I think Langston Hughes wrote about the African-American experience of the early 20th century best because his poem, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”, is directly emotional. It is a poem that is meant to be quickly understood, and the feelings within it comprehended by those who share the same struggle. Hughes wrote the poem in simpler language so his purpose isn’t lost in complicated vocabulary and allusion. In a few short lines, Hughes uses broad allusions and emotional phrases to emphasize a point. He conveys the emotions of his ancestors and the weight he feels from his own history, making “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” an incredibly powerful poem.
When Men Find Comfort in the Land of Mice
The novella Of Mice and Men would be a fast-paced tragedy, arrival of the main characters quickly giving way to darkness, if it weren’t for how author John Steinbeck inserts long paragraphs with vivid descriptions of nature. This describing of forests, swamps, and animals tend to be the only peaceful points in the story, with every setting outside of nature plagued by distress and worry.
Steinbeck uses this method, of writing his story so that nature is almost synonymous with calm, incredibly well and, frequently, not so explicitly. One of the first scenes of the story features the two main characters, George and Lennie, lounging next to a pond as the day winds down. George begins to talk about a farm that he and Lennie will one day have, with “a big vegetable patch and a rabbit hutch and chickens,” (p.14). This dream is a recurring element of the story, with George detailing it multiple times throughout the novella and Lennie speaking about how he will get to tend the rabbits.
For Lennie, the farm is an opportunity for him to pet soft things whenever he pleases, but for George, it is something to look forward to. Typically quite angry, George calms down when he thinks of his farm (“[George’s] voice was growing warmer. ‘An’ we could have a few pigs. I could build a smoke house the one gran’pa had…’” p.57). After Candy’s dog is brought out to be shot, George eventually begins to talk about the farm, with Candy himself catching on to the idea: “We’ll fix up that little old place an’ we’ll go live there.’ […] They all sat still, all bemused by the beauty of the thing, each mind was popped into the future when this lovely thing should come about,” (p.60).
Aside from the farm, however, the nature in the character’s current environment of Soledad is a more physical source of refuge. After Lennie kills Curley’s wife, he runs to the spring where he and George first arrived. He kneels down and drinks the water, and Steinbeck sets the scene acutely differently to the chaos of the barn: “When a little bird skittered over the dry leaves behind him, his head jerked up and he strained toward the sound with eyes and ears until he saw the bird, and then he dropped his head and drank again.” (p.100)
But why did Steinbeck create an environment where the characters’ only salvation from their struggles is nature? It’s possible he was attempting to answer the question of what is man’s connection with nature. In Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck relates nature to a life without struggle, an outlet for serenity. Perhaps, nature is a way for man to detach himself from a life of hard-work with nothing to yield. Perhaps Steinbeck thought that the forests and ravines are places to go when in need of a refresh, a way to return to our roots. Regardless, it’s clear that the author instills a sense of importance to man’s unique connection with nature; despite consistently being deprived of it, nature is almost always a way for us to find salvation from the hardships of human existence.
Photo courtesy of: mtran on serendip studios.
Things I Did Well:
I’m quite proud of how I described the event and that I was successful in helping the reader visualize it. I used to have a lot of trouble in providing good descriptions and showing vs telling, so I’m very happy that I apparently did it quite well in my narrative essay.
As someone who has done quite a bit of writing in the past, I know how hard it is to maintain your own voice in your writing, especially doing an essay. There sort of has to be a sense of formality, and it’s really easy to dissolve into long words you never typically use and start to tell the story from a perspective that isn’t your own. I think I managed to maintain my point of view during the essay and tell the story the way I saw it happen and how I felt about it at the time (and how I still feel about it), while still keeping it from becoming conversational.
Things I Can Improve:
I understand my purpose of writing the essay might have been a bit vague – I’ve always had trouble in conveying the message of the story. I don’t want to explicitly state it, but I should probably try to hint at it a bit more. When we verbally tell stories, we don’t really focus on the meaning or lesson we learned from the experience, but instead focus on telling it in the most interesting way possible. I’m also a bit more used to journalism articles and humorous writing now, so it was difficult to put myself in the mindset of “I’m writing something important”.
The first draft of this was probably about 1000 words. I cut down a lot, but I realize in trying to describe a lot of stuff, I lose the point of the story. I’ve definitely become a lot better with being concise and effective in my writing over the years (“cutting the dead wood” as you say), but there is absolutely still work to be done!
What the classroom looked like when we left (all necessary layers of brick for walls, floor completed, inside walls covered. What rests is the roof and indoor decor.)
What the classroom looks like now – second from left. (Currently in use for children between grades 1 – 8.)
“[…]the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!” – Jack Kerouac, On the Road.
The above passage is from one of my favourite books of all time. The book itself deals with a lot of complex stuff: youth (especially when it’s fleeting), human relationships, self-discovery, morality. But this passage really gets to me, and it always has.
There isn’t really a context for it. He’s talking about how he got into the whole mess of travelling America with Dean Moriarty, and while it’s from the point of view of the fictional Sal Paradise, it really is based on Kerouac’s own experiences with Neal Cassady, so it’s a valid hypothesis that these are his real sentiments. He writes about how he’s attracted to those wild people nearly everyone knows, the ones that are adventurous and always have a story to tell. He’s attracted to people that are interesting, yet he acknowledges that they aren’t always the most stable, likening them to exploding roman candles. In the book, Sal Paradise talks about how complexly flawed and wonderful Dean Moriarty is, and he wishes he could be part of that special brand of madness. And I think that’s what a lot of people crave.
We read books and watch movies and create fiction because it depicts people who are fascinating enough to have other people care about what they have to say. And deep down, I think we all sometimes want to be that sort of person. When we’re in the presence of such remarkable stories, such adventurous souls, we may begin to wish for that uniqueness, and that’s OK. It’s normal to want to settle down and live comfortably, but all too often, the greatest experiences in life aren’t ones that make us money – they’re the ones we sought out with madness and liveliness in our hearts. Humans want to be remembered, in a way that is so crippling because our fear of oblivion is so strong. We know we will die, and maybe it drives us to do incredible things and along the way, we become incredible people.