Writing on Literary Topics

Though I have been prompted several times in the past few weeks, I find myself empty on the topics I could address in my near-future research paper. I have been reading through the prompting of my English class, though it has mostly been works of Shakespeare or spinoffs of it (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead). Each of the books we have read in English this year have addressed death, and I feel like this is some omen for the ending of my High School years, but it is a topic I like to write about. The Things They Carried, Hamlet, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead are all books that address this topic, and the philosophies of life, free will, and what death could be like. Not to mention, the things that surround death and how it affects those who knew the deceased.

Honestly, I feel as if ‘Death’ is such a broad spectrum that it would be hard to pin it down in a paper, basing it off of one literary work would be difficult in a research paper. I’m disappointed in myself because I can’t seem to pin down a couple of good topics aside from this one, but perhaps that’s because I’m completely burned out and stress has ruined my trains of thought and ability to focus. ‘Literary Topics’ is such a broad spectrum anyways, and I find it almost impossible to write without a set of guidelines to lead me in the right direction, if it’s not writing creatively or in a fashion meant to entertain. Research papers are the bane of my existence, and pinning down a topic has been nearly impossible this past month.

I wish that prompting me would work.

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Jackson Pollock

As I look at the painting above, without even having to do any research, I know by the distinct style of splatter across the page that it must be a Jackson Pollock painting. His mind and artist’s hand work in incredibly complex ways to create a piece of art, and with the extravagant use of abstract dribbles and splatters of paint, Jackson Pollock has made himself a household name in the art community and has been for quite some time. The way in which he works is incredibly interesting, and that he has been able to get so intricate while standing over the canvas really helps for me to picture the way in which his mind must be working.

I’ve only been able to study art for two years, and I can already see the complexities behind this piece and many of the other pieces that Jackson Pollock has produced over the years that he has become popular. I’m not a huge fan of his style, because I find abstract art hard to really understand and work with, but I’m sure he has his reasons and how he’s been so successful.

A poem written by Nancy Sullivan about ‘Number 1’ (the piece pictured above), was a reaction of hers to the painting itself. She, too, shares my awed reaction to Jackson Pollock’s work and describes the art as ‘trickles and valleys of paint’. Just as I do not understand the way in which Pollock works, Sullivan states a question that I, too, find myself asking when I view his work. ‘How to realize his question / Let alone his answer?’. If you have no read this piece, I highly advise you to do so shortly after viewing Number 1 and see how you feel in relation to Nancy Sullivan’s observations.

Time heals all ailments

Time is something I always wish I had enough of, and yet I never seem to. There are many things I would like to have the spare time to do, but it never seems to come and perhaps it’s just that I’m horribly inefficient when it comes to making time for some of my favorite things. Though my prompt for this post said that I shouldn’t talk about school, it’s all I can talk about because it’s what keeps me up at night and what typically fills my days.

If I don’t have a paper due by Friday or Monday, then I have my daily assignments and my often-taxing life to deal with. As a young adult living with an elderly parent, there’s a lot that they can’t do so I’m needed to deal with things my father can’t. I live with just him, and we live in a place where there is no family nearby to help out if need be.

As my days approach, counting down to when I’m moving out and heading off to college, I worry about him a lot. He’s an older man who I don’t know if I can trust on his own with all these crazy ideas he has floating around in his head, but I know that we’re both adults and we can handle things efficiently. I just worry, especially about the cut in finances and finding him a place to live, while also being able to support a vehicle.

As of now, we only have one vehicle, and every chance to get another one falls through the floor. It’s at this point in time that I think I’m losing hope, but I received an email yesterday in regards to my application to college, and I’ve been accepted for over a month, but they kindly reminded me I needed to send in my high school transcript. I can’t really wait to get everything over with and send it in, because this is going to be an exciting change despite all the scary possibilities. Nothing goes well for me, and I always expect something to happen around the corner… but maybe this time will be different.

I hope once I move, I can find the time to sit down and relax for a while. It’s awful to say this, but I think once my dad and I are separated, a huge weight will be lifted off of my shoulders and I’ll have a few moments to breathe here and there.

Preserving Literature

As I browsed through the copies of Othello provided in the links above, I’d like to take a moment to talk about their condition for being such old copies. Though I know very little about the deterioration rate of things like books and plays that are so important to English literature, I do know that these could be in worse condition and it’s interesting to get a different perspective than the usual ones we students get as we read a modernly-typed version of things like Othello and Hamlet. Not to mention, I also noticed how the first word of the next page is always located at the bottom right-hand corner of every page.
Prompted by my English teacher to come up with a reason for such a thing, I think I’ve come up with a sound explanation. If these copies of the play were used to practice said play, one would assume it’s good to know the lines that are coming up next instead of having an awkward pause during the flip of a page. We tend to not do this now, with modern copies of Shakespeare’s masterpieces, and a lot of our formatting is different. As a play is repeatedly printed and edited to make it easier for modern readers, we also lose a lot of that original text and references that Shakespeare is known for putting into his works.
In the end, though, we have managed to keep quite an amazing record of Shakespeare’s plays that can often be found and read online in their original format (like the photos of copies found above). We, as people who appreciate literature, find it important to preserve masterpieces.

