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Another Learning Narrative: Minorities Literature

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” -Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

I am quick to call myself a bibliophile, but I must say, before this course my reading was rather narrow in terms of ethnicity. At the beginning of this semester, I had a general knowledge of ethics, and where I stand when it comes to my personal philosophy. However, I had yet to apply that philosophy to issues such as slavery, social class division, and the current race issues dividing the United States.

The highlight of this semester, for me, was viewing 12 Years a Slave. One of my main struggles this semester was being able to envision the horrors African Americans have faced. By watching the screenplay of this narrative, I was more-so affected than I had been reading narratives, such as Frederick Douglass or Harriet Jacobs. This turning point is what prepared me to be heavily touched by the play, A Raisin in the Sun. Despite it being more modern than Northup’s story, the central struggles of characters in the play hit me harder because of where these characters may have come from.

Now, I know racism and slavery are wrong. I also know that the racial profiling that is ever present on American streets today is a disgrace. I am ethically sound in having these thoughts, but I am not ethically sound in the actions I have taken to combat these issues.

The actions I have taken do not exist. Besides advocating my own opinion that the racially-charged actions of other are wrong. I feel that this is not enough; I feel that I could, and should, be doing more.

As Zora Neale Hurston wrote, “There are years that ask questions and years that answer,” this semester has caused many questions to arise in me, but it has also given me answers. As have many, I am lost in trying to decide what path I would like to take through life. I often wonder where I will be in ten years, and if I will be truly happy with the profession I choose. In the midst of all these questions, I know my love of literature will not grow old.

As I continue studying and reading, I would like to see how literature is contributing in modern day society.I want to use literature as a prompt for discussion that can cause change. Over the course of this semester, I have grown more aware of the discussions that can be prompted through the controversy caused by literature.

For example,  even though A Raisin in the Sun was written in 1951, Walter’s struggles can be applicable to modern day Americans. The root of Walter’s struggles is buried in his desire to have money. Many Americans struggle with this as they try to attain the so called “American Dream.” As Walter’s relationship with his family crumpled, and his desire for wealth grew, his life grew significantly worse. Americans attempting to have a picture perfect version of the American Dream can lose the good in their lives, as Walter did.

This semester has opened my eyes. As I continue studying, I hope to find a direction to move in that will help me decide what types of literature I most enjoy studying, as well as what forms of literature inspire me to make a change.


12 Years a Slave: A Response

My initial reaction to this movie is that is is brutally beautiful. This movie gives viewers a screen portrayal of the riches to rags slave narrative of Solomon Northup. With an IMDB rating of 8.1, 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, and over 10 awards (including the 2014 Academy Award for Best Picture), this movie has the accreditation to attest it to be one of the most popular slave narrative portrayals in America.

With such a large audience base, it is important to evaluate the realness of this adaptation of Northup’s narrative. Northup’s narrative makes American’s face that fact that free African Americans were not truly free. His riches to rags narrative shows the fear free men had to live with every day because of the Fugitive Slave Law.

Because of the Fugitive Slave law, Northup was stripped of his entire identity, and painted to be a slave who had run away, and was being put up for sale. After his kidnapping, Northup quickly learns that protesting will only get him killed. As many slaves had to, Northup learns to resist in other subtle ways. In my opinion, a hidden message lies in this struggle. Northup breaks the stigma that slaves were people with little knowledge because of their lack of any formal teaching. Nothup’s story is able to remind us that slaves were people who had emotions, family, and a desire to be free.

Many argue that Northup’s story should not have ended on a happier note. I believe that it is happy that this movie ended the way in which it did. Not only does it follow Northup’s life, but it allows him to deliver crucial lines to his family, in which he apologizes for the time he was away. Despite being a free man again, he shows the trait many slaves acquired: apologizing for events outside of their control.

After review, I am in full agreement with the ratings and awards this movie has been presented with. It is a beautiful adaptation, and one that I believe Americans need to be exposed to. In my opinion, knowing the brutality slaves faced is crucial knowledge of United States history that every American should have so these horrors do not take place again.

Ethical Analysis: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Is slavery utilitarian? James Rachels described Utilitarianism as the action that produces the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people (7). “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” by Harriet Jacobs paints her master Dr. Flint as a brutal an corrupt way. He is willing to use his slaves in any manner which he sees fit; he treats them as machinery.

In treating his slaves how he sees fit, he decides to use the character Linda Brent as his concubine, fueling her desire to rebel against the slave system. Brent’s independent and rebellions nature eventually lead her to sleep with Mr. Sands. She doesn’t sleep with him because she loves him, but because she wants to show that Flint does not have control over her.

