IRJE #4 – What Defines an Artist?

I recently finished the historical fiction ‘A Postmistress from Paris’, written by Meg Waite Clayton. The novel takes inspiration from the remarkable true actions of Chicago heiress Mary Jayne Gold who, along with American journalist Varian Fry, organized an operation to smuggle artists and intellectuals out of France during World War Two. The book is structured around the perspectives of the protagonist Naneé, who meets Eduardo Moss, a Jewish German photographer, and his daughter Loki. A recurring theme throughout the novel is art, which acts as a grounding tool the prisoners embrace to stay alive and bring light into their worlds. Clayton submerses the reader in a haunting story where art is a beacon of hope in a time of terror for these artists. As described in the following quote, voiced by Eduardo Moss, he recalls the importance of what being an artist truly means.

“It was something that was hard to see until you had some measure of success, but it wasn’t success that made one an artist. One was an artist. One was successful or not at selling work, but the sale of art no more made a man an artist than it made him a man. An artist simply was (pg.122)”

This quote portrays the deeper sense of what art was and is. During WWII, artwork became a way to document the atrocities and preserve memories to display the truth to the public, of the events that were being concealed. As this was one of the reasons artists were targeted by the Nazis, in an attempt to control and punish them. The quote expresses the relation to the title of an ‘artist’, not based on whether one is successful or not, but simply doing it out of passion. The novel demonstrates how art breathes new life into each character during harsh thoughts and the inevitable tragedy they were experiencing. By acting as an outlet of expression, the book shares how people can connect through art, no matter their success, relating to others and invoking a sense of confidence in themselves through their pieces. In the context of the novel, Eduardo voices how his photography binds him to another, memorializing his own moments and memories for eternity.

PW#4 – The Christmas Feeling – Haiku

Christmas time is near
Let’s bring the holiday cheer,
The season of joy.

Cold December night,
Moon and stars brighten the sky,
In twinkling lights.

The smell of cookies,
Wafting through the Winter air,
Brings warmth to the house.

Blanketed in white,
It’s a Winter wonderland,
Snowflakes float on down.

The fire crackles,
Warming up the house as the,
cold breeze wails outside.

The Grand Noble Fir,
Lit candles on the branches,
At last, it’s Christmas.

Stockings filled with toys,
Gingerbread and peppermint,
Snowmen and sledding.

Old man dressed in red,
Climbing out of a chimney,
On a peaceful night.

Christmas in the snow,
Reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh,
Jingle bells I hear.

Christmas lights aglow,
The clip-clop of reindeer feet,
Christmas time is here.

IRJE #3 – The Regret of Truth

I recently finished the historical fiction ‘Ashes in the Snow’, written by Oriana Ramunno. This 1943-based novel relays a murder mystery set in an Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp. The criminologist protagonist, Hugo Fischer, not only encounters a complex murder but discovers the truth of the harsh realities of the camp. Hugo himself faces a secret case of multiple sclerosis. As the book progresses he becomes increasingly desperate to keep secret his own debilitating condition, lest he become a target for the Reich. Unlike most WWI novels, ‘Ashes in the Snow’ incorporates a mystery thriller genre. As Hugo investigates the murder, the novel reveals the atrocities inflicted upon the prisoners, and is forced to decide what is most important to him. The following quote was voiced by Hugo when contemplating the mystery of the murder, as well as the unnerving instincts of the camp.

“A dead body is like the snow: sometimes, everything on the surface looks present and correct, perfect and clean. But it’s underneath that the murkiest things are concealed.” (pg. 54).

This quote was quite memorable because it expressed a message related to the murder mystery, and the history of Nazi Germany, but could also be connected to everyday thoughts. The truth, often concepts that are concealed, is a debatable subject. The truth is often more than initially appears but that may be argued as purposeful. The pursuit of truth often becomes obsessive yet can be better left unspoken. This quote demonstrates how something so inhospitable can easily be obscured by simple misconceptions. It teaches the reader how assumptions led to miscommunication, making us believe our story is the truth when in reality it’s falsehood. Don’t get me wrong, it is always important to learn the truth, but when concerned with your emotional morals, in some circumstances some things are better left unsaid. Similarly, in ‘Ashes in the Snow’, Hugo discovers that the Nazi concentration camps are committing inhumane experiments, but for his sake, he regrets learning the truth. As documented in the quote, the pristine white snow conceals the horror, but it pervades, nonetheless.

