Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring Haikus

You might have guessed this from the unusually happy way in which I decided to write Haikus outside of class, but in case you didn't notice, I am so excited for Spring! I've missed playing soccer, and I'm totally getting a different kind of kick from the sunny weather. It's amazing to wake up to the bird's chirping and the bright light leaking in through my window!

Hot, bright light illuminates;
green arms are stretching,
embracing the sky above.

Penetrating tears fall down--
Trickling from heaven,
the sad blue drops giving life.

Bright colors shoot from the ground
Dancing with the wind;
Laughing at the hot, white sun.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

East of Eden and Huckleberry Finn

     Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and John Steinbeck’s East of Eden have many similarities, yet they also have a few differences. Likewise, many of the themes and ideas such as the fight between good and evil, lying, and internal characters’ internal conflict and struggles become a major part to the story and how it plays out. However, the differences come about in the author’s different opinions of these struggles, Steinbeck continually shows through his novel that people have the right to choose, and oftentimes people will choose good over evil in the end. For the most part, Twain sees the evil in the world with a pessimistic outlook; evil people are not likely to change who they are, rather they will continually choose wrong if it conforms with society’s views.

     “We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the never-ending contest in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly respawn, while good, while virtue is immortal. Vice has always a new fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is.” In this sentence, Steinbeck stresses how everything, including our lives, is centered on the conflict between good and evil. Steinbeck’s opinion is that evil always changes to accommodate, but goodness always stays the same. Similarly, Mark Twain addresses the idea of good vs. evil. However, he is more cynical, addressing the conflict in a more negative way. Huckleberry Finn is faced with many hypocrites, liars, and vagabonds throughout his adventure. Twain uses a majority of his characters to point out the flaws in society and it’s lack of good, especially when it comes to the issue of slaves being property. However, it is symbolic that in the end, Caleb (who was constantly fighting doing what was wrong,) and Huck (who had to confront the issue of slavery head on,) chose to do good over evil in the end. The “good” side that they chose was the ultimate goal from the viewpoint of both authors.

     “Cathy was a liar, but she did not lie the way most children do. Hers was no daydream lying, when the thing imagined is told and, to make it seem more real, told as real. That is just ordinary deviation from external reality. I think the difference between a lie and a story is that a story utilizes the trappings and appearance of truth… But a lie is a device for profit or escape.” Steinbeck addresses lying head on, by telling readers what his own opinion of lying is. Throughout East of Eden, the characters who were really struggling with being evil or were already completely evil lied and twisted the truth to their gain. In the end, when Caleb’s brother Aron found out the truth, he could not handle it and ended up getting killed. This sad ending to an innocent character represented how lies can ruin a person’s life. Twain also believed that lying was wrong and hypocritical in many instances. In the church one day, the Grangerfords and the Sheperdsons received a lesson on brotherly love, while the next day, they were killing each other over an issue of marriage. However, Huck lied straight out many times throughout the book to protect his friend Jim from being captured. Contrastingly, Steinbeck’s strictly negative view on lying is truly different than Twain’s belief that lying is okay if it is used as a means to an end for the right purpose.

     The internal conflicts between Caleb from East of Eden and Huck from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are startlingly similar. Steinbeck illustrates how Caleb’s mother was a monster, “And just as there are physical monsters, can there not be mental or psychic monsters born? The face and body may be perfect, but if a twisted gene or a malformed egg can produce physical monsters, may not the same process produce a malformed soul?” Caleb’s mother Cathy was infinitely evil, and she never changed. He was forced with the fact that his mother was an evil woman who constantly lied and ran a brothel house. Steinbeck’s character chose to overcome the sins of his mother by deciding not to be like her and to become a decent person despite the evil part of her that was in him. Likewise, Huck’s father was evil, he beat Huck and was extremely racist. Huck was confronted by the fact that society had told him his whole life that if he helped a slave that he would go to Hell. Like Caleb, Huck’s internal conflict was solved when he finally made his decision. “Alright then, I’ll go to Hell.” The difference between the two is strongly different in the sense that Caleb will not jeopardize what he feels is right, while Huck will consort to stealing, and lying to do what he feels is ultimately right.

     Although Steinbeck and Twain’s optimistic and pessimistic views seem to contrast each other, the two authors have the same views on many things. Evil is wrong; like their characters, you can overcome it whether it is passed on through genes or all around you in society. Lying is wrong, but in Twain’s view, it is occasionally okay to lie to serve the right purpose. We all face problems that must be resolved, however, whether our decisions are good or evil, we will ultimately decide in the end.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Conflict in Men, Society, and Self

Dear Blog Readers,
     I apologize once again for publishing one of my essays for English, but I figure it will help someone out there. It recounts the external and internal conflicts of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in four double-spaced pages. I really liked that book, which was extremely surprising to me. I'd read the Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain beforehand. Personally, I hated the book and don't know why I finished it. Initially, I dreaded having to read a Mark Twain novel again. Well, I ended up being pleasantly surprised; you can't judge a book by one cover, and apparently you can't judge an author off of one book! Enjoy the read if you have the time, don't feel bad if you don't want to read it; it is an essay after all!

