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Whoops: Catcher in the Rye Review

English May 4, 2011

Sorry I didn’t realize I forgot to copy and paste it from my word doc –

SchellCatcherInTheRye:

Title: Catcher in the Rye
Author: J.D. Salinger
Genre: Fiction
Reading Experience:  at first the main character is off putting, but he eventually grows on you

Rating: **
Catcher in the Rye explores the struggle of a young boy between entering the adult and clinging on to the adolescent world. Holden is a lying, judgmental, and disrespectful boy. Throughout the story he grapples with maturing and entering into adult society, all the while trying desperately to preserve the innocence of youth. Though, as a boy, this main character may be hard to relate to, certainly everyone can relate to growing up.

Mini Reviews

English May 2, 2011

SchellGirlWithTheDragonTattoo

Title: Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Author: Stieg Larrson

Genre: Fiction: Mystery

Reading Experience: once getting through the slow first half it is impossible to put down

Rating: *****

Set in Sweden, this captivating murder mystery centers around an unusual heroine, Lisbeth Salander, an investigative/computer hacking genius. Salander is commissioned by Frode, Henrik Vanger’s lawyer, to investigate Mikael Blomkvist. Blomkvist is a controversial financial investigative journalist who recently was sentenced to a few months in prison. Salander’s story and Blomkvist’s are interwoven. When Blomkvist agrees to work for Henrik Vanger, an old wealthy man, he is launched in to the midst of investigating the murder of his granddaughter, Harriet, who disappeared 40 years ago. This beginning of the famous series, is a dangerously intriguing read; once you start you can’t stop.

SchellEmma

Title: Emma

Author: Jane Austen

Genre: Fiction

Reading Experience: can be confusing due to the incredibly long sentences and 19th century vocabulary

Rating: ***

The namesake of the novel, Emma Woodhouse, stars as Austen’s main character. She is a young, twenty two year old who is viewed as perfect by all except Mr. Knightly, her brother-in-laws brother. Emma meddles into everyone business. She loves to make matches, and she is proud of her talent. When she makes her match she gives heavy consideration to social class, etiquette, as well as occupation in order to pair a successful couple. In addition to the plot, analysis of Austen’s writing in order to determine whether she was liberal or conservative is an engaging endeavor in and of itself!

SchellTheStranger

Title: The Stranger

Author: Albert Camus

Genre: Fiction

Reading Experience: interesting to get a small glimpse of such a bizarre ideology

Rating: **

The Stranger is about a few days in the life of a French man named Meursault. The story begins with the death of Meursault’s mother. This opening reveals Meursault’s unique perspective on life. Contrary to society’s expectations, he isn’t fazed by his mother’s death. He agrees because he is indifferent about marriage and love. As Meursault and Marie’s “relationship” develops, Meursault finds himself befriending the alleged pimp, Raymond, who lives on his floor. Raymond is a brutal character who beats the girl he is seeing and financially supporting. Meursault’s journey sheds light on existentialism and the notion of the absurd.

SchellWaitingForGodot

Title: Waiting For Godot

Author: Samuel Beckett

Genre: Play, Fiction

Reading Experience: hilarious, repetitive, and irritating

Rating: ****

In the play, “Waiting For Godot”, absolutely nothing happens. For the entire duration of the play, the main characters, Estragon and Vladimir, are waiting for Godot. While the two wait, they encounter Pozzo and his slave Lucky. Though nothing ever happens, the dynamic between characters and absurdity of the play makes you laugh out loud. It is also insightful to delve into Beckett’s absurd philosophy.