The Cloud of War – All Quiet on the Western Front Personal Response

I wouldn’t consider myself to be someone internally inflicted by a written historical account. The novel ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’, written by German author Erich Maria Remarque, demonstrated otherwise. The novel voices the account of protagonist Paul Baumer’s experiences in battle as a soldier. It was captivating how the novel depicted the disillusionment of the early 1900s while engaging the reader with the reality of the effect of war on young men. The title alone is phrased in a nonchalant terse style, which graphically portrays the horrors of war in a laconic understatement. The word ‘quiet’ is conspicuous, stating the exact opposite of the novel’s depiction of war. Remarque often referenced the term ‘quiet’ to juxtapose the sounds of peacetime and war, associating it with everything the war is not. The word ‘quiet’ sounds alive, rather than ‘silence’, capable of erupting into an endless stream of sound at any moment, representing war, until it becomes a quiet memory.

The novel was repulsive yet indispensable, not clouding the reader’s interpretation with a romanticized version of the war. The overwhelming graphic depictions of war demonstrated the belligerent manipulative influence clouding the soldier’s rationality. Remarque expresses sediments about the contemporary nature of war itself. Throughout the novel, the reader becomes engulfed in Paul’s self-reflection, sharing accounts of atrocities and the ghastly truths about how the war destroyed the young soldiers. Soldiers’ mindsets could be described as hypnotized by patriotic propaganda. Paul describes the trance as becoming wild beasts, turning them into murderers, representing automata. These young boys were compelled by the idea to destroy the enemy, or they would destroy them, facing death, not other men. They were taught to become stolid animals, disregarding one’s moral identity.

As the novel progresses, Paul begins to recognize the reality of the war. “It’s the rulers who want to attack us, not the simple folk. Yet, the word of a command made them our enemies, making me perceive them as the melancholy of life” (Remarque, 1928, pg. 193). Paul acknowledges the inhumane actions of war, realizing the enemy are men just like himself, yet continues to feel obliged to fight, knowing nothing but death and fear. This notation of the segregation between those who declare war and those who fight it is portrayed throughout ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’. However, Paul doesn’t entirely accept this concept until he experiences the delusional guilt he receives after witnessing a French soldier slowly die from his hand. This scene introduces a cumulating transition where Paul begins to view the enemy as people rather than faceless targets. This guilt consuming him could be argued as inevitable, allowing Paul, and other soldiers alike, to omit the cloud of the ferocity of war, and recognize the reality.

This transition emphasizes the disconnect in Paul’s experiences. After suffering the guilt of ending one’s life, Paul’s demeanor shifts. He begins to describe the carnage of war in a laconic manner as if attempting to distance himself from the horrors. After accepting the truth about war, he avoids speaking about it, feeling isolated from anyone who isn’t a soldier. He refuses a sense of belonging. A distinctive factor of the novel was its refusal to take an explicit stance on war, acting as an unexpected contrast to the typical patriotic rhetoric accounts. This allowed the reader to perceive the war with logical representation, rather than through a biased account. The novel’s disclaimer insists that the account is not an accusation to any nation or individual involved in the war. Rather, the novel accuses war as an institution of stealing young boys’ lives, regardless of whether they died on the battlefield or survived, with their lives lost to the horrors of war. One can not decide which is worse.

PW#3 – Autumn’s Welcome

Autumn’s Welcome

The autumn breeze caresses my skin,
Reminding me of the memories we’ve had within.
The fading months, one by one,
Announcing that fall has just begun.

The season of family and the celebration of life,
Reminding us all we have everything to suffice.

The festivities of laughter turn to blurs,
Harmonizing with the chatter and symphony of birds.

With pumpkin and spices as the prominent pair,
Nothing can compete with the tart and tangy cider wafting in the air.

Autumn’s promise of crisp wind and chaste leaves,
Scatter in me the seeds, of a thousand saplings.

Withering leaves, turn orange and brown,
dancing in the sky before floating down.
To the glass of dew settled on the ground,
Mimicking the faces of droplets beginning to drown.

The melancholy ending of the harvest stacks,
Is replaced by the cascading sound of raindrops.

The sun still smiles, but weakly now,
As though enchanted by Autumn’s spell.

Under the October twilight sky and the misty fog,
Sits the longing for a cozy fireplace with burning logs.

The pungent odour of burning embers,
With aromas of hickory drifting until late November.
As the smoke dances up, like a murder of crows on the fly.
Yet, it always leaves an echo in the tender char of the morning sky.

– Sophie Wilson

IRJE #2 – Reality of Perception

The book I am currently reading is the detective fiction, Mrs. McGinty’s Death written by Agatha Christie. The book relays the story of a murder convict who is believed to be innocent by well-renounced detective Hercule Poirot. The convict’s immediate acceptance of his fate doesn’t reside well with Poirot, encouraging him to explore the alternate circumstances and uncover the reality of the murder. The following quote is shared between Poirot and a superintendent assisting him on the case.

