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Final Class Paper: The Finale of English 255
Posted on December 9th, 2010 at 3:34 pm by sbaique and

Global literature 255 was a totally unexpected course I experienced this semester.  For some odd reason the readings assigned as part of the cannon and after the canon were quite different.  The readings that are designated to the canon, such as Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” are harder to digest and more complicated to interpret.  These are the types of readings one must really focus and concentrate on, texts that probably require a couple of readings to finally unlock.  However, the readings that came after the canon were easier to read through without getting frustrated on the meaning of the text.  Junot Diaz was my favorite author for the course and Drown impacted my thoughts in many ways.  Hemmingway’s The Sun also Rises was a great work of art from the canon.  Hemmingway and Diaz are two different kinds of writers, but they are also similar in some ways.  Both are good examples of how this course has expanded its readings not only to those in the canon, but those latest writers who should be included in the canon. 

            The Sun also Rises is a story taking place in the 1920’s, when Prohibition was passed.  Many of the story’s characters, such as Brett, Jake, and Mike spend their time in France and in Spain.  The male characters also all happen to be in love with the same woman, Brett.  Even Robert, Jake’s Jewish friend, ends up having an affair with Brett in Madrid.  Robert is supposed to be engaged to Frances.  Brett is the perfect example of this new type of powerful woman.  Generally, people expect this type of behavior from a man, but Brett reverses this belief.  Brett is independent and modern and she is sexually free because she allows herself to have sex with whomever she pleases.  She is just like one of the chaps and we can clearly see this because throughout the whole book, she is the only woman in the group of men that includes Jake, Robert, and Mike.  What’s also interesting is how Mike allows such behavior from her end, but is enormously disturbed with Robert’s presence around them all the time.  He even tells Robert that it is one thing to have an affair with Brett, it’s another to show his face around.  Mike knows that Brett has constant affairs with men, but none ever come around Brett when she is with Mike.  This shows how Brett is the macho in the relationship because she takes control and as a man, Mike fails to keep his woman in place, like all men are “suppose” to do. 

            The group’s trip to Spain brings them the enjoyment of bull fighting, and for Brett, another love affair.  Bull-fighting is a bloody and messy activity, but also financially worthy if you are betting for the right bull fighter that wins you some money.  Bull-fighting can also be correlated with the love triangles depicted in the story.  All the affairs Brett has with the men causes trouble amongst them to a point that Robert and Mike physically fight each other.  It is odd that instead of taking their anger out on Brett, who causes the commotion, they turn against each other.  Additionally, Brett falls in love with the bull fighter Romero and has another affair yet again.  This time, Romero becomes extremely obsessed and possessive over her and even wants to marry her.  Brett says “He wanted me to grow my hair out…He said it would make me more womanly…I didn’t know whether I could make him go, he tried to give me money you know.  I told him I had scads of it.  He knew that was a lie…I couldn’t take his money, you know,” (The Sun Also Rises, 246).  Later on, she goes on to admit she is a bitch.  Its one thing to be a powerful woman and it’s another to use that power to play around with people’s feelings.  Perhaps this was a life lesson for Brett.  Romero was the only man of the story who stood up to Brett to the point that she got scared.  After all, he is a bull fighter and if he’s not scared of a bull fight, he surely will not be scared of a woman or neither let a woman take control of him and Brett failed to see this through.  Brett may never settle for marriage, but she needed a wake up moment to make her realize she wasn’t a young girl anymore that could play games. 

            I feel that The Sun also Rises was also a very realistic, modern story.  Hemmingway is unique because not a lot of writers can create stories that deal with people in the real world.  For one thing, his story says a lot about his stand on women with power.  I think Hemmingway, at least in those days, thought that a woman with power was favorable and realistic.  His story revolves around love affairs, which not a lot of writers dare to discuss.  In reality, people have love affairs all the time.  It’s not that Hemmingway was trying to convey the idea that a happy or faithful marriage or couple can’t exist.  It was more about implying that love is complicated and even today, marriage is not as common as it was decades ago.  I like Hemmingway because his story depicted matters that pertain to the real world. 