Waiting for Godot 2

English April 12, 2011

“Waiting for Godot”

Samuel Beckett

Ms. Westfall,

4/12/11

“Waiting for Godot” was easily one of the dumbest/pointless reads I’ve ever picked up. At the same time it was also hilarious. I found myself literally laughing out loud. The play is so random, and the conversation is just so unpredictable, that you can’t help but laugh. As I predicted, nothing happened in Act 2. Actually, many of the “events” that took place i.e. Estragon and Vladimir meeting Pozzo and Lucky were forgotten by some of the characters and relived. Though Act 2 was incredibly similar to Act 1, it didn’t fail to entertain me. Once I accepted that nothing would happen and to just enjoy the obnoxious bantering between Vladimir, Estragon, Pozzo, and sometimes Lucky, I found the play to be much less annoying and much more comical.

Unfortunately I highlighted too many pieces of dialogue that made me laugh to share in one response letter. However, I picked out a few of my favorite moments. The first is when Estragon asks Vladimir for the umpteenth time whether or not they should leave. Vladimir responds “Pull on you trousers” (29). Estragon is confused. Vladimir repeats himself, stating “Pull on your trousers” (29). Estragon thinks that Vladimir wants him to “pull off [his] trousers” (29). Vladimir demands again “Pull ON your trousers” (29). Finally Estragon “realize[s] his trousers are down” (29) and responds “True” (29). Another absurd moment such as this takes place when Estragon claims that he’s “always wanted to wander in the Pyreness” (25). Vladimir reaffirms him states that he’ll “wander in them” (25). Estragon, “recoiling”, states “who farted?” (25). Again, this is an example of how ridiculous the entire play is. Another favorite moment of mine is the very end of the play. For the entire play, Vladimir and Estragon are waiting for Godot. In the second act alone Vladimir reminds Estragon nine times that they can’t leave because they are waiting for Godot. Despite this constant anticipation of the meeting of Godot, he never appears. In fact the play ends with Vladimir finally giving in and asking Estragon is they should go (29). Estragon agrees, however “they do not move” and the curtains fall (29). After the characters go on and on and finally come to the decision to leave, they don’t leave. The play ends with no movement or resolution.

I enjoyed reading the play once I got over the lack of action aspect of it. I have to wonder how it translated on to the stage. I’m sure it would’ve resembled a comedy act; where language it’s self is the entertainment. It is very unlike a play write such as Tennessee Williams who takes advantage of props, lighting, and sound to convey themes and meaning.  I’m curious what would be gained by a stage performance as opposed to just reading the script. I’d be intrigued to watch the play to see if there’s a difference between my reactions to the different mediums.

Waiting for Godot 1

English April 10, 2011

Waiting for Godot

Samuel Beckett

Part 1

Ms. Westfall,

4/8/11

After The Stranger, I decided I wanted to read a novel or play written in the same time period Albert Camus was writing. That’s how I stumbled upon Samuel Beckett. Samuel Beckett was one of the last modernists. I’ve read the first act of his most popular work, Waiting for Godot. Apparently it was so popular because it upset audiences. So far, I’ve found it annoying, aggravating, and a little comical. So far absolutely nothing has happened in the play. This is actually one of the play’s most defining characteristic; the fact that nothing happens the whole entire time.

The main characters in the play are Estragon (Vladimir calls him Gogo) and Vladimir (Estragon calls him Didi). The two are waiting for Godot, who’s relationship to the characters is never quiet specified. While the two wait, they encounter Pozzo and his slave Lucky. Lucky is anything but lucky. He is verbally and physically abused by Pozzo; he’s often referred to as pig. Pozzo is a most unlikeable character. He is rude and self-absorbed. When Pozzo encounters Estragon and Vladimir they converse. Unfortunately, nothing ever happens.

Though Waiting for Godot hasn’t proven to be very action driven, as it wasn’t intended to be, it has made me laugh at times. For instance, when Pozzo first introduces himself he states “I am Pozzo!” (5), then there’s silence. He repeats “Pozzo!”. Again, silence. Aggrivated he demands “Does that name mean nothing to you” (5). Estragon, “pretending to search”, states, “Bozzo…Bozzo” (5). Followed by Vladimir, searching, states, “Pozzo…Pozzo…” (5). Pozzo screams, “PPPOZZZO!” (5). Finally, Estragon exclaims “Ah! Pozzo…let me see… Pozzo…” (5). Vladimir confused asks “is it Pozzo or Bozzo?” (5). After all that, Estragon declares that he doesn’t know a Pozzo (5). I found this banter scene to be funny. However, other’s can be very aggravating.

