IRJ June 1 (a wee bit late)

The book I am currently reading is called “Brainstorm” by Daniel J. Siegel. In the following passage, Siegel explains one of the reasons why there is often tension between adolescents and adults:

“Yet adults sometimes forget their own adolescence and settle into the status quo, feeling more comfortable with the way things are. While that sense of familiarity in a stressed life of adult responsibilities is understandable, as we’ve seen, it may also be a reason why the adult-adolescent relationship is filled at times with tension. Adults desire things to stay the same; adolescents are driven to create a new world. This is part of the source of what can become intense friction, sometimes destructively so, that can create pain in everyone, adolescents and aduolts alike.” (page 26)

I think this passage is very interesting because not only does it explain one of the biggest reasons for conflict between adults and adolescents, but it also just shows a fundamental difference between the two in general, which I think is a small fact that is largely applicable.

Unfortunately I am not going to be finishing this book since its the end of the year (and because my interest in it has petered out some), but I think of what I have read it was a very engaging and interesting book, and puts a more realistic but unique perspective on the psychology of growing up, and how these qualities of adolescents that many people consider “bad qualities” can actually be used to your advantage to develop as a person. I think this book is for people who want to understand more about themselves, or simply find psychology interesting.

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About Power: Meditations on E.M. Forster’s “Passage to India”

Passage to India is fundamentally a book about power. The illustrative dynamic here lies between Doctor Aziz and Cyril Fielding, whose relationship defines much of the novel. Aziz is an Indian physician, while Fielding is a teacher and Englishman. Through their interactions, Forster explores the relationship between the Indians and the English under the British Raj. Their differences are immediately apparent; when Aziz mentions the possibility of Fielding losing his job, Fielding fails to show much concern, concluding that he will find some way to survive it. Aziz marvels. “So this was why Mr. Fielding and a few others were so fearless! They had nothing to lose” (121). This is phrase is more significant than Aziz understands at the time. Fielding and the English can afford to be laissez-faire, can afford to be careless, precisely because they are in a situation of significant advantage over the Indians. They have more power in the legal system, they have more wealth, they have more social advantage. And so, in the first pages of the novel, Forster sets up the question to which he will dedicate the rest to answering: can an Indian person and an English person be friends?

The question begs a prior one. What is friendship, between oppressor and oppressed? The very idea seems to imply that both participants are on somewhat even social ground. A relationship where one feels indebted to or maligned by the other, even indirectly, does not a healthy friendship make. One would not consider the relationship between an employer and employee “friendship,” although one could characterize it as “friendly.” The question of free will arises in any situation where the social positions are unequal. It becomes nearly impossible to separate the power that one person holds over the other from the way they interact with each other, and the degree of influence that both exercise over each other. But the conclusion of that line of thought seems to be that people of different social stations, be those stations defined by race or class or gender, can never be friends.

This would not seem a satisfactory answer, in a multicultural society, and indeed it is not. Putting aside the natural consequences of such kinds of segregation (which has always, historically, served the interests of the privileged group, not the oppressed), it does not reflect the reality of how structural power works. Oppression is not itself a linear organization of power structures. Oppression is a matrix of interlocking forces, both social and institutional, which define the privileges and disadvantages of people in society. The suffering of Indian people under British colonial rule stemmed from a plethora of factors, including legally instituted restrictions on Indian rights, economic disadvantages, and, of course, the social prejudices of the day, including both the caste system and the blanket racism of white colonizers. How does one organize these factors in a neat, tidy hierarchy? How, for example, does a wealthy Indian person compare to an impoverished one? What of the relationships between white women and white men, a distinct relationship that — while invoking no question of racism — invokes one instead of misogyny? As we expand our grasp of what constitutes a structural imbalance between two people, the number of individuals with whom one can interact without creating some kind of imbalanced relationship becomes increasingly small. Further, racism and sexism tend to be incomparable because their impacts are only similar when understood through the broadest, most abstract of strokes. White women experience drastically different forms of discrimination than do Indian men, and Indian women experience a unique interstice of both kinds of prejudice. Oppression defies linear understanding.