            Junot Diaz is a new 21st century writer and he is not included in the canon.  Although he may not be considered a classical writer, he was awarded the National Best Seller for his book Drown.  As a Latino, Diaz is considered a minority writer: he was born in the Dominic Republic.  He is also an example of how a minority can excel in the United States.  He received an M.F.A from Cornell University and he is a professor of Creative Writing at MIT, who also happens to be a marvelous writer.  Like Hemmingway, his stories depict actual real life events, especially of those who struggle as minorities in America.  Hemmingway’s stories are realistic about those who enjoy a luxurious life.  Drown is a novel that includes different stories such as “Aurora” and “Aguantando,” both of which deal with the hardships of those living among such harsh circumstances. 

            “Aurora” is a story that revolves around a teenage girl, around 16 years of age, who has no role model in life to look up to and spends her days and nights out and about on the streets.  She is already having sex and smokes weeds.  She hangs around with the wrong group of kids.  The narrator of the story is in love with Aurora, even though he knows she doesn’t come around much and probably also has sex with other guys, possibly one that always gives her the drugs.  Aurora is a street kid.  She has also done time in juvenile prison.  The narrator states “She’s living out of her bag again, on cigarettes and dirty clothes,” (49) when he finally meets up with her after a long time.  The first thing they do is have sex and the next morning, the narrator says “I see that she’s searched my pockets, left them hanging out of my pants like tongues,”(50).  But no matter how much pain her actions cause the narrator to suffer, he is still willing to go after her.  Like Brett, from The Sun also Rises, Aurora has this sexual power over men and she uses it to her advantage, especially when she knew she could get money out of the narrator. 

            In addition, the narrator still can’t seem to let her go even when she goes to juvenile prison again.  It’s also interesting how Aurora keeps in touch with him out of all people while she is in juvenile prison.  The narrator states “She sent me three letters from juvie and none of them said much, three pages of bullshit.  She talked about the food and how rough the sheets were, how she woke up ashy in the morning, like it was winter…I hope you doing good.  Don’t think bad about me.  And don’t let anybody sell my dogs either,” (63).  When she comes out again, the narrator is the first person she sees.  They don’t have sex.  They just talk “like we were normal folks.  Like maybe everything was fine,” (65).  The story ends and the readers don’t quite find out what happens with Aurora and the narrator.  Perhaps juvie time this time around may have changed Aurora or maybe she goes back to her same old street routines.  All in all, the story emphasizes the hardships of a girl who’s out by herself, facing the tough world alone. 

          “Aguantando” is the story of a family, particularly brothers, Junior and Rafa, who grow up fatherless.  Their father left to the states to find work and save up to bring the rest of the family to the states as well.  Junior states “We lived south of the Cementario Nacional in a wood frame house with three rooms.  We were poor.  The only way we could have been poorer was to have lived in the campo or to have been Haitian immigrants and Mami regularly offered these to us as brutal consolation,” (70).  So, the family was pretty much already poor before the father had left to the states and with him gone, they had to suffer even more without the extra help.  This is the same routine most immigrants follow when they try to accomplish their dreams by moving to America.  Usually, one person goes first to find work and starts bringing the others back to the states.  Back at the Dominican Republic, “Mami worked at Embajador Chocolate, putting in ten-twelve-hour shifts for almost no money at all,” (71).  It’s also a story about being a single mother.  We can see the hardships the mother goes through raising the boys by herself.  The mother would be too tired after work to cook dinner and when times got really bad financially, she would have to send them away with other family members, who were more financially stable, for a few weeks.  Diaz portrays a realistic life of immigrant families.  They have to go through alot to become financially stable in America. 

             There were alot of moments when the mother gave up on the idea of ever seeing her husband again so he can bring them back to the states.  It was shocking for her to get a letter saying he was finally really coming back for them.  Alot of families struggle emotionally and fall apart when it comes to achieving the American Dream.  “Aguantando” is a story of patience, but also an example of how it can be unprivaledged to not be born in America.  The boys became emotionally closer to their mother, even after the father showed up.  The father was gone for nine years and after a while, even the boys gave up on the idea of ever seeing their father again and got the idea he was playing games with them and their mother.  The American Dream may sound like a dream came true, but in reality, it causes alot of obstacles and challenges to overcome. 