So far, Dr. Flint forcing Linda to sleep with him has created no greater good. Not only has is caused an internal struggle in Linda, but now Mr. Sands has been brought into the situation, with no good coming from Linda sleeping with him.

One could argue that slavery did created a greater good because it boosted the economy and production of the South, but is economic prospering truly a greater good when thousands suffer?

Ultimately, Linda abandons her independent nature for the sake of her children. She knows that if she continues following her rebellious path, her children will suffer because of her actions. Inherently, this action seems utilitarian because it brings about more happiness for her children, but in my opinion, a true utilitarian would have kept fighting for a change that would have benefited a larger group of people. Had Linda kept fighting the illegitimacy of the slave system, her rebellion may have been able to make a difference, and would have been a truly Utilitarian action.


Until next time!


Reflection on the Narrative of Frederick Douglass

My analysis of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass ha been heavily focused on seeing how his struggles can be applied to the development of the Civil Rights Movement, and of the rights of African Americans today.

One specific portion of Douglass’ narrative has followed me: “I speak advisedly when I say this, — that killing a slave, or any colored person, in Talbot county, Maryland, is not treated as a crime, either by the courts or the community” (331). In the narrative, it is easy to see that this holds true when Douglass is speaking of the slave masters, it is easy to see that there is little compassion towards the lives of any colored person. Mr. Severe was described as, “taking pleasure,” in whipping the slaves for little to no reason (322). These slaves had no rights nor liberty. They were merely replaceable machines with no value to the courts.

Although African Americans have come a long way in the battle for civil rights, there is still a noticeable lack of recognition of their life’s worth by the courts, and by many Americans. From Trayvon Martin to Michael Brown, African Americans are still battling to not be racially profiled and targeted by people of other racial makeup.

Douglass’ narrative opens up a large amount of issues that were present in the pre-Civil War area, and sadly, some of the struggles African American’s faced now are still present today. As in one of our discussion prompt quotes, “give me liberty, or give me death,” African American slaves died fighting for their rights, and today we still see people fighting to the death for their liberty.

Learning Reflection

My first day of Women and Lit, I was so excited to read the novels that were assigned. I thought it would be so nice to be in a class where I could focus more on women authors and characters. In most lit classes I have taken up to this point, I have read novels, short stories, and other forms of literature that were almost solely by male authors. I feel like I came into this class not very knowledgeable on how to analyze novels written by women in a scholarly way.

Now, at the end of the semester, I feel like that has changed, and I feel like it has shown in the writing I have done.

During this semester of Women and Literature, I have learned so much. It is hard to talk about all of it because that would take an obnoxious amount of time. The thing I have learned most, is how to take interesting and new perspectives on books I have already read.

When we read The Hunger Games Suzanne Collins, I decided to read it from a point of view where I find aspects of fear control within it. Not only did I find these aspects within the text, but I took the novel a step further and related it to our own United States government. It was nice to be able to read the book for a second time from this perspective because I feel like I expanded my literature analysis skills. I also feel like I had a stronger connection to the author and her reasoning for writing the book because of deeper analysis.

For another one of my classes, I also wrote an analysis paper comparing Katniss to Jesus Christ. I had so much fun writing that paper because I was able to combine my interest in Religious Studies with my love for literature. I hope I will be able to do something like this again in the future.

Another novel I read from a deeper perspective was Emma by Jane Austen. This novel I did not go into as deep of an analysis on, but I focused on trying to better understand Austen’s language. For many, Austen’s writing is something they find too hard to tackle. My first time reading Austen I stumbled through. This time I focused on finding ways to better handle her writing. When I sat down to read her novel, I made sure it was at a time where I could be focused. I then read through the novel, and used all of the details she writes in order to put together a bigger picture. This helped me better understand what was going on in Emma. 

I also have taken a look Emma from a more modern perspective, like I did with The Hunger Games. I decided to take a look at the social conventions in this novel for my final research assignment. I got kind of bored because for the duration of the time we read Emma, we usually talked about social conventions in some way. To spice up my research, I decided to start looking at social conventions used by celebrities. I decided to do this because Emma was a celebrity in her little town of Highbury.

I have learned that it is so fun to take a modern approach on literature when doing analysis. I hope that in the future I will be able to do a longer analysis on a novel that I am really interested in. I feel like digging into a novel from a historical perspective would deepen my literary analysis skills.

The only time I have really dug into literature from a historical perspective is when doing an Exegesis assignment on the Bible. This was fun, but I think I would learn more if I used a novel instead. If I went in depth with a novel, I could also dig into the author’s background, and find out historical events they lived through that could have inspired their novel.