     In Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck faces many trials as he and Jim down the Mississippi River on their way to Cairo. Throughout the book, Mark Twain’s personal opinions can be seen throughought his novel. His views from pre civil war times tell of his opinion on subjects including conformity, guilibility, greed, corruption, misunderstanding, slavery, and the importance of telling the truth. Huck and Jim’s trials throughout the book reflect the inconsistencies and issues in society and man, they also revealed major internal conflicts that were faced in the novel.

     “The pitifulest Thing out is- a mob; they don’t fight with the courage that’s born in them, but with courage that’s borrowed from the mass, and from their officers” (145.) Colonel Sherburn’s speech told of Twain’s views on society; movements in society are often fueled by cowards, who in turn are backed by followers with little courage themselves. These “followers” in society are men and women who don’t open their eyes and think for themselves; rather they will conform to the will of others around them or go with what is considered “popular” by the mass. Men oftentimes join the rest of society so that they might appear normal, thinking that they will be more accepted if they are like everyone else, sometimes that is true.

     Another example of corruption in society was the symbolism behind the Duke and the King. The Duke and the King represented all of the flaws and lies in society; in spite of their record of being complete phonies, they were almost instantly accepted into an ignorant society. Only the informed Doctor tried to defame The King’s feeble attempts of acting like Peter Wilk’s brother, “He is the thinnest kind of imposter- has come here with a lot of empty names and facts which he picked up somewheres; and you take them for proofs, and are helped to fool yourself by these fools…” (166.)
The gullibility of the town was shown when the Doctor offered evident proof of the King’s ineptitude to fake a British accent. The fact that nobody was willing to accept the Doctor’s proof shows that the society believed what it wanted to believe. If Huck and The Doctor hadn’t acted on behalf of what they knew to be true, Peter’s innocent, young, orphan nieces might have lost everything that they had.

     A great example of the corruption of men individually, and the conflict between good and evil was the conflict between Huck and Judge Thatcher with Pap. Pap says, “Look at it, says I- such a hat for me to wear- one of the wealthiest men in town if I could get my rights.” (35.) In his head, pap is seriously misguided by the idea that money is the only way that he could be happy and earn his rights. Rather than trying to work hard to achieve his American dream, he tries to make Judge Thatcher give him Huck’s money. There is a conflict when the Judge refuses to give Huck’s money away so easily, and there is a physical conflict when Huck doesn’t give Pap the money that he is desperate to obtain.

      Another conflict was shown when Jim and Huck have differing views on the tale of King Solomon. “Doan’ talk to me ‘bout yo’ pints. I reck’n I knows sense when I sees it; en dey ain’t no sense in sich doin’s as dat.”Jim personally didn’t believe that King Solomon was wise to want to cut a baby in half; Huck, on the other hand, believed that Solomon was using the threat of cutting a baby in half to suit a wiser purpose. This scene goes to show what lengths people will go to to stick with their beliefs. Men can be narrow minded when it comes to hearing other’s opinions, especially when their mind is set on a particular idea or ideal.

     Perhaps the most significant conflicts were conflicts that raged inside of Huck throughout the story. Huck was constantly fighting himself over the issue of slavery, and whether or not he should help Jim become free. At one point, Huck felt so terribly about what he was doing, that he almost wrote to Miss Watson to reveal Jim’s whereabouts, “I was a-trembling, because I’d got to decide between two things, and I knowed it… Alright then, I’ll go to Hell” (107.) Huck had learned his whole life to fear going to Hell, but despite this, he decided in the end that he would risk everything and anything to help his best friend. Slavery was a huge issue during Twain’s lifetime, Twain’s views were reflected through the way that Huck finally sees the importance in helping a man who was like a brother to him, in spite of the consequences.

     Another conflict arose when Huck had to choose whether he would be honest with Mary Jane about The Duke and The King’s fraud to earn their money. Huck had grown up telling lies to save himself from getting in trouble or being beaten by his abusive father. He finally learned that sometimes it really is better to tell the truth, “I reckon a body that ups and tells the truth when he is in a tight place is taking considerable many resks… I’m blest if it don’t look to me like the truth is better and actuley safer than a lie.”