       Hence, both Hemmingway and Diaz’s stories can be described as realistic events of life.  Hemmingway provides us with a sort of behind the scenes action of what goes on in the inner lives of the wealthy.  Diaz discusses realistic life issues that any type of minority can face.  In fact, the title Drown is relevant to his stories because the characters seem to hypothetically drown under their crucial circumstances.  Diaz and Hemmingway are realistic writers, but write in different styles.  Both are worthy of being included in the canon.  While these are both books not hard to decipher, one can get alot out of reading each book and can conclude different meanings and themes of each book.

“A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe”
Posted on December 9th, 2010 at 3:32 pm by sbaique and

Silence is an important theme in this section of the book because it is one of Maxine’s character traits in her life as a young girl.  Maxine is a Chinese American girl and we can see how she is conflicted with her identity.  She believes that if she is silent, she would be more American than Chinese.  So, in school, she attempts to be the silent girl all the time, until another silent girl comes alomg and Maxine admits she does not like this girl.  This is one point where her “madness” comes out.  Because of her insecurity, she starts teasing the girl and hitting her so that she can get the girl to speak.  She does not like the fact that they rank so close in class together.  Because Maxine is so paranoid, she believes that she got punished for her actions by getting sick and layin in bed for a year and a half. 

We can also see the rebellious side of Maxine.  As she gets older, she believes that her mother’s talk-stories are nonsense and that they are all lies.  She tells her mother she kiiles a spider once and confesses other things to which her mother responds by telling her to be quiet.  She even accusses her mother of trying to make her a slave to stop her from talking and her mother calls her something that she believes means someone who has all the advantages of being born in America.  Now when she is older, she looks back at these memories proudly.  If it weren’t for her mother’s talk-stories, she would not have any of these silly memories to look back on and smile.

Just Thoughts
Posted on December 7th, 2010 at 2:20 pm by sbaique and

As I sit here trying to digest this final paper, I ask myself, what is the point?  This was the toughest semester yet.  Actually, none of my previous semesters have been bad.  I usually can keep up with all the work no matter how challenging it gets.  I am sad and mad to say I am disappointed with myself this semester.  As a student, I know I have the potential to do better.  Education has always been important to me and I have always been a good student so I ask myself another question: What went wrong? 

 Well, I think out of all reasons that I could give, I probably over worked myself with this new job.  In October, I got promoted and I started working all these kinds of crazy shifts.  When I saw my paycheck, it was kind of hard to say no to the money.  I figured I am growing with the company so why not give it a chance.  I also figured that I am a senior in college and that I should be finishing up school so when I did, I wanted to have this safety net in terms of a job when I graduated.  I swore I was going to be able to handle the pressure except that my grades started slipping.  Once mid November came, I figured it was too late to do something about it because at that point it was a do or die thing for me.  Like my friend says, it’s funny the way life works. 

 To all my peers, please be advised, it probably isn’t a good idea to go to school full time and work a over full time job, no matter how much you may love the money.  If your going to go for it, be sure that you know what your doing.  It doesn’t matter what class standing you are.  Your gpa can go down faster than it can go back up.  As I write my final paper, I look back with regret.  I only wish that I can show that I at least did get something out of the class and that it wasn’t total jibberish.  I agree, like others, that some readings were probably not the most desirable ones to read and that it was a turn off indeed for most of us to put the readings down.  Then again, for me, I could have focused on the readings more if I didn’t have such a tight schedule.  All in all, good luck with your papers guys…best to all!

Maxines’s Mother
Posted on December 6th, 2010 at 10:41 pm by sbaique and

I think Maxine’s mother is an interesting character. Of course, the main difference between both stories is that in “Shaman,” Maxine’s mother is younger and in “At the Western Palace,” she is much older. In “Shaman,” her mother is the eldest girl in school and she is also already a mother. But, no one quite knows her real life story because she looks really young. She is also the wisest being that she is much older than the students so she is expected to have a certain amount of wisdom better than others. She is like the mother who tries to fit in a younger social group, except that everyone kind of accepts her and even look up to her when it comes to a test. Everyone takes turns sitting next to her in class during a test. In reality, she is suppose to be a much older woman but she plays the part of an adolescence because she still can get away with it.