Another type of analysis that I would like to look at is psychoanalysis. This would be an interesting perspective to use on Lutie from The Street. I feel like if I went into this type of analysis, it would strengthen my abilities to be able to learn how to more effectively analyze characters.

Aside from my writing and analysis abilities, I feel like I have strengthened my confidence when discussing in class. My first year at Morningside, I barely spoke in my classes. I was too nervous to participate in discussions. During Women and Lit, I was really able to gain confidence because I was so interested in the things that we were talking about. I was more focused on being able to talk about what I was interested in, instead of my lack of confidence. I am really grateful that I was able to gain this confidence this semester because it carried into my other classes as well. I hope to keep strengthening these abilities as my years at Morningside go on.

I would like to thank Amber for a fantastic semester! I can’t wait to have Minorities Lit with her. I hope to grow even more from the literature I will read in that class, and hopefully have my eyes opened to issues I have not yet experienced!

I am Going to Write a Research Paper!

Through this semester in Women and Lit, we have explored a number of texts surrounding women. For my research assignment, I am planning on digging further into the text of Emma by Jane Austen. Throughout my second reading of this novel, I kept becoming more interested in the social conventions of Emma’s society. Not only would I like to examine these social conventions, but I am curious on how Jane Austen’s Background may have possibly influenced her writing of this novel.

When digging up sources for this novel, I am going to have to find sources that reveal information about historical aspects in Emma, as well as sources that reveal to me more information about Jane Austen’s life. I have found it to be slightly difficult to learn about Austen’s life, and this could present itself as a definite challenge. If I have too much trouble finding our information about Austen, I may be able to compare social conventions in Emma to social conventions in her other novels.

I am drawn to this topic because many of the other student in this class had a strong distaste for Emma as a person. My research will hopefully show that Emma was acting in a way that was common of women in her time period. This research assignment could possibly also help me learn a lot more about Austen’s other novels. Also, I feel that this assignment is going to help me learn how to better connect history to the literature that has sprung from it.

Summer by Edith Wharton

In Summer by Edith Wharton, I believe that the death of Mary Hyatt shines a light into the type of mother that Charity is going to be. When seeing her mother’s dead body for the first time, an almost motherly instinct kicks in, and Charity begins making the body of her mother look more presentable. Wharton writes, “Charity, trembling and sick, knelt beside him, and tried to compose her mother’s body. She drew the stocking over the dreadful glistening leg, and pulled the skirt down to the battered upturned boots” (227). This passage shows that even though Charity has no idea who her mother really was, she still has some sort of instinct that drives her to take care of Mary Wyatt. This is important because she won’t really know her child fully before it is born, but she will have to take care of her child from the minute that she meets it.

I also have a feeling that Mary Wyatt inspires Charity to be the best mother that she can be. I say this because of the loneliness and separation that Charity feels while traveling to see her mother. As stated by Wharton, “The sense of unescapable isolation was all she could feel for the moment.” Through thoughts like this, we can see how rough it is on Charity to not have known her mother for her whole life. Had her mother not left her, it can be speculated that she wouldn’t have had to make this grim trip, but instead, could have had a much deeper relationship with her mother, and had led a much different life. Mary Wyatt’s death causes Charity to really become the mother that she never had.

Frank Churchill

Throughout the novel Emma by Jane Austen, many characters with moral dilemmas are introduced. A character that I find quite fascinating to analyze is Frank Churchill.

Frank Churchill is quite a character, for lack of a better phrase. When first introduced to the novel Emma, he is seen as a potential mate for her. Personally, I can see why this is rather fitting. He is a charming, wealthy man. He also comes from a decent family.

On the other side of things, he makes very poor decisions. On page 142, Emma discovers one of her first issues with Frank Churchill. Austen writes, “Emma’s very good opinion of Frank Churchill was a little shaken the following day, by hearing that he was gone off to London, merely to have his hair cut.” In my opinion, Frank Churchill lacks the values and morals that he should have. His decisions are very rash, and he is quite self focused, through the issue with his hair.

Frank’s character is used to mirror Emma’s, because he seems to be most like her in many aspects. I believe that he learns who he is through his struggles with love. He also learns that he cannot use his charm to deceive everyone. I believe that when he finally settles with Jane Fairfax, there is a type of resolve that occurs. Likewise, this is mirrored when Emma not only finds Harriet’s happy ending with Robert Martin, but when Emma finally realizes how suited she is to be with Mr. Knightley.