“In case, I would prefer to say, that some circumstances should strike me in a different light to the one which it struck you. Human reactions vary and so does human experience.” (pg.142).

This quote reveals the peculiar reality of perception. Although the same movement, event, or even object is presented to us, everyone will conjure diverse thoughts and responses. Our brain fills in the absence of context or information provided based on our past experiences, emotions, and identities. Our brain may unconsciously alter our perception to correspond with our desires and expectations. We subconsciously choose different aspects of a message, compared to one another, our attention focusing on what we distinguish as important or familiar. In reference to this particular plot, Poirot is explaining that to properly assess all aspects of crime and unknown circumstances, various people must be involved to account for a variety and perspectives and experiences.

PW#2 – Short Story

The Stranded Dawn – A New Horizon (Continuation)

The wounding reminders puncture my soul like daggers. As if my life had been replaced, the disowning and isolation from my parents felt like annihilation. The tension and rejection build up inside of me, on the verge of eruption. I explode and run, praying for an escape from reality.

My body directs itself until my legs waver with exhaustion, my breath rapidly escaping my chest. I refuse the enervation to control me, adjusting my vision to the unoccupied harbor encompassing my vision. I ascend towards a stranger inclined on a ship, desperate for any source of escape. My wording staggers, fatigued from my run. “Passage, please? For anything.”
“Passage to where exactly?” His cunning smile almost appears as a guise, unable to reach his eyes. His irregular coastal accent attracts my attention, but my mind appears too overwhelmed to acknowledge my instincts. Only a subtle intimation consumes my stomach, sensing a devious and unreliable situation. My desire for escape consumes my naive mind, dominating any wariness I had developed against this individual.
“Anywhere” I reply, anxious to disappear from this situation. Before the stranger forms a response, his attention staggers to a young boy on his ship.
“Hey! Cap, when are you planning to get the show on the road” the boy hollers, impatience ringing through his tone.
“We got ourselves an addition to the crew Alcan.” I recoil as the pressure of the captain’s hand clasps my shoulder, directing me towards the boat.

I compress my body below deck. “New crewmate, how about it?” The brunette boy from earlier prevents my entrance, evaluating me. I avoid his broad figure to approach the sleeping quarters I was instructed to settle. “What’s your story?” The boy persists in his pestering. I counter his irking with a subjective smirk.
“I’m a convicted felon, ran away.” I glance back at him to witness his humor and expression drain from his character, replaced with cold apprehension. Satisfaction reaches my features. My body responds in automata, hypnotizing my body toward the sleeping quarters where I collapse from exhaustion.

IRJE – From Blood and Ash

I am currently reading a fictional fantasy series written by Jennifer L. Armentrout. This excerpt was voiced in the first book From Blood and Ash. The two protagonists share this knowledge with one another while independently grieving their own losses and regrets.

“Death is like an old friend who pays a visit, sometimes when it’s least expected and other times when you’re waiting for her. It’s neither the first nor the last time she’ll pay a visit, but that doesn’t make any death less harsh or unforgiving.” (pg.49)

The quote, although extremely profound, was spoken between two characters who recently met. It took me by surprise how this topic was simply and almost unemotionally stated, however, it seemed to strengthen the bond between the characters and ignited a connection of understanding. The raw honesty and reality of the concept of death were revealed and compressed in a single direct and basic line, conjuring the plain horror of the inevitable to the reader. The fear of the unknown and uncontrollable future is defined in the quote, yet also simultaneously sympathizes with the reader through its understanding tone.

PR – Inception

When this assignment was initially introduced, my immediate thought went to the 2010 Sci-fi movie Inception, directed by Christopher Nolan. To provide a brief synopsis, the movie demonstrates the manipulation of the subconsciousness. The protagonist, Cobb, constructs a team with the objection of implementing an idea into someone else’s mind while overcoming his personal subconscious issues.

Although the movie is undeniably impressive; with engaging scenarios, an unpredictable narrative, and depth and maturity in the acting, I never acquired the same passion and enthusiasm that I kept hearing about. It’s the type of movie where you won’t and can’t understand and capture all the meanings and details the first time you watch it. I arguably found the plot of Inception overly complicated and somewhat confusing. This response may simply be because of the complex concept the plot attempted to communicate; however, I could almost say that I was dissatisfied with the ending, feeling as though I was left yearning for answers. As if a primary aspect was left missing. I realized this response was derived from the continuous transition between the settings of limbo and reality.

I imagine that the universal word to describe the concept of a dream is otherworldly. A place where logic, normalcies, and motion are defied and your mind is consumed by unstructured perceptions. I felt this stereotype was almost opposed, with Nolan implementing an entirely altered approach. Their dream world, known as limbo, appeared quite constricted and systematic. Rather than exploring the numerous different ways their dream world could’ve been expressed, it represented a structured and almost identical setting to the real world, other than the defiance of physics and gravity. The concept of limbo wasn’t properly channeled and expanded, almost eliminating the purpose of manipulating this context. The result was almost disappointing, as if minimal imagination and phenomena were included to create a supernatural environment.