Power dynamics exist in everything. Wealth, race, gender, nationality, religion; all define our relationships to each other in intricate and innumerable ways. The argument presented by Forster appears, at first glance, to be that the size of the power imbalance between Aziz and Fielding (and, insofar as they illustrate a broader social concept, the Indian population and the English) prevents them from ever being real comrades. This is is not precisely accurate. The reason that Aziz and Fielding cannot be friends is not, in fact, that Aziz is Indian and Fielding is English. Nor is it the shadow of British colonialism hanging over their relationship, although that arguably presents the foundation of the real problem. The reason is that Fielding refuses to acknowledge the consequences of their respective positions.

Granted, he is aware that they are not the same race. He is even aware of the extent to which their respective races affect their treatment under the British Raj. But despite understanding that, Fielding does not reach Aziz’s conclusion: that the British ought to be ousted from India. In fact, Fielding’s attitude towards India’s state as a nation can be most charitably described as benign passivity. “Fielding had ‘no further use for politeness,’ he said,” Forster notes, “meaning that the British Empire really can’t be abolished because it’s rude” (320). When Aziz enthuses about the idea of a free India, Fielding mocks him: “‘Who do you want instead of the English? The Japanese?’ jeered Fielding, drawing rein” (321). This is Fielding’s vice. Pacifism in the face of injustice, a willingness to allow malignant structures of power to remain in the name of maintaining the status quo, prevents him from ever really being a friend to Aziz, and Aziz recognizes this. Friends want what is good for each other. Fielding’s prejudice prevents him from understanding what is good for Aziz, and what is good for India. That he cannot and will not respect the right of Indian people to political self-determination means he cannot be a friend to any Indian person, nor can any other English person who shares his beliefs. Fielding believes in justice, abstractly — he believes in fair treatment for Aziz, abstractly — but he is unwilling to do anything that might actually disrupt the institutional power of people like him over people like Aziz. And as long as that institution exists, Fielding’s refusal to disavow it makes his relationship to Aziz necessarily unequal, as he refuses to relinquish the power he holds.

Fielding could not be anything except what he was: a British man in India, granted the life he had by dent of British colonial rule. He could not himself dissolve the British Raj, or make himself not an Englishman, or do anything else that would substantially rid himself of the power he wields over Aziz. But he could use it as an instrument of aid. He could  join Aziz in condemning British colonialism, or better still, attempt to help alleviate some of the institutional structures, like an unfair legal system, which had resulted in Aziz’s unfair treatment in the first place. His refusal to do so plants the irremovable wedge between himself and Aziz, and his  naïve misunderstanding of this fact — “‘Why can’t we be friends now?’ said [Fielding], holding him  affectionately. ‘It’s what I want. It’s what you want'” (322)  — condemns any chance their friendship had. Fielding, like many, refuses to engage with the unspoken rules that govern his society, and thus damns himself and others to suffer from them.

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Bella-independent reading journal

Eragon

Christopher Paolini

In this passage Eragon and Brom are looking for the horses to continue so find the people who killed Eragons uncle. Once they came across a farm with horses. They walked inside the barn, and found a man brushing a beautiful white stallion, they asked the man if they could buy a couple powerful horses, that would be able to withstand the long, hard, journey.

Eragon tried to put his hand on the bay like Brom had, but it it shied away. He automatically reached out with his mind to reassure the horse, stiffening with surprise as he touched the animal’s consciousness. P.118

I choose this passage because this was a big step for Eragon, being able to communicate with with other animals, other than Saphira, because normally it would take riders year to communicate with animals other than his dragon.

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Reply to “Jenn from the Internet”

Kate Chopin’s The Awakening is a phenomenal book that can be interpreted in various ways. I absolutely loved the middle content of the book but despised the ending. The symbolism behind Edna Pontellier’s, the main character, death is extremely dependent on how the reader perceives her thought process. I can understand and respect the feeling of being constrained in a relationship and the overwhelming notion that suicide is the only option. Especially in the late 1800’s when women had little to no power or opinion. I believe that Chopin’s novel has a fantastic view of female independence and empowerment for the time period. The tension between Edna and Robert, her love interest, captivated me.  Instead of suicide as a final option, Edna should have remained at her “pidgeon house” and continued to look after her children. She may have not been overly excited and pleased with that life, but is anybody truly excited and pleased with every aspect of their life? While her choice does free her from the burdens in her life, suicide often leaves children confused and hurt. She might be free but her children will have to grow up without their real mother.

