Archive for the ‘Distance Learning’ Category


Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Some of you will consider distance learning programs. Obviously these alternatives are growing very popular. With good reason. More and more of them are accredited. But be careful. Not all are accredited and some are actually more expensive than resident education. You should contact several graduate schools and ask them how they feel about admitting online students from your preferred undergraduate school.

There are four major components to college admission:

  • An SAT or ACT score
  • A Completed Transcript
  • References
  • An Admission Essay(s)

By far the most important component to college admission is the SAT/ACT tests.

It is important to understand that the SAT I is an aptitude test, not an achievement test (like the Iowa Basics or Stanford Tests). The SAT II or Subject Area Exams are achievement tests. The SAT I is a math and English test—there is no history, science, or any otheer subjects on the exam (although students will need these other subject for college admission).

The College Board® claims that almost 4 out of every 5 American colleges require the SAT I. That is not bad news. Christian students in general, home schooled Christian students in particular, are doing very well on the SAT I. Evangelical Christians should view preparation for the SAT I as an opportunity to grapple with an important question: Can they become what God is calling them to be? They won’t have the whole answer to this vital question at the end of their SAT preparation, but this can be a first step.

Students usually take the SAT I during the second semester of their junior year or first semester of their senior year. It measures their potential success in college, but it does not necessarily measure their information acquisition and assimilation skills. It has absolutely nothing at all to do with a student’s worth or esteem in God’s eyes.

The math portion and the verbal portion of the SAT are much different from the SAT some of us took several decades ago. There are more analysis questions, vocabulary is understood almost entirely in context, and there will be exercises requiring students to compare two reading passages. They will even have to write in some answers, instead of just picking a letter! There will be no antonyms on the SAT I, but double the number of reading comprehension questions. Finally, students will be allowed to use a calculator to help them with the math portion of the exam.
Vocabulary development is critical. As a matter of fact, I judge that 40 percent of the questions on the 2004 verbal portion of the SAT are related to vocabulary. Since analogies will be dropped and vocabulary problems will be increased, there are indications that that percentage will decrease on the 2005 exam. But that does not mean that students should ignore vocabulary development. Therefore, more than ever, it is vital that students learn the Latin/Greek roots of words. Also they should learn to define words in context. It is a waste of time for students to memorize the 500 most frequently used words on the SAT I. A better approach is to read good books (a list is included in the back of The SAT and College Preparation Course for the Christian Student).

Higher level critical thinking is important to high SAT I scores. The SAT I is a cognitive, developmentally-based exam which assumes that students learn in stages. Bloom’s Taxonomy is frequently a reference resource for cognitive developmental thinking. Bloom’s Taxonomy argues that students learn in six stages. Most of the questions on the SAT I are based on the bottom and most challenging three levels: analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. As a matter of fact, unless students are able to function at these higher thinking levels, they are doomed to manifest scores below 1000.
Sixty percent of the 2004 SAT I concerns critical reading exercises. That percentage will increase to eighty percent with the 2005 exam. In fact, the College Board is renaming the verbal section of the SAT I “Critical Reading Section.” This change in titling shows how serious the College Board folks are about critical reading. The verbal section will no longer include analogies. Instead, short reading passages will be added to existing long reading passages. A new section called the SAT writing section will be added. It will contain multiple-choice grammar questions as well as a written essay. That is good news to most classical-educated students who have spent years studying grammar and writing.

Welty’s Use of the Journey Motif in “A Worn Path”

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

by Julia

Eudora Welty’s famous short stories continue to capture the imagination of readers everywhere. She is never predictable, never angry, but so brutally honest This great, and sometimes terrible, truth is seen most clearly through her characters. They are the beautiful, the slave, the child, and the tortured soul: Welty writes through the eyes of a hundred different people. One of her stories, “The Worn Path,” demonstrates this. Welty uses the journey of an old Negro woman to turn an otherwise unnoticed, but no less extraordinary, occurrence into something redeeming. “A Worn Path” tells the story of Phoenix Jackson, a grandmother who sets out on a long walk to town.

Welty’s motif is very consistent throughout the text. Rather like a small child on some great treasure quest, so Jackson marches along, refusing to allow anything to stop her. Her childlike determination is seen through a constant dialogue with the surrounding forest and herself. Behind an old, poor, beaten down woman there is a voice of great innocence. Behind her childish and naive murmurings, however Grandma Jackson is really a wise woman.

“Old Phoenix said, `Out of my way, all you foxes, owls, beetles, jack rabbits, coons and wild animals!…Keep out from under these feet, little bob-wwhites…Keep the big wild hogs out of my path. Don’t let nonne of those come running in my direction. I got a long way.’ Under her small black-freckled hand her cane, limber as a buggy whip, wo uld switch at the brush as if to rouse up any hiding things.”

