The Handmaid’s Tale – IRJE #4

In beginning of Margaret Atwood’s celebrated novel “The Handmaid’s Tale”, we understand that the book is written in first-person. Within the first few pages, we do not learn the narrators name, but can understand some aspects of their life. They describe what life is like in what is described to be an old school. They sleep in the gymnasium, take two walks per day around the football field. Angels, who are armoured guards, patrol the outside. These guards have their backs faced to those walking around the enclosed space, never to speak to them. The area is described in a very mundane and gloomy tone. The narrator seems far from enthusiastic about their living situation.

No guns though, even they could not be trusted with guns. Guns were for the guards, specially picked from the Angels. The guards weren’t allowed inside the building except when called, and we weren’t allowed out, except for our walks, twice daily, two by two around the football field which was enclosed now by a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire. The Angels stood outside it with their backs to us. They were objects of fear to us, but of something else as well. If only they would look. If only we could talk to them. Something could be exchanged, we thought, some deal made, some trade-off, we still had our bodies. That was our fantasy. (p. 4)

The following quote is taken from the rather short first chapter. By this point in the book, this is a fair portion of the information that has been described to the reader, making it rather significant as of this time (in the book). The character from whose perspective we are interpreting the story from speaks of this place as a very secure and potentially frightening. We begin to take the impression that this place is closer to a type of jail rather than a school. Overall, the beginning to this book sets a very clear tone on how the rest of the story will progress.

Nyah Sharratt – 11/29

Personal Writing #3

Every so often when I’m bored, I walk around the storage room in my house. I’ve found rather interesting things in my explorations to that cluttered room. In this text, I’ll list, and describe some personal favorites. My absolute favorite is our hat trunk. I’m not quite sure if trunk is the right word to use, because it looks closer to an oversized toolbox than what most people would consider a trunk. I have always known this existed, but it seems that every time I look in it something new appears, which is rather confusing as we have not added to it in roughly three years. There’s those ear-headband things, light-up hats, santa hats, viking helmets and a pilot hat (still confused as to why we bought that one), just to name a few. I’ve also discovered multiple instruments, including a twelve-string guitar, which wouldn’t be too odd, but I am very sure no one in our house has ever played it. We also have a mass amount of baby toys (and a highchair), even though my brother is eleven years old. Though now I have a little cousin so they do come in handy. Alongside all this there is our twelve sleeping bags and boxes of other assorted camping gear.

The rest I can’t really describe, so ill just list them off; about 20 buckets of paint, golf clubs (that I’m pretty sure haven’t been touched since the Industrial Revolution), cotton “snowballs”, an oven that heats up to a few hundred degrees celsius, a closet door, random pieces of assorted wood and little characters from the Minions version of the board game “Trouble”. I deeply hope that I come across more entertaining pieces of clutter in my future visits.

Nyah Sharratt – 11/24

The Gravity of Us – IRJE #3

In The Gravity of Us, Phil Stamper has set a scene where the main character Cal has been set in an extremely stressful situation. StarWatch, a reality tv show based on the families of the potential future astronauts. In the beginning of the novel, we learn that Cal has a large fanbase on the video streaming app FlashFame, where he is takes on the role of a journalist. When he was told that he would be moving to support his father’s potential future career, he is told he can no longer stream, as it would interfere with the success of the famous StarWatch show. Regardless of the rules, he continues to stream his experiences to his half-a-million followers. Those who run StarWatch knew about Cal’s fame, and the level of interest it would bring to the show. Eventually Cal finds out that his dad wasn’t invited for himself, but for his son. Cal discovers he’s being used.

I wait for the yelling to start, but it never does. An eerie silence fills the house, so I rush to my tape deck and listen to whatever cassette’s in right now. Dolly’s vocals pump through my headphones, but it doesn’t work. Nothing’s going to get my mind off the events of the past hour. I used to be able to distract myself by being annoyed at my parents and their constant yelling, but this is so bad, no fight could possibly solve it. (p. 232)

In this passage we see a similar scenario as when he found out he had to move. His dad announced that they were moving away, which would completely alter his life plans. He shut it out by locking himself away in his bedroom and listening to music. I found that this scenario was very realistic as it is a way that many teens today handle these types of situations. Music is commonly used as a way to cope with anger, stress, anxiety, sadness and any other emotions similar to those. Overall, this excerpt stood out to me because of its connection to the real world.