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IRJ June 1

Recently I’ve been reading Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. This book is set in a universe where firemen actually start fires to burn all unapproved literature, which is almost every book, television, or movies. The main character is named Guy Montag and he meets a young girl named Clarisse who makes him question everything he’s known. Near the beginning Clarisse has brief conversation with Guy,

Then she seemed to remember something and came back to look at him with wonder and curiosity. “Are you happy?” she said.

“Am I what?” he cried.

This begins his journey towards truth and another way of thinking. He, in fact, is not happy. I absolutely love this question because most people can’t answer it truthfully. I’m shocked that they’ve removed this book from the required public reading list in schools as it is such a  classic.

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Independent Reading Journal June 1, 2018

Charlotte Bronte’s dramatic novel, Jane Eyre, surprised me because of its many twists and turns. Although it had a complicated plot– it was quite easy to follow and predict. Right from the start when Rochester and Jane meet (107), I knew that there was going to be a love interest between the two. I also liked the storyline changed regularly leading it down a darker path. Instead of Rochester and Jane getting married right away, several things had to happen; she has to find out about Bertha (274), then run away from Thornfield (302), and finally meet and almost marry St. John (353). This english classic may seem long and drawn out, but once you get to the heart of the book, it is actually rather interesting and causes you to keep turning the pages. I believe that anyone who enjoys mysteries that are intertwined with romance will like this book! However, that description seems niche, and really anyone who likes books that keep the readers curious about what happens next will find this book a perfect match!

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IRJ June 1

For my birthday I received several books, one of which was Literary Theory: An Introduction, by Terry Eagleton. After the two prefaces, the first chapter begins with this paragraph.

If there is such a thing as literary theory, then it would seem obvious that there is something called literature which it is the theory of. We can begin, then, by raising the question: what is literature?

[1]

Off to a good start! As a person who loves specificity in all things, spending the first chapter defining ‘literature’ and ‘literary theory’ sounds great! (If that doesn’t sound great to you, then you may not like this book.) Terry Eagleton goes on to explain and refute many different possible definitions for ‘literature’ before settling with something like “writing that is highly valued in a society.” I chose this quotation instead of the one where he comes to that conclusion because this one is much clearer and isn’t confusing out of context. I’m not very far into this book, but I look forward to digging into it this summer, when I have more time.

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Seminar Assignment: How my writing has changed.

Overall, there are three improvements I can identify in my writing over this school year.

The first of these changes is that I don’t use any of those sentences that go “One of/One example of/The first yada yada… is yada yada,” thus cutting down on my use of the weak verb ‘to be.’

In my early writing, I repeatedly noticed repeated words in the same assignment. This repetition, as it repeated, became annoying to read. I stopped noticing that as I kept reading, however.

Lastly, I no longer constantly use long, confusing sentences, both because I split them up into a mixture of short and long sentences, and because I can restructure my ideas so they flow easier. I do still love my long sentences, though.

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The Changing of Written Works

I feel like my writing has improved throughout the year. Not just my writing but also the way I work at it.

My writing has improved in multiple ways including the use of stronger verbs and less mistakes. In the first post I had made there were many mistakes that I made. I fixed some but I noticed that there were still others that weren’t fixed. Looking back to my most recent submission I have noticed I made less mistakes and some newer mistakes. I also have started the use of block quotations.

The way I work has also changed from when I once preferred music and didn’t mind working close to others in the beginning of the year. Now this has changed so that now I usually like to work in silence by myself.

I think that my writing has improved due to criticism while my method of doing work has changed because of depression.

 

 

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Independent Reading Improvements– at least I hope I have improved, otherwise this whole entire school year would be a complete and utter waste of so many people’s time

After reading my independent reading journal, I feel extremely bad for my teacher. Because he had to put up with boring and dry writing for quite some time. I appreciate his patience with my writing and how it gradually (very gradually) got better. If he didn’t point out how I use too many commas or my sentences that were constructed rather oddly, then my writing wouldn’t have improved at all. I used to not have variety in my sentences– which I figured out after reading: “The quotation that I chose”, over and over again. Not only did I keep on making those mistakes, but I continued to use weak verbs constantly. And add extra commas, fearing that I didn’t have enough. Lastly, I had weird phrasing that I used to make my writing sound formal, but instead that turned into awkward expressions. My writing has changed quite a lot, but I do still make those pesky “little” mistakes still. However, I need to continue to work hard at fixing those mistakes in drafts, so that I can make sure to improve instead of relapse.

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