In “At the Western Palace,” Maxine’s mother transforms completely. She transforms so much that even her own sister cannot recognize her. When she finally arrives at the airport, her sister is quite shocked at how much she has aged and teases her about it. We also discover that her husband left to the states before her and was suppose to bring her back along with their daughter. Instead, he abandons them and marries another woman with whom he also has children with. Maxine’s sister encourages her to confront him now that she is here and claim her right as his true wife and become his sons’ mother. However, Maxine’s mother opposes such an idea. She is a humble woman and she takes on a different attitude towards her ex-husband. Instead, she defends him saying that he gave her money and that is one of the reason’s her daughter was able to go to college so how could she possibly want more? Maxine’s mother is not a cold hearted woman nor does she hold a grudge against anyone who may have done her some harm. We can clearly see that her personality does not change much in both stories.

No Name Women
Posted on December 2nd, 2010 at 2:13 pm by sbaique and

In this section, Maxine claims to be a woman warrior because I think she basis her strenght on that of her aunt’s story.  Her mother told her the story of her aunt because she started to menstruate and she used the story as a way to scare her out of sex so she won’t shame the family.  When Maxine was told this, she was still a young girl.  To be told such a harsh story at that age, some might think that takes alot of strenght and bravery to take in, so that makes Maxine a woman warrior.  Warrior to me does not necessarily have to be meant in a violent way, but a way that means brave to be a woman.  Maxine puts alot of emphasis about being poor and a minority in the book, but she puts so much more about being a woman. 

Her aunt was punished because she had sex with another man while her husband was in the states working so that he could make money.  The whole Chinese community found out and decided to raid her house because she bought shame to China.  I think that her aunt killed herself on purpose because she figured it was better to be dead than to be alive and be forgotten by her family, a punishment she couldn’t bare and one that was worse than death.  I think Maxine is saying that this is another way her aunt was a warrior because she had the courage to take her life away and she kind of did the smart think, even though it was crazy.  In a way, it was also smart because the egg ended up being on the family.  I feel that Maxine thinks her family’s ways about life are just stupid and that’s why she defends her aunt and questions if maybe she got raped.  A warrior is being able to take all the shit her aunt took from the villagers and the family and still keep strong.  She intentionnally killed herself because once she is dead, there is no such thing as punishment for the dead, so there really can’t be such a thing as forgetting someone was ever born or existed.

Dreams of My Father
Posted on December 2nd, 2010 at 11:35 am by sbaique and

Dreams of My Father was not quite the book I expected to read by Barack Obama.  I find that other autobiographies are more lively and full of, say, more assured life events.  I did not like that the stories Obama was telling were not directly events he experienced, but stories passed on down to him from his mother and grandfather.  I always feel that when someone tells a story that was told to them, the story is always changed up or mixed up every time, so it is never really precisely true.  Obama did not know his father the way a son and father should know each other.  I guess this is just a way of also saying how important story telling that was passed on orally was important to Obama because that is all he had of his father’s and family’s background. 

 I was really happy that Obama’s mother’s parents were not racist.  When Obama’s mom was a little girl, she actually had a black friend and even though she knew it was a risk because of the time of the Civil Rights movement and all, she did not care.  She stood up to bullies who called her a “niggar lover” and unlike other parents, her own mother did not raise her to be racist and encouraged her daughter’s friendship, even if it meant taking it indoors.  Obama says that his grandparents believed in treating everyone the same, with respect and dignity.  Maybe this book was a way he can state his political actual political views, since sometimes politicians are forced to favor other views for other things in return, such as candidate support.  I feel like he really used this book to send a message, whether it be political or not.  Life stories always tend to end on such messages when you dig deep

Drown
Posted on November 16th, 2010 at 1:16 pm by sbaique and

Finally, a book that kept me focused!  I personally think that Diaz is a wonderful writer.  I like his style because I feel it helps his stories come to life.  As I read the book, it was like watching a movie and I painted the stories’ pictures in my head.  The story of Rafa and Junior is a rare one.  I know a lot of friends who went through the same situation growing up.  It’s funny because people usually say a child will almost always take their mother’s side before their father’s, but in this case, it’s the opposite when his father has an affair with another woman.

 The brothers are scared of their father.  Diaz definitely draws this father who fits that “man of the house” image.  Whatever he says is what goes.  The mother can’t even interfere when he is beating Junior.  This family is traditional in a sense that each family member has a specific role to play.  The boys must be obedient children who must complete their chores.  The mother is a housewife.  Traditional Hispanic families, especially, even today, try to maintain that sense of family organization and individual duties. 