Nyah Sharratt – 11/17

Personal Writing #2

Self-perception. A term I’m sure many have heard of multiple times in their lives. By basic definition, self-perception is how you see yourself. So, why is this topic never seen in toxic media? Self-perception is easily influenced. How we see and understand ourselves is modified multiple times a day. And perhaps you don’t notice it. But when you realize that you’ve been increasingly rude to yourself, you’ll try to think back and ask yourself; when did I start thinking like this? This surely didn’t appear out of nowhere, but it was slowly building up, little by little so you took no notice. So where does all this influence come from? Aspects from daily life make little changes constantly, but the major additions come from the media. The example I’ll be using in this text will be based on body image (centred around feminine bodies).

Media has grown into a bad image of itself. The “ideal body type” has been set as an unrealistic expectation. Most influencers have the same hourglass, toned body that often take a few thousand dollars of plastic surgery to form. And many teenage girls feel the pressure to match that body type, which takes a huge toll on their mental health. Influencers don’t always have a target when posting, and sometimes indirectly causes self-perception issues for those who consume their content. But not all body-based media is toxic. There are sections of body-positive and inclusive groups in the media. Often in the form of social media accounts, trends and podcasts. And with enough effort to reroute your feed, body positivity can make its way into your daily dose of media.

You have the ability to redirect your self-perception to take a healthy and optimistic direction and begin to re-love yourself.

Nyah Sharratt – 11/09

The Gravity of Us – IRJE #2

In Phil Stamper’s novel The Gravity of Us, Cal (Calvin) is the only child to two parents, and they are far from a perfect family. Cal was a rather popular influencer/news reporter on a streaming app, and he had just been invited to an event with BuzzFeed, something that would be a major step towards his already-growing career. Though the ground-breaking news his father had in store would change his life forever. His father was accepted into a program ran by NASA, and this contract was not only about his dad, both Cal and his mother were looped into this. They had to move to Houston, no exceptions whatsoever. This greatly upset Cal for various reasons; he can’t continue his current career (as they would be forced into a tv show, and no streaming was permitted outside of that), he would be leaving his best friend Deb, and of course, beautiful New York. Sure, his life at home wasn’t the greatest, but he couldn’t imagine leaving this place. In this passage, him and Deb are strolling around New York and we receive a short, but authentic account of the emotions this state carries.

We duck into a tiny bakery with no more than five stools of seating. The two bakers are cramped behind the counter, and I start to get claustrophobic on their behalf. But as I look around, I see glimpses of the neighborhood in notices plastered on the walls. Yoga classes, babysitting offers, piano lessons, writers’ groups. Panning out, I see protest signs, queer pride flags of all varieties, old campaign stickers from the past couple of elections. New York has a way of making you feel at home, no matter where you’re at. You just have to step off the street, and some neighborhood will claim you as one of their own. (pp. 6-7)

I personally enjoy passages where someone describes the atmosphere of a location, and I felt that this quote was a good example of that. While the quote has minimal detail about the physical aspects of the location, the aura that the setting carries is equally as significant. I also noticed how he points smaller, irrelevant details rather than the “bigger picture”. I enjoy it when an author mentions the more insignificant features of a scene, as I feel that it makes it feel more immersive and genuine. This quote is not outstanding, but I appreciated its minor contribution to the plot.

Nyah Sharratt – 11/2

Personal Writing #1

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a beautiful movie that was released in 2012, directed by Stephen Chbosky. This film was originally a novel (published in 1999) also written by Stephen Chbosky and was later turned into a film. This text will focus on the film adaptation of the story, the main character Charlie, and one of the most powerful quotes I have been exposed to.

This story starts by introducing us to a character named Charlie who has just joined a new high school and is welcomed into a group of social outcasts (otherwise known as Wallflowers). We follow him through his first year of high school; times that are both carefree and melancholic. As the movie progresses, we notice how his mental state plays a great factor in the development of his new life and how we perceive the character that is Charlie Kelmeckis. He ages with the movie, and discovers new passions, such as writing and English class itself. After class one day, Charlie approaches Mr. Anderson (his English teacher) with the question “Why do nice people choose the wrong people to date?”, and with this, his English teacher originates an extremely powerful quote; “Well, we accept the love we think we deserve.”, which practically carries the entire movie’s sentiment in a few words. It is clear that this quote majorly impacts Charlie and supplies him with a new view of the world around him. Many factors contribute to this extremely well-written character, who expresses incredible amounts of genuine emotion throughout the film. I feel that he has very authentic qualities and perfectly depicts how mental illness can affect someone’s personality and overall life. And in my opinion, Charlie Kelmeckis and his story make up one of the most astonishing films I have ever watched.