In the play the dialogue is very repetitive and the conversations are all bantering. For example Vladimir asks Pozzo if he “want[s] to get rid of [Lucky]” (8) four times within the span of nine lines. The question is worded exactly the same way every time. There are several other instances where one line is repeated by a character several times in a short time period. Obviously this is rather irritating. Also most of the dialogue between characters is quick, back and forth snid bits. This also can be aggravating because the conversations aren’t fluid and never fully develop. Also, Both Estragon and Pozzo admit to suffering from bad memories, so a line of thought develops and then stops because they forget what they were talking about. Overall, Beckett’s writing style is very interesting and unique.

I looked forward to reading the end of Waiting for Godot even though I know that nothing is going to happen.

The Stranger 2

English March 23, 2011

The Stranger

Albert Camus

Ms. Westfall,  3/22/11

The Stranger can be described in one word: bizarre. The characters are bizarre, the “meaning” is bizarre, and the author is bizarre. Consequently, I’m not too sure how to make of the story. In the second part of the story Meursault is imprisoned for a year before his trial is held. During his time in jail he misses swimming and his time with Marie. This surprised me because he seems like someone who would’ve been indifferent to jail. Nonetheless, he realizes the importance of his freedom. When his court date nears, he meets with his lawyer to go over his defense. Meursault’s lawyer tries to get Meursault to understand that he must seem like a compassionate person to the jury. Unfortunately, Meursault is unable to win the favor of anyone in the courtroom. The prosecution succeeds in painting Meursault as a man who hated his mother, was indifferent about her death, befriended pimps, and killed a man by shooting him five times in the back. This leads the jury to sentence Meursault to death by guillotine. In the final chapter, Meursault comes to terms with death. He decides that dying is inevitable, and everyone must face it whether by old age or guillotine.

Oddly enough, even though I didn’t understand Meursault, I didn’t hate him either. Even though I can’t relate to feeling indifferent about the world, that doesn’t mean that someone can’t be. Camus achieved sympathy for Meursault through the court scene. Personally, I pitied the way Meursault felt excluded from determining his future. Also, the obnoxious prosecution lawyer made me want to see Meursault win the case. It’s interesting that the case is decided upon character evidence rather than concrete evidence. This insinuates that a jury is not impartial but corrupted by societal expectations.

Even though I was sympathetic to Meursault, it was hard to stay attached to him in the final chapter. I don’t understand how Meursault can believe that life is completely meaningless. I can’t comprehend the idea that dying at 40 is the same thing as dying at 60. I find it interesting that Meursault doesn’t value the importance of personal and emotional development. However, Camus obviously does because the character Meursault develops over the course of the story until he reaches his epiphany in the last chapter. I am curious how Camus related to his main character. I wonder if Camus was just as indifferent as Meursault.

Overall, I am glad I read The Stranger. I’ve enjoyed getting a taste of what I believe is a very fascinating philosophy. I do struggle though to understand why Camus is a writer if he believed that life was meaningless and we’re all just waiting for death. I wonder what motivated him to become a writer and what his agenda was. I’m very excited to learn more.

The Stranger 1

English March 14, 2011

The Stranger

Albert Camus

Ms. Westfall,      3/13/11

Existentialism has always fascinated me. Though we’ve come across it several times in French class, I’ve never really could wrap my head around it. That’s why I chose to read The Stranger by Albert Camus; I wanted to try to find a better understanding of this foreign ideology. Though I originally thought Camus was an existentialist after doing a bit of wikipediaing, I discovered that he was an Absurdist. Before I began to read the novel, I decided to do a bit of researching of Absurdism in order to understand and appreciate Camus’ story. The Absurd is “the conflict between the human tendency to seek inherent meaning of life and the human inability to find any” (Wikipedia). This basic understanding of Absurdism shed light on Camus’ intentions and perspective.