 I liked this story because it was also very realistic.  The Bronx is very well known for its population of Latinos, particularly Dominicans and Puerto Ricans.  The father is having an affair and the boys know this, but yet cannot tell their mother.  They hate their father for this, but they look at it like if they do tell, then they betray their father and each other because really, all of them are involved in this secret.  This is how men usually tend to think.  They got to have each others “back” no matter what.  At the same time, this very situation is what brings Rafa and Junior closer because even though their not the worst of brothers, they do have their differences.  But, their father’s affair is the one thing they share and both despise their father for deceiving their mother.

On Faulkner
Posted on November 11th, 2010 at 1:06 pm by sbaique and

To be quite honest, I really disliked The Sound and the Fury.  This is actaully the only book in the course I completely gave up on, not to say other readings weren’t boring, but at least I didn’t give up on them.  I can say that I read maybe half of the book and I really could not follow it at all.  I felt like I did not know the story line quite well every time I picked it back up to read it again.  I lost track of what was going on and that was maybe due to the way the book was written.  I disliked the sentence structure.  After a while, I just thought it pointless to finish the book if I was always going to be lost or confused every time I picked it up and read it. 

Absolutely not one of my favorite books and I don’t think I would read it again, even at a slower pace and if I had more time.  The way I choose my books is by looking at the first few pages of the book and the summary on the back of the book and that’s how I decide if a book is going to be worth reading.  But to be honest, with this book, neither the back summary or the first few pages entrigued me at all, so I kind of already knew I was not going to like it.

Persepolis
Posted on October 26th, 2010 at 2:55 pm by sbaique and

I actually watched the movie for “Persepolis.”  I thought the movie was just ok, but I did find the story line interesting because the topic deals alot with one of my other classes that discusses identity confusion.  Marjane suffered from identity confusion because her country fell apart and her beliefs suddenly went out the window.  I would say Marjane was traumatized as a little girl and some of my favorite scenes were actually towards the beginning of the book when Marjane was a little girl.  She was such a free-spirited, outspoken little one and she looked up to her uncle.  When he was arrested, her heart sank, and she no longer believed in her God. 

As she got a littler older, her country experienced great changes, changes that her family was not happy with.  Women were labled as whores or worse if any part of their body was seen in public.  They could not speak up or voice out their opinion because only men were the main source of power.  Her mother gets so upset to the point she gets into two different arguments with men because they disrespected her because he was a woman.  Marjane was sent away because things just got way out of hand.  She herself was an outspoken person and her parents feared for her safety.  Little did she know things were going to get more complicated than resolved.

On Hemmingway
Posted on October 12th, 2010 at 10:47 am by sbaique and

The Sun Also Rises is an amazing book.  Hemmingway is unique in a sense that many of the events that occur in the book are events that in reality do happen, but no one talks about.  For example, Jake was sexually injured during war, which is the main reason why he and Brett cannot be together.  They seem to love each other and show it when they kiss, but they can never be together sexually.  What Hemmingway seems to mean by making their love forbidden is that sex is important in a relationship and that without sex, a relationship cannot work.  Brett herself is a free woman who goes around sleeping with men even though she is engaged with Michael.  She uses her sexuality for power.  This in itself seems to say something about the importance and need for sex. 

Brett and Robert went away to San Sebastian together.  The funny part is that everyone knows about this incident, including Michael, and are okay with this.  Michael knows Brett runs off from time to time with other men.  It doesn’t quite bother him, until Robert starts following Brett around in Spain.  Michael takes this as a disrespect to him.  It’s one thing to see Brett behind his back, but it’s another to actually stick around while she is with Michael.  He even points out that none of the other men she was with ever came around after their affairs.  Meanwhile, no one really knows that Jake and Brett had some kind of affair or that they love each other.  Hemmingway gives us a glimpse of the kind of life the elite class lives.  Generally, people will assume they have class and manners.  However, Hemmingway shows how morally corrupt and wild the upper social class can be as well.  They have affairs within their social group and they are dramatic people.  During the era of the Roaring 20’s, Hemmingway is very realistic and descriptive about the time period.

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