Nyah Sharratt – 10/27

Comparison of They Shall Not Grow Old, All Quiet on the Western Front and Soldier’s Home

They Shall Not Grow Old, All Quiet on the Western Front and Soldier’s Home are three compelling narratives that all describe what it was like to be a serviceman during World War I. Each account was slightly different from the others, but they each carried one important message; war was either fun or dreadful. All three scripts conveyed this same message in different ways; the movie displayed it with examples of activities and clips, All Quiet on the Western Front explained how the friends Paul developed made the extra time enjoyable and Krebs from the short story suggested that his time at war was exciting. Each of these accounts were unique in their own way, aside from their mediums. They Shall Not Grow Old was more of a descriptive film than one that tells a story, All Quiet on the Western Front was more of a personal account of trench life and Soldier’s Home showed us emotions post-war. Overall, the knowledge gained from separate perspectives helped me obtain a well-developed understanding and empathy for these soldiers and their eventful lives.

Nyah Sharratt – 10/18

As Far As You’ll Take Me – IRJE #1

In Phil Stamper’s novel As Far As You’ll Take Me, Marty, an anxious queer teen with a love for music moves to London for the summer to escape his unfavourable life in Avery, Kentucky. His parents think that he is attending a summer program at a prestigious music academy, but really he’s only trying to escape his toxic household. Marty’s aunt and cousin live in London and he was invited to stay with them for the upcoming summer. His aunt departs for Italy, meaning Marty and Shane (his cousin) are left as roommates for the summer months. Shane is enrolled in the academy Marty is supposedly studying at, and is just as passionate about music as Marty is. Marty accidentally walks in on Shane fully tuned into the piece playing through his headphones:

I peek into Shane’s room. He’s got headphones on, his eves are closed, and he’s fully into his foremost musical passion. One that makes entire symphonies, but one that technically produces no sound: conducting.

He’s conducting in four, but at times switches to two, then builds to a passionate stop. He swivels away from his computer, to the left, to focus on fictional violins. He swivels right, to cue the oboes, or maybe flutes, and opens his eyes. (p. 56)

I feel that this quote perfectly summed up their relationship, two musical prodigies who probably know a little too much about this subject, living in the same house. The way that Marty was able to recognize what each gesture meant from Shane’s wild movements was also quite humorous. Somehow he could tell where Shane’s imaginary violins and oboes were positioned, which is not only very impressive but altogether entertaining to read. I enjoyed reading and learning about their friendship and felt that this passage added to the depth of their bond.

Nyah Sharratt – 10/13

Comparison of “A Soldier’s Home” and “All Quiet on the Western Front”

Hemingway’s Soldier’s Home and Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front are two pieces of text based on World War I and its effects on the individual soldiers. Even though the books are written from the perspectives of soldiers from opposing alliances, their experiences back home are quite similar. Both characters felt out of place when they returned home from the war, regardless of permanence. Paul Bäumer, a German soldier who died a month prior to the war’s end, was sent home on leave mid-war. Harold Krebs, an American soldier, returned home nearly a year after the war had finished. Regardless of being rather different characters, they both seemed to feel cut out of society and noticed that life was drastically different from before they went off to serve the war. 

The emotions they feel when back at home are similar, but have different reasoning. Paul’s short trip back home helps him realize that war had drastically changed his life, and not for the better. On page 165, Paul finds that “… he does not know that a man cannot talk of such things; I would do it willingly, but it is too dangerous for me to put these things into words.” (while speaking to his father). He has made the connection that the war is far too devastating for anyone to hear its stories, and it would ruin them as it ruined him.

Krebs, on the other hand, realizes that the war supplied a great amount of emotion and intensity. Krebs felt empty, rather than upset when he returned home. His late arrival and how the enthusiasm for returning soldiers had faded, making him feel unwelcome. Krebs had to lie to try to fit himself back into society by telling fake scenarios to keep his audience interested. He lacked motivation and missed the excitement the war had provided. On page 1, Krebs notices that “A distaste for everything that had happened to him in the war set in because of the lies he had told”. Krebs secretly enjoyed the war and the exhilaration that it supplied, and his home did not provide that same feeling.