Jackson’s journey is both literal and figurative. In the story, she is walking a worn path to town, and in her head, instead of absentmindedly thinking, she is journeying through her life. In this, the reader sees the true purpose of Welty’s motif. Despite the fact that Jackson is half-blind and over eighty-years old, she does not see her treacherous path as particularly dangerous. She plods it with the same determination that has characterized the rest of her life. There is no turning back. She is bigger, stronger, faster, and smarter. In Jackson’s mind, the odds are already overcome; she has traveled this journey many times before. She knows her strength, choosing to forget her handicaps:

“At the foot of this hill was a place where a log was laid across the creek.
`Now comes the trial,’ said Phoenix.
Putting her right foot out, she mounted the log and shut her eyes. Lifting her skirt, leveling her cane fiercely before her, like a festival figure in some parade, she began to march across. Then she opened her eyes and she was safe on the other said.
`I wasn’t as old as I thought,’ she said.”

Welty reminds the reader of Jackson’s true self by infusing the plot with visual imagery. In her own picture of herself, Jackson is not only an old woman, but also a great hero. However, Welty offers moments, flashes of time, when the reader is jolted back into reality, and realizes Jackson’s true identity:

“A black dog with a lolling tongue came up out of the weeds by the ditch. She was meditating, and not ready, and when he came at her she only hit him a little with her cane. Over she went in the ditch, like a little puff of milkweed.

Down there, her senses drifted away…`Olld woman,’ she said to herself, `that black dog come up out of the weeds to stall you off, and now there he sitting on his fine tail, smiling at you.”

The description, “little puff of milkweed” compares Jackson to a small, pale, fragile flower. Her tumble into the ditch reminds both herself, and the reader, that the journey is not over, but she is not as young as before. Jackson’s attitude suggests that, perhaps, if one forgets their inabilities, their flaws and weaknesses, there is a possibility of achieving great things despite one’s limitations.
Phoenix Jackson has had a long journey through life. As a black woman, her experiences have been more difficult than most. Just as she fearlessly travels to bring her little grandson medicine, so she continues to travel through life. She accepts no help and asks for no favors. Her pride is laughable to some, yet there is a great dignity that she makes no attempt to hide. Her journey is the journey, not only of herself, but also of her family, of her heritage

Dreams of Glass Menagerie Characters

Friday, June 19th, 2009

Tennessee Williams’ renowned play, The Glass Menagerie, is the intense, evocative, and at the same time incomplete, embodiment of an American family. Despite the fact that its characters are static and rather shallow, the plot predictable?, and the dialogue familiar, Williams skillfully navigates the reader through a host of familial troubles. This play focuses on the Wingfield’s: the mother, Amanda; daughter, Laura; and eldest son, Tom. Their complete disfunctionality only serves to heighten the appeal of Williams’ play. Most tragically, the characters have some dream, aspiration, or desire to which they cling. In the end, no dream is truly fulfilled.

Amanda, the mother, is perhaps the least stable character. Amanda does not have a firm grasp on reality, and so spends her days mulling over fabricated memories of gentlemen callers, popularity, and the wealth she never had:

“AMANDA: They knew how to entertain their gentlemen callers. It wasn’t enough for a girl to be possessed of a pretty face and graceful figure—although I wasn’t slighted in either respect. She also needed to have a nimble wit and a tongue to meet all occasions…My callers were gentlemenâ—all! Among my callers were some of the most prominent young planters of the Mississippi Delta—planters and sons of planters!

[Tom motions for music and a spot of light on Amanda. Her eyes lift, her face glows, her voice becomes rich and elegiac.]”

Amanda’s formerly glamorous and elegant past becomes an obsession, and, even more dangerous, she begins to imprint her obsession on her daughter, Laura. She wants Laura to be the same beautiful social butterfly that she herself was. Amanda’s dream is to have a perfect daughter, for Laura to have a high-paying job, many beaux, and popularity. She resents the twist of fate that took her away from the Deep South and into the North. It is this attitude that shows Amanda to be shallow, demanding, and conditional. She cannot accept her own daughter, and so embarks on a quest to recreate Laura, no matter how untrue this person is to Laura’s real self. She simply says, “All girls are a trap, a pretty trap, and men expect them to be.”

Laura is neither beautiful nor a social butterfly. In contrast, she wears a brace to correct a bend in her leg, is sickly and plain, and shows no desire for a high paying job or fashion. Most of all, Laura is painfully shy, a result of her mother’s constant attempts to socialize her. Her one interest is a small glass “menagerie” that she has collected over the years. In other words, Laura is the exact opposite of Amanda’s ideal daughter:

“LAURA: [rising] Mother, let me clear the table.