The Stranger is about a few days in the life of a French man named Meursault. The story begins with the death of Meursault’s mother. This opening reveals Meursault’s unique perspective on life. Contrary to society’s expectations, he isn’t fazed by his mother’s death. He wishes to not see his mother one last time before burying her. He doesn’t even know how old is mother was when she died. After the funeral, Meursault never morns her death, but instead he people watches and goes swimming with Marie. Marie falls in love with Meursault and asks him to marry her. He agrees because he is indifferent about marriage and love. As Meursault and Marie’s “relationship” develops, Meursault finds himself befriending the alleged pimp, Raymond, who lives on his floor. Raymond is a brutal character who beats the girl he is seeing and financially supporting. When the police come to arrest him Meursault testifies on behalf of Raymond that the girl had wronged him. Part one of The Stranger ends with Meursault, Masson, and Raymond being attacked by two “Arabs” (one of whom is the brother of the girl Raymond abused). The paragraph closes with Meursalt shooting one of the Arabs.

So far I’ve enjoyed reading The Stranger. It’s interesting reading a story from such a radical philosopher. However, I find Camus to be too radical. Personally, I agree with Camus belief that there is no higher meaning or purpose in life; we live, then we die, that’s it (we don’t live our lives in order to make it to heaven as opposed to hell). Nevertheless I can’t comprehend the idea of a person doesn’t reason or seek any justification in the world. I just can’t fathom a person who is as indifferent as Meursalt. An example of Meursalt’s indifference is when he agrees to marry Marie. Marie asks Meursalt that if any other girl would’ve asked him to marry them, would he have agreed. He said yes. Meursalt just doesn’t value or is interested by relationships. Instead he spends his time soaking in the world around him. He’d rather take a walk outside then spend time with someone.

If Camus’ intention was to sell Aburdism, I’m not buying it, at least not yet anyway. I think it would’ve been more appealing to have a moderate/more relatable character then Meursalt. Nonetheless I am curious to see what happens to Meursalt. At this point, however, if Camus was still alive I would recommend Into the Wild to him because I really do think that relationships are meaningful.

English February 24, 2011

Emma

Jane Austen

Ms. Westfall, 2/22/11

Thank you for pointing out the other side of the Austen controversy! For some reason, I didn’t think to consider who Austen was writing for at the time. Now, I’m not too sure where I stand. As you said, I found the ending to be ridiculous. When I read the ending it seemed to that the absurd happily ever after ending was exactly what Austen wanted to prove her point. Honestly, I’m not so sure of where I stand. I almost wish that I would’ve waited to read Austen after we discussed her writing in class with the hopes of being able to better appreciate her writing. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed Emma. Personally, I would like to think that Austen was a head for her time.

When looking through a progressive Austen lens, Emma is the bud of Austen’s jokes. If Emma is in fact a satire, Austen definitely accomplishes her goal to paint Emma as an absurd, arrogant, and annoying character. Though Emma ends up “finding love” (I use quotes because I wasn’t actually very convinced that they were in fact in love), for the majority of the novel Emma spends her time trying to marry off her friend Harriet Smith. As a read, I felt bad for Harriet. She is obviously tragically ignorant and submissive. It’s terrible to see her follow Emma’s terrible advice as the result is always Harriet’s heart being broken. However, Emma’s character represents more than just a snobby, upper class white female. She is a young, impressionable character who, like Huck in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is the product of society. With this in mind, whenever Austen mocks Emma, she ridicules the society which develops Emma’s absurd behavior.