Although I felt the subconsciousness concept wasn’t capitalized, it did encourage me to explore an alternative theory. Everything in life begins with an idea. As expressed in the movie, Cobb explains that “once an idea is planted into a person’s mind, it’ll change the person’s reality – forever.” It’s incomprehensible to think that everything in the physical world emerged from an idea and was originally created mentally. Everything must start from ideas in our minds, from the creation of computers to simply a pair of scissors. This brings forth the inquiry: Should humanity pay more attention to mental reality rather than physical reality? Instead of creating boundaries on what we view as doable, we should be more concerned about what we want and their possibilities. The strongest motivation for creation is inspiration, suggesting that to be successful in your physical reality, you must listen and acknowledge your mental reality first.

PW #1 – Short Story

The Stranded Dawn – A New Horizon

A blaring noise overtakes my mind. My eyes crack open, adjusting to the mid-morning light wafting in through my bedroom windows. A groan escapes my lips as my body flips, groping across my nightstand. I fumble with my alarm clock, searching for the snooze button, hopeful the noise went unnoticed. An opening door answers my inquiry. I sense my father’s dismayed glare at my unkempt appearance as he disturbs my slumber.

“Ian, get up, you’ll be late” my father growls at my uncooperating behaviour. Three weeks have passed since the incident, which completely changed my life. Since then, my parents seem to have lost all trust and sympathy towards me over an accident which I was unreasonably framed for. The impatient footsteps of my father departing interrupt the incessant haunting of regret and turmoil. I reluctantly persuade myself to stretch my limbs, rectifying my consciousness to begin my day.

Ringing infuses my head; I stir and groggily drag my head upwards to encounter the scrutiny of Ms. Vanderwall.

“Ian, you cannot continue to sleep during my history classes, this new behaviour is completely unacceptable.” Ms. Vanderwall gazes down at me, half-asleep on my desk. I glance around the isolated classroom. “Ian?”

“Right, sorry. It won’t happen again” I saunter out of the classroom, entering the cramped halls. I cancel out the malicious comments and gibes bouncing between conversations and tentatively walk forward.

“Gun boy! Stashing anything else in your locker yet? Wouldn’t want anything to happen, would we now?” My steps reversed, turning to witness Anthony presenting another speech about the alleged gun that was planted in my locker. I disregard his words and concentrate my mind away from the commotion.

The Life Of Sophie Wilson!

Hi! My name is Sophie Wilson. I’ve grown up in Victoria in the same house in Metchosin for the entirety of my life. My family generally originates from European countries such as England and Ukraine, however, migrated to Winnipeg Manitoba several generations ago, which was the birthplace of both my parents. I’ve attended Brookes for 5 years now which really sounds like a large portion of my life when you put it into perspective. Although my family aren’t avid travelers, only traveling to Winnipeg and Hawaii, it has always been a passion of mine to pursue in the future. I also love just about any sport, except maybe rock climbing, finding myself to always be active, at the beach, or exploring in my free time.

Since I was younger I’ve had a developing passion for reading. I was always encouraged as a young kid to engage and pursue my interests by relating them to both fiction and non-fiction books. Specifically, over the past few years, I have dedicated hours engrossed in fictional novels, simulating my imagination to create my own storylines, become transported to fictional worlds, and develop new knowledge of a variety of perspectives, themes, and cultures. I gravitate towards fantastical mystery, dystopian, and romance series, some of my favourites include Throne of Glass, The Inheritance Games, and From Blood and Ash. I also find it beneficial to share this passion with my sister and friends which allows us to exchange books and recommend titles, demonstrating how reading can impact personal connections as well. This year I would like to expand my reading genres toward a variety of non-fictional topics such as autobiographies and historical accounts.

Writing for me has been somewhat of a complicated passion. I used to love writing creative stories individually and collaboratively. However, although I still love the organization of translating my thoughts and imagination onto a page, occasionally it becomes more difficult to specifically concentrate on each aspect of a story (e.g. individual sentences), my mind tending to wander to the overall outcome of the story. However, my mind does become engulfed with a writing piece if I’m invested in it, always finding myself continuously refining the words. When it comes to academic writing, such as essays or documents, I feel the writing process comes more naturally to me because I have access to evidence to support my explanations and theories giving structure to my writing. However, my mind always tries to throw various words and unneeded sentences into my writing. This challenge has encouraged me to continue working on condensing my ideas to clarify the message to the reader.