AMANDA: No, dear you go in front and study your typewriter chart. Or practice your shorthand a little. Stay fresh and pretty! It’s almost time for our gentlemen callers to start arriving. [She flounces girlishly toward the kitchenette]

…LAURA: [Alone in the dining room] I don’t believe we’re going to receive any, Mother.

AMANDA: [reappearing airily] What? No one—not one? You mustt be joking! …Not one gentlemen caller? It can’t be true!! There mus t be a flood, there must have been a tornado!

LAURA: It isn’t a flood, it’s not a tornado. I’m just not popular like you were in Blue Mountain…I’m going to be an old maid.â”

Laura’s ultimate dream is to be loved and accepted for who she is, not who she could be. Amanda’s conditional love is not enough for the frail and simple-minded Laura. She also wishes to be rid of her physical defect, to be beautiful and, most of all, free of her mother. Laura’s shyness makes her as vulnerable and conspicuous as the glass figures in her “menagerie.”

The narrator, Tom, is another very important character. Like his sister, Tom is smothered and exasperated by Amanda’s constant demands. His job as a factory worker takes him away from home most of the day, and often into the night. This dreary work depresses and frustrates Tom, an otherwise free-spirited youth. Much like the author himself, Tom is seen as an outsider; he is creative and artistic, but nonetheless alienated from sophisticated society. He is the quintessential loner.

The frustration of work, combined with Amanda’s constant nagging, produces a very discontent young man. Tom is unable to go out or enjoy himself with friends; every time he attempts to “have a little fun” Amanda rebukes him for being lazy. Gradually, Tom begins to see that Laura’s confinement and his mother’s utter ridiculousness will only serve to drive him mad:

TOM: Listen! You think I’m crazy about the warehouse? [He bends fiercely towards her slight figure.] You think I’m in love with the Continental Shoemakers? …Every time yoou come in yelling that goddamn “Rise and Shine!” “Rise and Shine!” I say to myself, “How lucky dead people are.” …And you say self—selfâ€f’s all I ever think of. Why, listen, if self is what I thought of Mother, I’d be where he is—GONE! [He points to his father’s picture.] As far as the system of transportation reaches!”

In reality, Tom’s dream is to follow in his father’s footsteps, leave the family and never come back. In the end, he does. Tom abandons Amanda and Laura just like he had always wanted.

The dreams of Amanda, Laura are never fulfilled. Tom is the only one who experiences a kind of satisfaction. His dream is cruelly carried out. He realizes that as long as he is with his mother and sister, there will never be anything but discord. The frail Laura is too cowardly to resist her mother’s intentions, and so has to be content with her glass “menagerie,” both literally and figuratively. Amanda is too delusional to realize her own needs, much less those of others. The remaining Wingfield’s are no longer a family, but a group of bitter and desperately lonely people.–Julia

Purpose of Juana in The Pearl

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

Based on a Mexican folk tale, The Pearl, written by John Steinbeck, centers around the story of Kino, a poverty-stricken Mexican pearl diver who struggles to provide for his family. One fateful day, his young son Coyotito is stung by a scorpion. In desperation, Kino returns to the ocean to find a pearl valuable enough to pay a doctor. The pearl he finds is the size of a seagull’s egg, enough to pay the doctor and much more. With the pearl comes hope, the promise of a new life, and the ability to rise above poverty. However, the pearl only serves to create a vicious circle of cruelty, greed, and corruption within Kino’s own village. He, his wife Juana, and Coyotito are forced to flee, resulting in even greater tragedy. In the end, Kino looks at the pearl and sees nothing but death, horror, and evil. He flings it back into the ocean, left with nothing but anger and grief.
Perhaps one of the most important characters in this book is Kino’s wife, Juana. Despite her quiet and almost vague demeanor, it is Juana who predicts the tragic turn of events before they happen. It is Juana who senses the evil song of the pearl, and attempts to drown it out with love. In her own way, it is Juana who is the tragic heroine. When Kino first comes to her with the pearl, Juana is overjoyed, sharing her husband’s dreams of leaving behind poverty and oppression. However, Juana is more and more assured that the pearl is a symbol of evil, not hope.
One of the most obvious questions raised by the reader is why Juana allows her husband to keep the pearl. Why does she not voice her opinions more openly? From the beginning, it is clear that Juana is much more practical and cautious than her husband. As in many Hispanic cultures, Juana looks on her husband as the ultimate authority, one that should only be questioned under extreme duress. In addition, she loves Kino and trusts him. Juana pushes aside her own instincts to trust those of her husband:

“Juana watched him [Kino] with worry, but she knew him and she knew she could help him best by being silent and by being near. And as though she too could hear the Song of Evil, she fought it, singing softly the melody of the family, of the safety and warmth and wholeness of the family. She held Coyotito in her arms and sang the song to him, to keep the evil out, and her voice was brave against the threat of the dark music.”