Overall, both characters suffered at home from the war. Paul felt out of place and emotionally ruined, while Krebs missed the excitement. Both characters shared the same general reaction, but each with a different meaning behind it.

Nyah Sharratt – 10/10

Personal Response to “All Quiet on the Western Front”

Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front is a brilliant novel which uses various writing techniques to create an immersive and authentic narrative of life during the war. I believe that how the characters and the plot were structured are very significant in the creation of this novel. In this piece of text, I will illustrate my opinion and observations surrounding the structure (primarily how the events are described) and characters of this story.

One element I especially noticed about this novel was that every character was portrayed genuinely, each person has a distinctive personality with unique traits that distinguished them from the other characters. On pages 3 and 4, Paul gives a list of his friends with a few defining characteristics that they carry:

“Close behind us were our friends: Tjaden, a skinny locksmith of our own age, the biggest eater of the company. He sits down to eat as thin as a grasshopper and gets up as big as a bug in the family way; Haie Westhus, of the same age, a peat-digger, who can easily hold a ration-loaf in his hand and say: Guess what I’ve got in my fist; then Detering, a peasant, who thinks of nothing but his farm-yard and his wife; and finally Stanislaus Katczinsky, the leader of our group, shrewd, cunning, and hard-bitten, forty years of age, with a face of the soil, blue eyes, bent shoulders, and a remarkable nose for dirty weather, good food, and soft jobs.” (pp. 3-4)

It is easy to notice that each of his friends possess different traits, both including physical aspects as well as those shown within their personalities. This is an excellent example of using contrasting and diverse characters to create a more realistic picture rather than stereotyping soldiers to have identical mundane personalities. Paul was an especially interesting character to analyse, as we received his thoughts and perspectives the most. As soldiers are typically portrayed as heartless and stolid individuals, Paul’s point of view proved him to be a very sympathetic and thoughtful character, as he finds that the loss of his closest friends is extremely difficult to come to terms with. Overall, I appreciated the diverse range of characters in this novel as I believe their qualities played a monumental role in the progression of events.

The development of the characters in context of the occuring war is a very influencing detail in this novel. Paul, for example, goes through major character development as the war goes on. It affects his mental state as seen when he returns home while on leave. Paul’s father asks him questions wondering how life is at the front, causing Paul to realise that the war is incredibly difficult to explain to someone who has not experienced it themselves; “I realise he does not know that a man cannot talk of such things; I would do it willingly, but it is too dangerous for me to put these things into words. I am afraid they might then become gigantic and I be no longer able to master them.” (p. 165). The war had permanently changed Paul, and this time back at home assisted him in discovering that unfortunate fact. The way that Remarque supplies context throughout the novel is extremely beneficial to give us a more in depth understanding of what life was like outside of the violent combat. 

This book featured lots of smaller details and scenarios outside of the brutal front line traumas. Abundances of description are given to dull occurrences, including eating meals, going on leave and simply lounging while building relationships with one another. I noticed that Remarque focuses especially on the plain, perhaps more repetitive or dull, aspects of war life; this effect makes the experience of reading this novel more immersive, as we can relate to some of these activities and emotions, but would never associate them to war. For example, at the beginning of Chapter One, one of the first mentioned events is their meal consisting of double rations. While this may seem irrelevant or minor to the story from a reader’s perspective, in the eyes of the soldiers in the queue, this was an astounding opportunity for them to receive a double serving of their meal. These small events are emphasized in this novel which I found to be incredibly valuable as it gave me a more authentic and genuine perspective. By the end of the book, I felt that I had earned a better understanding of what life was like during war outside of the treacherous combat they suffered.

The beginning of the book felt rather repetitive and uneventful, but as I continued to read, I felt more drawn and intrigued to the storyline. It was an amazingly written and constructed novel; the characters, plot, imagery and relationship with our daily lives all created a beautiful and engaging piece of text. I walked away from this book with far more sympathy and understanding for those who fought in the war with a full (and now enlightened) realisation that their lives consisted of far more than just combat.

Nyah Sharratt – 10/04

About me

My name is Nyah, I was born in California and have lived in Victoria for most of my life. I like to play guitar and take care of my 50+ plants.

I hope we get to do lots of creative writing and new topics. I’m expecting to read more books this year (outside of school).