Broken bones beneath the beauty IRJE #4

In the book Washington Black by Esi Edugyan, Washington is a slave boy born on a plantation, ironically named Faith. Washington’s master has died, and the master’s nephew has come to take over the plantation. The new master, Erasmus Wilde, was accompanied by his brother Christopher Wilde. Christopher was nicknamed Titch because he was sick as a child and was very small. Christopher has asked to be called Titch because “Mister Wilde is my father.”(p. 36) Titch and Washington have climbed a nearby mountain, Corvus Peak and Washington has been asked to draw the landscape.

But as I surveyed the terrain, a slow feeling was growing in me, a feeling I could not account for. I watched Titch at his exertions. And as I began to draw what I saw with a clean accuracy, I realized I was troubled by the enormous beauty of that place, of the jewel-like fields below us, littered as I knew them to be with broken teeth. The hot wind snapped at my papers, and in a kind of ghostly sound beneath this I thought I heard the cry of a baby. For the few women who gave birth here were turned immediately back into the fields, and they would set their tender-skinned newborns down in the furrows to wail against the hot sun. I craned out at the fields; I could see nothing. Far out at sea, a great flock of seagulls rose and turned, the late afternoon light flaring on the undersides of their wings.

I chose this quote because it speaks of the double-sided nature of everything we see. The quote talks about the beautiful landscape, yet the evils contained within are still there. It makes you think about how if you walk far enough from something it becomes more perfect. I sort of think of the quote as unfocusing a camera, it can become beautiful, yet you miss half the details. So what problem have you not looked hard enough at recently?

Like a white rabbit in the snow

In the book, The First To Die At The End Deathcast is a new service that calls you on the day that you will die to tell you that you will die. Since Deathcast has just launched there is a bug in their mysterious system that they use to predict the deaths. The bug is that 12 people who are signed up will not be called and 11 people have died without being called. Valentino was called, but Orion was not and Orion has a rare heart condition where he has heart attacks often. Once the public was told about the bug Orion and Valentino headed back to Orion’s apartment to stay there for a while.

I feel the tension in my chest, like my heart is being choked out. I’m too scared to even breathe because I might breathe too gay. I know that might sound like overkill to someone, but unless they’ve done years in the Bronx, I’m not interested in what they have to say. Body language is everything when you’re trying to stay alive. Think of all the animals in the wild who will bluff and have you thinking they’re tough as fuck when maybe they’ve never fought for their lives before.

Valentino has got muscles, but can he fight? I can fight, but I don’t have the muscles to win, so I try to blend in, camouflage like a white-passing rabbit in the snow. That means not drawing attention to myself by holding the hand of the boy I really like. It’s heartbreaking to even have these thoughts, but that’s where we’re at up here.

I chose this quote because I relate to having to hide in plain sight to be ignored or left alone. I also liked the simile used in the second paragraph “so I try to blend in, camouflage like a white-passing rabbit in the snow.” It’s horrible how people can treat you so differently just because of who you like or how you dress or your colour of skin or anything else.

Let’s pretend this was on time…

While both of the texts and the film are about WW1 they all show it in a very different light, each showing the perspective of a German, in All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, an American, in Soldier’s Home by Ernest Hemingway, and multiple Brits in They Shall Not Grow Old directed by Peter Jackson. One of the major differences between the works is how each nationality reacts to the end of the war. For the Americans, the end of the war was a cause for celebration, with a “greeting of heroes” and “a great
deal of hysteria” about the fact that the drafted troops were back, one can assume that it was quite similar for the Germans, who were mostly drafted, troops. On the other hand, the English troops were not welcomed back with fanfare and feasts, but rather with a new suit and a silent agreement to not talk about the war, even in the trenches on the 11th of October there was no celebration, just an acceptance of the fact that the Great War was over. While there are large differences between the texts and the film, one thing they all agreed on was that the war was rather useless and just a waste of human life, with Paul Bäumer saying, “A word of command has made these silent figures our enemies; a word of command might transform them into our friends.” Paul does not call war a waste directly in this instance, but if just a few words can change enemies to friends what other way is there to describe it?