Despite having little education, Juana is not an ignorant woman, possessing more common sense than the resourceful Kino. In reality, Juana attempts to resist her husband’s wishes, even trying to throw the pearl back into the ocean, only to be beaten by her husband. Most importantly, Juana realizes that they are extremely poor, and will very likely stay that way, even with the pearl. It sounds crue l, but she knew the limitations of their society. She knows that poor Mexican pearl divers cannot find such a precious and rare pearl and expect to keep it, at least not without a fight.

Unlike Kino, Juana recognizes that their place in society is unchanging. She believes that things will go much smoother if Kino stays the same, if her family stays the same. She would rather protect what little they have than give it all away on a whim. Juana knows that if the pearl proves to be as evil as it seems, she, Kino, and Coyotito will lose everything. In the end, Kino does lose everything that he has worked so hard to obtain. Ultimately, he is cut off from his family, utterly blind, and completely guilty.

Juana accepts her fate with quiet solemnity. She forgives Kino for the death of their son, and is the same, quiet, submissive wife she has always been. The book ends too abruptly to ascertain anything deeper than this from her manner. She is heartbroken, but suffers stoically, never crying or voicing emotion. In a way, this silence is tragic. Neither Kino nor Juana can grieve for very long, it will only make matters worse. They have to keep20on living, taking and using what little the earth has given them. Juana’s only satisfaction is watching the pearl, a symbol of such evil, be thrown away:

“Kino and Juana watched it go, winking and glimmering under the setting sun. They saw the little splash in the distance, and they stood side by side watching the place for a long time.

And the pearl settled into the lovely green water and dropped toward the bottom….A crab scampering over thee bottom raised a little cloud of sand, and when it settled the pearl was gone.

And the music of the pearl drifted to a whisper and disappeared.”

The Pearl is a tragic example of how greed and recklessness destroy a family, and almost an entire livelihood. Although Kino himself is not greedy, he refuses to listen to the wisdom of his wife, Juana. If he had, there would have been little or no trouble; their son’s death could be avoided. Kino trusts the pearl more than he trusts his wife. Strangely, the pearl’s evil is seen only by Juana, the one person who rejects her husband’s idea of riches and glory. –Julia


Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

from a distance learning student–

At the age of thirty-five, on the night of Good Friday in the year 1300, Dante finds himself lost in a dark wood and full of fear. He sees a sun-drenched mountain in the distance, and he tries to climb it, but three beasts, a leopard, a lion, and a she-wolf, stand in his way. Dante is forced to return to the forest where he meets the spirit of Virgil, who promises to lead him on a journey through Hell so that he may be able to enter Paradise. Dante agrees and follows Virgil though the gates of Hell.

The two poets enter the vestibule of Hell where the souls of the uncommitted are tormented by biting insects and damned to chase a blank banner around for eternity. The poets reach the banks of the river Acheron where souls await passage into Hell proper. The ferryman, Charon, reluctantly agrees to take the poets across the river to Limbo, the first circle of Hell, where Virgil permanently resides. In Limbo, the poets stop to speak with other great poets, Homer, Ovid, Horace, and Lucan, and then enter a great citadel where philosophers reside.

Dante and Virgil enter Hell proper, the second circle, where the sinners of the Incontinence begin. Here, the monster Minos sits in judgmen t of all the damned, and sends them to the proper circle according to their sin. Here, Dante meets Paolo and Francesca, the two unfaithful lovers buffeted about in a windy storm.

The poets move on to the third circle, the Gluttons, who are guarded by the monster Cerberus. These sinners spend eternity wallowing in mud and mire, and here Dante recognizes a Florentine, Ciacco, who gives Dante the first of many negative prophesies about him and Florence.

Upon entering the fourth circle, Dante and Virgil encounter the Hoarders and the Wasters, who spend eternity rolling giant boulders at one another. They move to the fifth circle, the marsh comprising the river Styx, where Dante is accosted by a Florentine, Filippo Argenti, one amongst the Wrathful that fight and battle one20another for eternity in the mire of the Styx.

The city of Dis begins Circle VI, the realm of the violent. The poets enter and find themselves in Circle VI, realm of the Heretics, who reside among the thousands in burning tombs. Dante stops to speak with two sinners, Farinata degli Uberti, Dante’s Ghibelline enemy, and Cavalcante dei Cavalcanti, father of Dante’s poet friend, Guido.

The poets then begin descending through a deep valley. Here they meet the Minotaur and see a river of boiling blood, the Plegethon, where those violent against their neighbors, tyrants, and war-makers reside, each in a depth according to their sin. Virgil arranges for the Ce ntaur, Nessus, to take them across the river into the second round of circle seven, the Suicides. Here Dante speaks with the soul of Pier delle Vigne and learns his sad tale. In the third round of Circle VII, a desert wasteland awash in a rain of burning snowflakes, Dante recognizes and speaks with Capaneus, a famous blasphemer. He also speaks to his beloved advisor and scholar, Brunetto Latini. This is the round held for Blasphemers, Sodomites, and the Usurers.

