their relationship, the main characters are trapped inside buildings because it is raining consistently for the entire duration of the trip. The atmosphere, however, will soon change—the narrator decides that she really does not love her professor and gets up and leaves him empty handed. The narrator has an epiphany that she is too young to make such a final decision in her life, and realizes that like her feelings towards the professor, the uneasy situation will soon too change. The atmosphere ironically plays into the way the audience expects the story to end; because the narrator ends up content at her decision and that she has “come to [her] senses.” (207)

The history behind the city of Sarajevo corresponds to the actions of the narrator. Princip the young assassin, who started World War I, kills Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife is symbolic to the actions of the narrator. After her affair with her professor, she realizes that she is not “inordinately” in love with him. However, like Princip, she has already destroyed the life and family of Professor Peter through her decision to have a love affair with him. The history of Sarajevo states that Princip shot three times “starting World War I” and killed off a “whole generation, and their children, and their children’s children, and on and one forever” (207) Through the parallelism of the shots of Princip and the rejection of the narrator to the professor, Weldon allows the audience to realize that not even the strongest, most powerful people (Archduke and his family) or emotions (love) are ever permanent. Weldon, by using Sarajevo as the setting wants the audience to realize that though the narrators’ feelings are not permanent (nor are her decisions) she has destroyed a family and the family’s future generations. The history of Sarajevo, while similar to the destruction the narrator causes, is ironic to the ending of the story. At the end, the narrator is strangely thankful that even though she has acted like the Princip and destroyed an important relationship and figure, she escapes the fate of the assassin.

Like the narrator’s feelings, the weather and season are at constant change as well. Set during the summer on a rainy day, the narrator has a symbolic epiphany because of the rain. On the third day of her stay at Sarajevo, as if the rain washes away her sentiments and destructive ways, the narrator is filled with hope and dreams for her future. The narrator grasps the knowledge that letting her emotions (of love, parallel to Princip’s love of his country) control the best of her, she would imprison herself and not enjoy the rest of her young adult-hood. As a waiter gives her a smile with “even and white” teeth, the narrator gets a “different pang” which she describes as “the real pain of Ind Aff [inordinate affection]” (206). Like the summer, the narrator is still young and has many happy years ahead of her. This setting allows the audience to understand that seasons and weather change, as well as circumstances of life—nothing’s permanent. By using a summer setting, Weldon conveys to the audience that the narrator is young and inexperienced; unsure of her changing feelings. However, the unexpected rain clears her thoughts and permits her to see the many years of life she has ahead of her (parallel to the many days after the summer days).

The setting, in this short story, conveys the narrator’s views that not even the strongest feelings or things (love and family) are not permanent. Using the narrator to change her strong feelings of love towards Professor Peter to falling “out of love with [her] professor” (206), Weldon concludes in the belief that life is a matter of hello's and goodbyes—welcoming new ordinary feelings and decisions, as well as learning to change and accept changes of affection. The unexpected rain on a sunny day compares to negative feelings or decision that are followed by a sunny day—feelings, affections, and situations are always changing, but never permanent.