Oxymorons and Paradoxes

An oxymoron is a form of paradox that combines a pair of contrary terms into a single expression. This combination usually serves the purpose of shocking the reader into awareness.  Examples include “wise fool,” “sad joy,” and “eloquent silence.” During my reading in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, I’ve noticed a few oxymoron examples popping up within King Claudius’ dialogue. The first I noted happened to be the most obvious, “Have we, as ’twere with a defeated joy, / With an auspicious and dropping eye, / With mirth in funeral, and with dirge in marriage.(Act 1.ii.10-12)

As you may notice, there are several statements that contradict themselves that I have underlined for your easier viewing. The words ‘defeated’, ‘funeral’, and ‘dirge’ are all examples of mourning while ‘joy’, ‘mirth’, and ‘marriage’ would be seen by those who are encountering a joyous occasion. King Claudius (as you may or may not know) is extremely pleased with his position that has been taken over from the late King Hamlet. It’s almost as if he’s taunting young Hamlet with his speech.

A paradox, however, is a situation or action or feeling that appears to be contradictory but on inspection turns out to be true or at least to make sense. Following with my analyzing of Act 1.ii, I noticed a few paradoxes within Hamlet’s words from a quote that I’ve heard quite a few times now. “A little more than kin, a little less than kind.” (Act 1.ii.65) Hamlet’s uncle, King Claudius, has now married his mother and become something more to him than just kin. Now, he is his uncle-father while his mother become his aunt-mother. Now both of them are twice related to Hamlet, as he bitterly speaks of Claudius’ new position. Not only that, but he also makes the joke that “the funeral baked meats / Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.” (Act 1.ii.180-181).

As I have noticed on through, into my reading of Act 2, Hamlet is a master of words and quite the witty card when it comes to bitter humor in a manner such as this. He brings about many paradoxes in his humor, when applied with a bit of meaning to his words.

Leon: The Professional

After browsing the titles on Netflix for what felt like an eternity this Saturday afternoon, I found myself stumbling upon a film I’d heard about from my father. Now, you see, this is a film that is very typical of my dad to watch; it contains action and a twisted ending that most aren’t expecting to hurt you. I didn’t go into this movie knowing what sort of things would happen, and I feel a little bit betrayed by the director and writer of this tale: he had my trust that nothing terrible would happen to Leon.

The movie title is Leon: The Professional. It is the story of a Hitman who lives near a little girl who is far too grown up in her own body, their first true encounter happening when the girl sits on the apartment staircase smoking a cigarette: she is twelve years old. Her father has gotten into some risky business and cheated the wrong man in an attempt to steal 10% of a dope share. In the end, Matilda (the girl) narrowly escapes being killed by the man who brutally wiped out her family thanks to Leon.

The character dynamics in this movie are some of my favorite, I have to say. Leon is an immigrant to the United States, living beneath the roof of an Italian man who smuggled him into the States and whose life belongs to him. He is illiterate, but learning, and his main profession is ‘Cleaning’, which we can assume means wiping the floor with anyone he’s told to kill. However, Leon’s one rule is “No women, no kids” that he reveals to a persistent Matilda. Stubborn and seemingly-fearless, this twelve-year-old girl wishes to be like Leon and learn how to take lives for a lump sum of cash if only to get back at the disgusting man who killed her little brother.

This unlikely duo is forced to move several times due to Matilda’s antics as a young girl with confusing thoughts in her mind or brazen actions, but Leon manages to stick with her until the very end despite her many flaws. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but it is an emotional one that you wouldn’t expect out of an action film like this. It certainly touched my heart and I needed to take a mental stroll to relieve myself of what had just unfolded.

The last line is really what hits you, I think, as Matilda speaks to what Leon proclaimed to be his best friend; a house plant that he tended to.

“I think we’ll be okay here, Leon.”

 

The Lighted Window

The Lighted Window by Sara Teasdale

He said:
“In the winter dusk
When the pavements were gleaming with rain,
I walked thru a dingy street
Hurried, harassed,
Thinking of all my problems that never are solved.
Suddenly out of the mist, a flaring gas-jet
Shone from a huddled shop.
I saw thru the bleary window
A mass of playthings:
False-faces hung on strings,
Valentines, paper and tinsel,
Tops of scarlet and green,
Candy, marbles, jacks—
A confusion of color
Pathetically gaudy and cheap.
All of my boyhood
Rushed back.
Once more these things were treasures
Wildly desired.
With covetous eyes I looked again at the marbles,
The precious agates, the pee-wees, the chinies—
Then I passed on.

 

In the winter dusk,
The pavements were gleaming with rain;
There in the lighted window
I left my boyhood.”

As of two days ago, I subscribed to a website that emails you a poem each day by recommendation of my English teacher (along with the rest of his classes), and discovered that it’s actually a pleasant experience to open up my inbox and look forward to the poems each morning. Today, on Saturday the 5th, The Lighted Window by Sara Teasdale was sent out and I honestly really enjoyed this poem. The speaker tells of  wet, winter evening in which they are walking through the streets and feeling rather insignificant. It is presumed that the speaker is a boy, thanks to the beginning line of ‘he said’, alongside the statement that he is leaving his boyhood in the window filled with toys and valentines.

This poem, I would say, is about a man who has grown up too fast or grown up beneath a difficult circumstance. He has very little to look forward to and has a generally bleak expectation of life, even looking into the lit window where toys he once loved or fawned over were resting. He has abandoned his boyhood, rather than leaving it resting on a shelf coated with things in bright, confusing colors. Growing up too fast will do that to a person, as I have figured out from personal experience.

Therefore, try not to grow up too fast and don’t leave your childhood full of wonder and color resting on the shelf in your darkest times of need.