     This concept of telling the real truth becomes significant again in the end. Tom was able to free Jim from slavery only through telling the truth. Tom, the romantic in the novel, made Jim sleep with snakes,write with his own blood, and eat sawdust. If Tom had never told the truth about Miss Watson’s death and will, Jim would never have been set free.

     There were many conflicts both internal and external in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. They helped the reader to see Mark Twain’s personal views on controversial topics of the day. Issues such as lying, greed, slavery, misunderstanding, and cowardice through conformity were all addressed and resolved in the end.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Nascar and Sadie Hawkin's Response

     My life seems to have many different phases to it. If I had to give this month a name, it would probably begin something like, "The most crazy and busy month that I've ever had in my life."

     At the beginning of the month, my grandparents were living in my house. I won't say too much about it if I can help it, (I want to be respectful.) My grandparents don't get along very well, and I felt like I didn't have a peaceful place where I could go to be alone and let out the stress. Lots of times the only peace I could find was in the menial day to day tasks in school. It was terrible to see my grandparents lose their house and everything they had to debt, there are so many happy memories of me and my cousins at their house. And now it's not theirs. The financial crisis has scared me a lot, and I hope with all my heart that I'll be frugal and not have to end up in the same situation.

     Fortunately, there was light at the end of the tunnel for my grandparents, due to Franklin Roosevelt's social security plans from about sixty years ago, my grandparents had enough money to move out and go on a mission. My Grandpa has always wanted to go on another mission to Brazil, and I'm happy that he got to meet one of his life's goals.

     During February and March, my life was passing me by quicker than I could imagine. The snow melted, leaving the cold and bare ground, leaving me with a feeling of hope. Most of the sadness in my life melted away with the melting of the snow. You never realize how much you miss the sunshine until it hits you full on in the face.

     My Dad recognized the fact that I needed a vacation more than anything, a chance to get away from everything and just be able to relax. I can't begin to write how glad I was to go on a vacation. Together, me and my dad decided to test the experience of going to Las Vegas and seeing Nascar!

     The road ahead of us stretched on forever. Mirages glinted off of the surface of the hot black gravel, making you thirsty, even from a perfectly air-conditioned car. The magic of the mirages was quickly vanished once we reached the largest parking lot that I've ever seen, we had reached Las Vegas.

     The parking lot spanned a mile in every direction from wherever you stood. I could barely comprehend the amount of cars that I saw there. Cars all have to have a driver to drive them, and so I wondered in awe at the enormity of the crowd of people that must be waiting in the arena. They had all come to see one thing; millionaires racing across the huge NASCAR circle to become even more famous than they already were.

     Colonel, Jackson, my dad, and I were able to see one of the few and far between rainstorms that occur in such a desolate desert landscape. The pelt of rain postponed the race for an hour or two, so we sat in a guard trailor. The huge guard trailor that we were able to see the next day frustrated me a little. Taxes had paid for the making of the National Guard trailor which had tons of luxuries, (including a t.v. in the bathroom.) Aside from my slight irritation, I must admit that it was cool to watch the race while sitting on seats that were safely secured to the top of the trailor itself.

     We had to wear earplugs as the race comensed, cars raced by at two hundred miles an hour. The roar of the engines was quickly replaced by the sight of the cars shooting down the track.

     In the end, Dale Earnheart Junior, (the driver that we were rooting for,) got sixteenth place. It made me laugh that Joey Lagano (a nineteen year old boy,) ended up beating our well experienced Guard Car driver.

     Aside from going to NASCAR, I did another crazy thing that I never thought I'd do. I asked someone to Sadie's! It was funny, because most of my friends just laughed when I told them,
"Well finally you asked him, Jojo! It's about time!"
Despite the scepticism, I was extremely excited to go. Surprisingly it didn't take me very long to decide how to ask him. I used a method that I'd come up with a few weeks before I'd decided to ask anyone. Knowing that Don's (sorry for the fake name again,) family is pretty in to movies and costumes, I got a huge bucket of popcorn to ask him. On the outside of the popcorn bucket, I taped a sign that read,
"John, now that I've buttered you up... Will you go to Sadie's with me?"

     Door-bell-ditching has never been one of my favorite things, as a matter of fact, I've never door-bell-ditched anyone except for my own family on Valentine's Day. So what better use for a brother than to have him do the dirty work? My brother was nice to consent to sprinting across the col-du-sac to help me deliver my Sadie's invitation.

Well I must admit that I thought my idea for asking was pretty nifty, but in all honesty, it wasn't nearly as cool as the response. I don't think that I've ever seen a more well thought-out and creative response in my life, and I probably won't see one like it again! Don responded with a funny video that he'd made to put on YouTube. It was great to see the boys in my neighborhood be simultaneously tackled to the ground by my Sadie's date. I never thought I'd see that one I'll admit.