The poets enter Circle VIII, which contains ten chasms. The first chasm houses the Panderers and the Seducers who spend eternity lashed by whips. The second chasm houses the Flatters, who reside in a channel of excrement. The third chasm houses the Simonists, who are plunged upside-down in baptismal fonts with the soles of their feet on fire. Dante speaks with Pope Nicholas, who mistakes him for Pope Boniface. In the fourth20chasm, Dante sees the Fortune Tellers and Diviners, who spend eternity with their heads on backwards and their eyes clouded by tears. At the fifth chasm, the poets see the sinners of Graft plunged deeply into a river of boiling pitch and slashed at by demons. At the sixth chasm, the poets encounter the Hypocrites, mainly religious men damned to walk endlessly in a circle wearing glittering leaden robes. The chief sinner here, Caiaphas, is crucified on the ground, and all of the other sinners must step on him to pass. Two jovial friars tell the poets the way to the seventh chasm, where the Thieves have their hands cut off and spend eternity among vipers that transform them into serpents by biting them. They, in turn, must bite another sinner to take back a human form. At the eighth chasm Dante sees many flames that conceal the souls of the Evil Counselors. Dante speaks to Ulysses, who gives him an account of his death. At the ninth chasm, the poets see a mass of horribly mutilated bodies. They were the sowers of discord, such as Mahomet. They are walking in a circle. By the time they come around the circle, their wounds knit, only to be opened again and again. They arrive at the tenth chasm, the Falsifiers. Here they see the sinners afflicted with terrible plagues, some unable to move, some picking scabs off one another.

They arrive at the Circle IX. It is comprised of a giant frozen lake, Cocytus, in which the sinners are stuck. As they approach the well of circle nine, Dante believes that he sees towers in the distance, which turn out to be the Giants. One of the Giants, Antaeus, takes the poets on his palm and gently places them at the bottom of the well. Circle IX is composed of four rounds, each housing sinners, according to the severity of their sin. In the first round, Caina, the sinners are frozen up to their necks in ice. In the second round, Antenora, the sinners are frozen closer to their heads. Here Dante accidentally kicks a tr aitor in the head, and when the traitor will not tell him his name, Dante treats him savagely. Dante hears the terrible story of Count Ugolino, who is gnawing the head and neck of Archbishop Ruggieri, due to Ruggieri’s treacherous treatment of him in the upper world. In the third round, Ptolomea, where the Traitors to Guests reside, Dante speaks with a soul who begs him to take the ice visors, formed from tears, out of his eyes. Dante promises to do so, but after hearing his story, refuses. The fourth round of Circle IX, and the very final pit of Hell, Judecca, houses the Traitors to Their Masters, who are completely covered and fixed in the ice, and Satan, who is fixed waist deep in the ice and has three heads, each of which is chewing a traitor; Judas, Brutus, and Cassius.

The poet’s climb Satan’s side, passing the center of gravity, and find themselves at the edge of the river Lethe, ready to make the long journey to the upper world. They enter the upper world just before dawn on Easter Sunday, and they see the stars overhead. –zac

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

From a distance learning student

Written by a fourteenth-century poet whose name is unknown, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is recognized as an equal of Chaucer’s masterworks and of the great Old English poems. The book itself combines two universally popular and immutable plots: a martial arts contest and a temptation scene with a beautiful woman.

The First of these, “A martial arts contest,” Is the awful challenge which the green knight fearlessly offers to Arthur’s court, “If they’ll dare it, any of these eager knights, rise so boldly, so fierce, so wild, and give a blow and take a blow, I’ll offer this noble axe and let them.” (Sir Gawain and the Green Knight pg. 56)

The Knight, whom the challenge readily fell on, was Sir Gawain. Answering with an oath to the promise of coming to find the Green Knight the next Christmas, Sir Gawain confidently, “hefted the axe, swung it high in both hands, balancing his left foot in front of him, then quickly brought it down. The Blade cut through bones and skin and fair white flesh, spilt the green man’s neck so swiftly that its edge slashed the ground. And the head fell to the earth, rolled on the floor, and the knights kicked it with their feet.”

It should have all been over then…bbut to the astonishment of those watching, the headless man walked over, picked up his head, and repeated to Sir Gawain, his oath. He then rode away on his horse.

Later, at the next Christmas, Gawain went on his quest, but ended up in a castle on his way. It was there that the second plot comes in to action.

In that castle, there was a woman. She was beautiful, but she was also deceptive. From the very first day that he was there, she watched him and teased him. Making him promise to kiss him, and complemented him on, “His beauty, his grace and his cheerful ways.”