… get himself a life, … that would at least keep the element of surprise on his side

In the novel Mostly Harmless” (included in the Ultimate hitch-hikers guide to the galaxy) by Douglas Adams Ford Prefect robbed the chief editor of what is basically his ID to end all IDs, and for the second time broke into his office to return it after using it to hack the accounting computer. Instead of there being a couch where he expected it to be, there was a man with a rocket launcher, who missed his first shot and blew up the window behind Ford after he took the chief editor hostage.

“He was surrounded.
The big guy with the rocket launcher was moving it up into position for another shot.
Ford was completely at a loss for what to do next.
‘Look, he said in a stern voice. But he wasn’t certain how far saying things like ‘Look’ in a stern voice was necessarily going to get him, and time was not on his side. What the hell, he thought, you’re only young once, and threw himself out of the window. That would at least keep the element of surprise on his side


The first thing Arthur Dent had to do, he realized resignedly, was to get himself a life. (p. 637)”

I found this sequence of events to be rather absurd, yet funny at that; it was made only better by the start of the next chapter. “The first thing Arthur Dent had to do, he realized resignedly, was to get himself a life.” this I found hilarious and rather relatable at that.

With or Without, it doesn’t matter

While both “Soldier’s Home” and “All Quiet On The Western Front” are concerned with the tragedy that was WW1 and how it destroyed a generation of young men, their main characters were changed in the most opposite of ways. Paul in “All Quiet On The Western Front”  hated every second of his experiences in the, he hated what lengths the german armies had to go to in order to end more cannon fodder to the front lines “our fresh troops are anemic boys in need of rest, who cannot carry a pack, but merely know how to die. By the thousands.”. Krebs on the other hand enjoyed the war, he enjoyed how he could take advantage of the French and German girls who were desperate “That was the thing about French girls and German girls. There was not all this talking. You couldn’t talk much and you did not need to talk”.

The main difference between Paul and Krebs is that Paul believed he couldn’t live a normal life back home because of the war, while Krebs believed he couldn’t live a normal life back home without a war.

All Echoes on the western front.

The novel All quiet on the western front written by Erich Maria Remarque shows us an intriguing side of World War 1, as instead of emphasizing the “Valour” and “Bravery” shown by the soldiers in running at machine guns to get themselves shot; it shows us the reality of war, how brutal and traumatizing the truth of war is. In chapter three, Remarque writes through Paul “I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. I see how people are set against one another, and in silence, unknowingly, foolishly, obediently, innocently slay one another.” (pp. 263) this really puts into perspective what Paul has been conditioned to think, about how the French and British are monsters whose only want in life is to kill him. There is some truth in that, that they will kill him given the chance, but that doesn’t make them inherently evil. 

In chapter 8, Paul reflects that “ [the Russian prisoners] have faces that make one think –honest peasant faces …  [the Russian prisoners] look just as kindly as our own peasants in Friesland.” (pp. 190) this passage really shows how dehumanized people on the other side of a conflict are to each other. It is strange to think about nowadays when everyone can access the thoughts of everyone else through the internet, befriend people across the world without ever meeting them, and find millions of facts through a quick google search, but this still happens today. Take for example pretty much any argument between democrats and conservative people in America right now; the democrats have one view on a topic or person, and they share this online, other democrats agree with this person and throw positive reinforcement right back at them, creating an echo chamber where everyone has the same ideas about that person or topic. The problem with echo chambers is eventually, the echo becomes just a little bit distorted, then a bit more, and so on and so forth until the idea becomes more and more radical than what it started at. Once an idea reaches a certain point, it starts being less about whatever that idea was originally about, and more and more about stopping the opposite point of view from existing. If you don’t agree that that can happen to both sides at the same time try replacing democrat with conservative. When this happens in war, however, it becomes that much worse as the other side is the side that is quite literally trying to kill you.


About me

Hello! My name is Milo (or is it…) and I’m from the Greater Victoria area, it’s my first year here at Brookes, and I like to rock climb, play hockey, and other things. My hope for English this year is to figure out what I’m doing when it comes to writing stuff that isn’t poetry, where a comma should be; and what the point of a semicolon is.