A progressive Austen lens also transforms the novel’s ending from that of a fluffy fairytale to a satire. Without reading Emma through this lens, the ending would be unbelievable, and unsatisfying. In the end Emma marries Mr. Knightly, Harriet marries Mr. Martin, and Jane marries Mr. Churchill; all is well! Austen’s Disney ending mocks the society in which she lived. She mocks the fact that living happily ever after ends with marriage. The fact that Austen didn’t marry demonstrates her disapproval of the institution of marriage. Also, Emma’s epiphany is that Mr. Knightly must marry her, and only her. Austen ridicules Emma as her character never changes or evolves to appreciate love over status. Overall, reading the ending at face value discredits and degrades Austen as a writer.

When I was discussing Emma, I learned that the movie “Clueless” is based off of it. After thinking about the relationship between the two stories, I began to doubt my immediate reaction to read Emma like a satire. When I watched “Clueless”, though I found Cher to be obnoxious I ended up liking her. Also I have a weakness for romantic comedies, and I loved “Clueless”’s feel-good, happily ever after ending. Reflecting on this, I discovered that parallel between myself and Austen’s readers. I have to wonder if those who made the movie were making fun of viewers like myself. I wonder if I’ve mistake the difference in time period for satire. Needless to say, I am very confused and can’t wait to get into this discuss in class!

Emma Part 1

English February 14, 2011

Emma
Jane Austen

Part 1

Ms. Westfall,  2/13/11

Emma is the first book that I’ve ever read by Jane Austen. Before I began reading it I was aware of Austen’s sarcasm towards society in the 18th century. However, as I am a person who loves a good love story, I leaned towards wanting to take the story for what it is worth. This mind set completely failed. Even after reading just the first page, the sarcasm and irony towards marriage, a women’s role in the 18th century, and status made it impossible to ignore. Austen’s tone seems to mock the main character and how she fits into society. The main character in the novel is Emma Woodhouse. She is a young, twenty two year old who is viewed as perfect by all except Mr. Knightly her brother-in-laws brother. Emma meddles into everyone business. She loves to make matches, and she is proud of her talent. When she makes her match she gives heavy consideration to social class, etiquette, as well as occupation in order to pair a successful couple. So far she has successful made the match of Miss. Taylor and Mr.Weston, who married contrary to popular belief that Mr. Weston would every remarry. Then she takes on her next challenge: Mr. Elton. Emma plans to match Mr. Elton with her new friend Harriet Smith (despite her infatuation with Mr. Martin), however this match disproves the actual talent Emma has for matchmaking. Emma embodies the female society of 18th century. Austen uses Emma, as well as the other secondary characters to mock the prevalent values of marriage, society, and class.

The theme of marriage is very prominent in the novel. It seems that all of the news revolves around marriage: who is married to whom, who should be married, who isn’t married, who would make good suitors etc. Even at the beginning, the story opens with the marriage of Miss. Taylor and Mr. Weston. It seems from that point off, everyone, especially Emma is consumed with marriage. Though Emma loves making the “perfect” match, she actually doesn’t want to be married. To her marriage and love are completely separate. She makes strategically marriages; one’s which would move the desired party up on the social latter. It is apparent that Emma thinks that marriage should not be contingent on love is when she slyly pressures Harriet to reject Mr. Martin’s proposal. She discourages the match only because Mr. Martin is not high enough in class to meet Emma’s standards for Harriet. It’s funny that even though Emma is a confident, independent, mature woman, she supports an institution that is in nature quite degrading towards women. Then again, I have to credit her for exerting control over this process. Nonetheless, Austen portrays marriage in the 18th century to be is superficial.

In Emma, Austen focuses on society: who her characters are and their relationships with each other. The novel seems to perfectly capture life in the 18th century. As I never really read any literature set in this time period, I find just learning about the time period to be interesting. Austen definitely succeeds in developing the culture of the upper class in that time period. So far the main events tend to be parties and circles of friends. Austen even devotes whole chapters to explain a person’s relationships and social standing. So far, Austen seems to capture a very stereotypical world, and I am interested to see where she takes the story.