She kept this game up until the night before he had to leave and go to meet the green knight; then she offered him a gift. At first he declined it, “My lady fair, in God’s own name there’s nothing I can take, not now, when I’ve nothing to give in return.” But then, when she offered him her belt and told him, “You refuse this silk, which seems such a trifle? So it may seem. See how small it is! And how slight. But whoever knows what’s woven in its threads would value it rather more I suppose: For any man bound with this belt, this green lace locked around him, can never be killed, here under God’s own heaven—no blow, no trickk, nothing can hurt him.” Then Gawain hesitated, he knew he was afraid, and he longed for that protection, “like a thief for a gem.” So he took it, and agreed to it being a secret.

Next, the knight met the green knight, and unbarred his neck for the stroke. The Green man, “struck hard, but hurt him only with a nick , that snipped the skin.” Gawain then threw his helmet on the ground, and told the green man to stop, as was the oath: “stroke for stroke.”

Then the truth comes out, as the green man says that he swung for no other reason than that he kissed his wife, and was wearing his green belt. Then Sir Gawain in disgust threw the belt on the ground and says, “A curse on cowardice and a curse on greed! They shatter chivalry, their vice destroys virtue.” The Green knight is more forgiving, and picking up the belt he says, “The damage you did me is cured, it’s gone. You stand confessed so clean, you took such plain penance at the point of my axe, that I hold you cleansed, as pure in heart as if from your birth to this day you’d never sinned! And Gawain, I give you this belt, as green as my gown. Remember your challenge, here as you walk your way among knights and princes, keep this token for chivalrous men to know your adventure at the green chapel.”

Thus, although there are two separate plot threads for most of the book, they are tied together in an inexpressible beauty at the end. With the repentance20of the knight, and the token of the green belt, Sir Gawain himself, would forever remember both plots. –Anna Marie

The Passionate Shepherd to His Love

Monday, June 15th, 2009

From a distance learning student

Around 1593, Christopher Marlowe wrote his famous poem, “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love.” In it he woos and begs his love to, “Come live with me and be my Love.” He promises her, “A cap of flowers,” and “A belt of straw and ivy buds with coral clasps and amber studs.”

In 1599 Sir Walter Raleigh answered with his famous poem, “The Nymph’s reply to the shepherd.” In it he throws down all of the pleasure the shepherd had promised, “Thy gowns, they shoes, thy bed of roses, thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies, soon break, soon wither—soon forgotten, in folly rippe, in reason rotten.”

In style the two poems are very much the same; but in theme they are very different.

In his poem, Christopher Marlowe portrays both a dreamy and passionate feeling. Dreamy because he is promising more than he could ever give, “fair lined slippers for the cold, with buckles of the purest gold,” And passionate because his love is so great that he keeps promising and luring the nymph through the entire poem.

In his reply, Sir Walter Raleigh does an excellent job at copying the passion of Marlowe’s p oem, “But could youth last, and love still breed, had joys no date, nor age no need, then theses delights my mind might move to live with thee and be thy love.” But the dreamy feeling of promises he shatter s as the nymph brings back to reality, that all his promised gifts, “Soon break, soon wither—soon forgotten.”

The theme of the “Passionate shepherd to his love” is easily discerned. It is a beautiful request, that was lovingly thought up by a poor shepherd.

They theme of “The Nymph’s reply to the Shepherd,” is also easily found. It is a heartrending, “I can’t.” It brings back to earth the foolishness of all the shepherds dreams…but is none the less tragic. >

Christopher Marlowe would have rather left it at an earnest heartfelt request…but Sir Walter Raleigh couldnn’t let it rest at that, and felt it needed a passionate, tragic answer. So he wrote the “Nymph’s reply to the shepherd,” an d now they go together. –Anna Marie

All Quiet on the Western Front

Friday, June 12th, 2009

From a distance learning student

Erich Maria Remarque employs symbolism quite frequently in his novel All Quiet on the Western Front. A good example of this symbolism are Kemmerich’s boots, which get passed from soldier to soldier as, one by one, they die.

The boots are first introduced when Kemmerich is on his deathbed, although he has not realized that yet. Paul Baumer, the narrator, comes to visit Kemmerich, along with his buddies Kropp and Muller. All three of them can see that Kemmerich will be dead within a day, but though they have been friends since childhood, they do not show any sympathy. Instead, they focus on Kemmerich’s boots, which are much better quality than any of their own. Kemmerich, not realizing that his leg has been amputa ted, and that he will soon be dead, refuses to give up his boots, much to Muller’s disappointment. After they leave, the boots are all he can talk about: “They would fit me perfectly. In these boots I get blister after blister. Do you think he will last till tomorrow after drill?” [Chapter 1] Baumer explains to the reader, “We have lost all sense of other considerations, because they are artificial. Only the facts are real and important for us. And good boots are scarce.” [Chapter 2] The men are not wholly without feeling, however. On Baumer’s second visit to Kemmerich, he thinks to himself, “There he lies now—but why? The whole world ought to pass by this bed and say: ‘That is Franz Kemmerich, nineteen and a half years old, he doesn’t want to die. Let him not die!’” [Chapter 2] In spite of this, Kemmerich dies, and the boots are passed on to Muller, much to his satisfaction.