Honestly, I don’t think Emma would have ever settled down with Mr. Knightly, had Mr. Churchill not come into the novel. Emma needed someone who made her start questioning her own flaws. With Mr. Knightley poking fun at Emma, this was possible, but with Frank Churchill, she could actually see what her flaws looked like.



The Hunger Games: An Overview

At the conclusion of my second time reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, I find myself to be at conflict with my opinions of the book. My first time through, the suspense kept me tied to the novel, my eyes hooked on the pages for hours. Now, I am not as impressed with the writing because the novelty of suspense wore out for me. Suzanne Collins’ writing is still spectacular, however, because of the issues she plasters through the struggles of the characters in this YA fiction novel.

As placed in the Dystopian/Sci-Fi genre, The Hunger Games focuses on political control. In my opinion, this country focuses on a ‘rule by fear’ methodology, and nothing could set them up better for failure. One of my favorite quotes by Benjamin Mee goes like this, “You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.” This is exactly what Katniss has as she is slipping the poisonous nightlock into her and Peeta’s mouths: Twenty seconds of insane courage. This is the beginning of the Capitol’s downward spiral to their eventual loss of power.

Unintentionally, Collins also created an issue of race in her transfer of this novel from book to movie. In an edition of The New Yorker posted on Mach 30th, 2012, Anna Holmes paints the story of a man named Adam in her article, White Until Proven Black: Imagining Race in Hunger Games. Adam uses the social platform Tumblr to spread the issues surrounding the race of the characters of District 11 in The Hunger Games. Many people took to Twitter when casting decisions were made for this iconic movie. In Homes’ article, she gives examples of these tweets, one person exclaims, “why is Rue black?!?! #WTH #hungergamesprobs” (Holmes 1).  During this casting debacle, I recall asking myself many times, “Who cares if Rue is black? Does it make her any less of an actress?” According to some people, Rue couldn’t be black. This entirely changed the meaning of the book for them, despite the fact that Suzanne Collins does describe Rue as, “And most hauntingly, a twelve-year-old girl from District 11. She has dark brown skin and eyes, but other than that, she’s very like Prim in size and demeanor” (Collins 45). In a year where issues like the Ferguson shooting of Mike Brown plaster the front pages of all media, we must ask ourselves: Why are we, in 2014, still arguing over race? At what point can we accept that people are people?

I believe that these two issues are central to the novel, as are many others, but that would require a much longer post than many are willing to read. Soon, I will hopefully have a post up analyzing this book from a feminist standpoint!


Anna Holmes’ Article:



The Lottery: Social Contract, or Unquestioned Tradition?

Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery is a tried and true piece for analysis in American Literature courses. The ethical dilemma presented in this short story is strong, as are most of the issues that are brought to light in Jackson’s writing.

To first understand the issues that Shirley Jackson brings to light, we need an understanding of an ethical theory called Social Contract. James Rachels explains this concept simply in his article, A Short Introduction to Moral Philosophy, by concluding that each person in a society needs to cooperate-or follow rules and standards set by that society- in order to maintain a community that benefits everyone (Rachels 9). We can take a look at our own society to see where this ethical theory comes into play. For example, if there was not a standard that people at Morningside College conducted themselves in a manner that kept each other safe, students and professors would not feel as if they were in a comfortable community environment; this would be destructive to our learning community.

For those who have not read this short story, it is about a small community of about 200. They get together and have their own lottery; every single person participates. The twist of this story is that the person with the black dot on their piece of paper is going to be stoned. The story hints quite frequently that the community really has no idea why they still follow this tradition. They just do.

How does Social Contract relate to The Lottery? At a critical point in the story, a character named Old Man Warner makes his opinion clear about the lottery known when another character mentions to him that there is a community thinking about doing away with the lottery all together. He says, “Pack of crazy fools… Listening to the young folks, nothings good enough for them…Used to be a saying about, ‘Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.’… There’s always been a lottery” (Jackson 706). Old Man Warren’s statement sums up this community’s reliability on their own Social Contract: They believe that without everyone conforming and obeying to the unwritten rule that this lottery must happen every year, their community will fall apart.

This is how they rely on their community to survive year after year: By stoning someone, but not really knowing why. This lottery is an unquestioned tradition. It is a Social Contract they follow, and this is meant for us to take a look at own own unwritten and unquestioned social contracts. Why do we dress a certain way or fear being slut-shamed? In what sort of environment is it okay to share your opinions, and where is it better to shut-up and conform? These are questions that we have to ask ourselves, and hopefully challenge the social contracts of society with our answers.