So far, I am enjoying Emma. At first it was a bit difficult to get used to reading the language, because it was obviously written a while ago, however I’ve gotten more and more used to it. The story is a little slow because Austen is very detailed, but I do find it interesting. I am excited to see what happens to Emma and how her character develops.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 2

English February 2, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Stieg Larrson

Part 2

Ms. Westfall,

2/1/11
I really enjoyed reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This first 44% of the book was rather slow, however once Mikael got into Harriet’s case I was glued. Personally, I feel that the book has a very interesting and well thought plot, however the writing is average. Larson gives far too many mundane details. This could also be because the book was originally written in Swedish. In addition to the details, and possibly rough language transition, another factor that slowed me down in the beginning was the Swedish culture. Once you get over the hurtle of being able to distinguish between the Swedish names, its smooth sailing from then on. Despite its mediocre writing, the novel does have strengths: an intriguing plot and likeable characters.

In the last half of the novel, Larson really takes his readers through an intense investigation of a cold case that turns hot. Larson’s protagonist, Lizbeth and Mikael join forces to solve the unsolveable mystery of Harriet Vanger’s death. Together they find meaning in little details that had been overlooked for 40 years. These two independent people find themselves depending on one another’s skills to find the killer. They discover a pattern of an undetectable serial killer; that same pattern was discovered by Harriet 40 years ago. The serial killer had killed numerous women and carried out the murders according to the Bible. The serial killer turns out to be Martin Vanger (CEO of the Vanger Group and Harriet’s older brother). Also, Lizbeth and Mikael discover that Harriet had not been murdered, but ran away in order to protect herself from her sadistic brother. Harriet’s case ended with the reuniting of Harriet and Henrik Vanger (her grandfather who commissioned the investigation and had obsessed about her death for 40 years). I wish the book ends with the case. However, Larson continues on revealing the aftermath of the case, Lizbeth and Mikael’s relationship, as well as the Wennerström trial. In my opinion, Larson should’ve ended on a stronger note with the resolution of Harriet’s case.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is substantive; Larson criticizes the police, sexual violence, as well as grapples with journalistic integrity. Though women are the victims in the novel, Larson condemns sexual violence. The most overt example of this is Lizbeth. Though Lizbeth is a victim herself, she brings justice. Another issue which is debated throughout the book is upbringing. Lizabeth argues that upbringing doesn’t affect who you are, because everyone makes their own choices. On the other hand, Mikael justifies even the most unforgivable behavior because he recognizes that people can’t help the way they were raised. Despite this constant debate between the two, there never seems to be a conclusion.

In general, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a very intriguing novel. I have to say once I got into the story; I literally couldn’t put it down. However, the story is a little predictable. It seems like the murderer always is one of the trusted ones. Also, it was pretty obvious that Harriet didn’t die. Despite these things, I still found the plot to be very intriguing. I look forward to reading the next books. I wonder how Larson will further develop the relationship between Lizbeth and Mikael.

Reaction to US Has Little to Teach China

Comparative Gov January 31, 2011

Fukuyama’s article is a very interesting read. It makes some good points on why China’s government won’t be changing any time soon. Why would the Chinese look to change their “stable”, efficient government to one that would model our polarized, ineffective, near sighted democratic government? Though I understand Fukuyama’s argument, I have to wonder if he gives too much credibility to the Chinese Communist party. As far as current events goes, every article is primarily about Chinese citizens demanding government accountability. Though the Communist Party might have been stable 8 years ago, I don’t think that Fukuyama notes the challenges that arise in the 21st century. The fact is, they’re 750 million poor Chinese citizens who are becoming restless. Also, the Chinese people are able to communicate and organize themselves. I personally think that the Chinese people are reaching their tipping point. Though Fukuyama argues that China’s efficiency and economic success is enough to make the Chinese citizens not think twice about shifting to a democracy as America is struggling to stay a float, now that the Chinese citizenry is more connected they will be demanding a more accountable government. This doesn’t necessarily mean the the Chinese people want a democracy. I’d be curious to see Fukuyama’s response to the article in Foreign Affairs. I wonder if he has any opinion on the impact of social media in China.