They are not enough, however, to save Muller from the same fate as Kemmerich. “Somewhat shot him point-blank in the stomach with a Verey light,” Baumer recalls. “He lived for half an hour, quite conscious, and in terrible pain. Before he died he handed over his pocket-book to me, and bequeathed me his boots. I wear them, for they fit me quite well. After me Tjaden will get them, I have promised them to him.” [Chapter 11] Tjaden does not have to wait long; within a few months, Baumer is killed, and the boots are passed on.

Throughout the book, Remarque suggests the bitterly ironic idea that a pair of boots should be more valuable, and more durable, than the lives of the owners. And this, indeed, appears to be the case. Soldiers are hurled at the enemy without pause, in spite of ridiculously high casualty rates. In one battle, 120 of the 150 men in Baumer’s division are killed. [Chapter 6] Food and clothing, on the other hand, become increasingly valuable. At one point, Baumer and his friends r emain in a house which is being bombarded by the enemy, simply because they have not yet finished cooking their dinner. [Chapter 10] However, when Baumer’s friends die one by one, he suppresses his feelings, knowing that they would destroy him if he let them have their way

Before Baumer dies, he writes: “Let the months and years come, they can take nothing from me, they can take nothing more. I am so alone, and so without hope that I can confront them without fear.” [Chapter 12] The boots help to underline this hopelessness the soldiers struggle with, and which ultimately becomes the central theme of the novel.–Jonathan

Crime and Punishment

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

From a distance learning student

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel, Crime and Punishment, focuses especially on the relationship between Raskolnikov, the protagonist, and Sonia, a young girl who has been forced into prostitution because of her family’s poverty.

Raskolnikov, desperate for money, plans murders an old pawnbroker and her sister, convincing himself that he is somehow above the moral law. He gives some money away to the poor, including Sonia’s family, but his conscience is not at rest. Despairing, he comes to Sonia and says brazenly, “But, perhaps, there is no God at all.”[1] Sonia is shocked—despite heer shameful lifestyle, her faith in God’s mercy has remained absolute. Thus, when she sees Raskolnikov, a man she assumes to be quite innocent and good-natured, she is naturally surprised. “What should I be without God?” she asks. “And what does God do for you?” Raskolnikov responds. “He does everything,” she confesses simply.[1]

Despite Raskolnikov’s intellectual and hardened mind, Sonia’s simple faith leaves a great impression on him. He decides, though he himself is unsure why, that he must tell Sonia about the murder, and he does this on his next visit. To his great astonishment, Sonia, instead of lamenting or turning him out, protests that there is no one as unhappy as he is, and that she will follow him to Siberia. “Perhaps I don’t want to go to Siberia yet, Sonia,”[2] he replies miserably. After a few minutes, she instructs him: “Go at once, at this very minute, stand at the cross-roads, bow down, first kiss the earth which you have defiled and then bow down to all the world and say to all men aloud, ‘I am a murderer!’ Then God will send you life again.”[2] “No! I am not going to them, Sonia!” he cries, but he goes home feeling miserable, beginning to wonder if he should actually turn himself in. He eventually decides that he must, and goes to see Sonia a final time. Sonia gives him a cross, and her blessing, after which he goes to the police station and turns himself in. Sonia follows him all the way.

Raskolnikov, after the trial and conviction, is exiled to Siberia for eight years. He does not yet accept, however, the fact that he has transgressed a moral law: “Crime? What crime?” he asks, “That I killed a vile noxious insect, an old pawnbroker woman, of use to no one!…Killing her was atonement for forty sins. She was sucking the life out of poor people. Was that a crime? I am not thinking of it and I am not thinking of expiating it, and why are you all rubbing it in on all sides?”[3] Instead, he turned himself in because his pride will not let him kill himself, and he wanted to prove to himself that he was not afraid. Sonia follows him to Siberia, but at first he ignores her. Gradually, however, he accepts her and even comes to love her, although he still does not admit that he sinned. Finally, at the end of the book, in a moment of ecstasy he realizes his sin, and Sonia’s great love for him, and he throws himself at her feet, weeping. “She (Sonia) knew and had no doubt that he loved her beyond everything and that at last the moment had come…”[4] He finally realizes her untiring love for him, and together, they turn to face life anew…. “But that is thee beginning of a new story—the story of the gradual renewal of a maan, the story of his gradual regeneration, of his passing from one world into another, of his initiation into a new unknown life…” [44]

In conclusion, the relationship between Raskolnikov and Sonia is very remarkable, especially considering from where they each started. –Jonathan

[1] Part 4, Chapter 4.
[2] Part 5, Chapter 4.
[3] Part 6, Chapter 7.
[4] Epilogue, Chapter 2.

Nectar in a Sieve

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

From a distance learning student

Change, and the way the characters respond to it, is a major theme in Kamala Markandaya’s fictional novel, Nectar in a Sieve. Many cha racters are raised up, and countless others are cast down, mostly depending on how they respond to the change At first Rukmani and her husband are prosperous and happy together, wanting nothing. Regardless of what they want, however, change soon comes to their small village. Rukmani writes: “Change I had known before, and it had been gradual. My father had been a headman once, a person of consequence in our village: I had lived to see him relinquish this importance, but the alteration was so slow that we hardly knew when it came. I had seen both my parents sink into old age and death, and here too there was no violence. But the change that now came into my life, into all of our lives, blasting its way into our village, seemed wrought in the twinkling of an eye.”[Ch.4] Although all that happens is that a tannery is built in their village, Rukmani can see that it will change their lives drastically. With the tannery comes the rest modern world: Dirty village streets, bars, brothels, and more. Three of her sons are employed at the tannery, much to their father’s disap pointment, as he wanted them to work on the land. One of them is killed by the tannery’s guards. Her eldest daughter, Ira, is forced into prostitution, to avoid starving to death. Eventually, the tannery buys their land as well, forcing them to move away. Rukmani writes again, concerning the tannery: “…Since then it had spread liike weeds in an untended garden, strangling whatever life grew in its way. It had changed the face of our village beyond recognition and altered the lives of its inhabitants in a myriad ways. Some—a few—had been raised up; many others cast down, lost in itss clutches…There had been a time when we, too, had benefited, butt we had lost more than we had gained or could ever regain. Ira had ruined herself at the hands of the throngs that the tannery attracted. My sons had left because it frowned on them; one of them had been destroyed by its ruthlessness…” [Ch.23]

The tannery helps outline the conflict between the old customs and=2 0the new world, but there are many other examples as well. Kennington, a European doctor who works among the village people, is one such example. A flood leaves most of the village in ruins, but the people meekly start rebuilding, hoping and praying for better times. “We have a little rice—it will last us until times are better,” Rukmani says hoppefully. “Times are better, times are better,” Kennington raves, “Times will not be better for many months. Meanwhile you will suffer and die, you meek, suffering fools. Why do you keep this ghastly silence? Why do you not demand—cry out for help—do something? There is nothing in this country, oh God, there is nothing!” [Ch.7] In another encounter, Kennington says scornfully, “Acquiescent imbeciles! Do you think spiritual grace comes from being in want, or from suffering? What thoughts have you when your belly is empty or your body is sick? Tell me they are noble ones and I will call you a liar.” Rukmani replies patiently, “Yet our priests fast,20and inflict on themselves severe punishments, and we are taught to bear our sorrows in silence, and all this is so that the soul may be cleansed.” “My God!” he cries hopelessly, “I do not understand you. I never will.” [Ch.19] Although the Indian customs are different, Kennington eventually learns to live with them, and even comes to love the village people.

The most sudden change, however, comes when Rukmani and her husband are driven from their land, and go to live in the city. All of their possessions are stolen their first day in the city. They discover that their son has abandoned his wife, and gone off to “none-knows-where.” With nowhere to go, they take refuge in a temple, where they are fed once a day and sheltered through the night. They are employed at a quarry, earning good wages, but they come to hate the city. “With each passing day the longing for the land grew,” she writes. “Our plans were forged against a background of brown earth and green fields and the ripe rustling paddy, not, curiously,20as they were, but as we had first known them…fresh,, open and unspoilt, with their delicate scents and sounds untainted, with the skies clear above them and the birds finding sanctuary amid the grasses. And at the same time, keeping pace with these longings, our distaste for the city grew and grew and became a sweeping, pervading hatred.” [Ch.27] Before they can leave, however, Rukmani’s husband falls sick, and dies the same night. “The days went by,” Rukmani recalls, “Nathan no longer beside me; no more. Ashes and dust, scattered to the winds, moistened by the rain, unrecognizable. I picked up the fragments of my life and put them together, all but the missing piece…” [Ch.299] Rukmani returns to her home soon after, accepting things as they are, simply glad to be home.

Change is an underlying theme throughout the novel. The characters that can adapt to the change prosper, while those who cannot adapt are destroyed. –Jonathan