Kakos' 6th Hour

Reactions and comments from my sixth hour Honors American Literature class.


My favorite place in the world to be is underwater. My second favorite place is the front of a classroom.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Book Club Scribing, Day 4 (May 8)

The Catcher in the Rye
Chapters 11-14 Discussion
- For our starting activity, Sarah drew a shoe sprouting a tree on which there was Holden's red hunting hat. To her, it symbolized Holden's "sex obsession and quest for humanity".
Aubrey drew an abstract picture symbolically representing the spontineity of Holden's nonconforming and undefined character. Andie drew a penguin with fangs, and was unable to explain the inspiration for this.
- Holden may read because while he enjoys learning, he does not want to live life for his parents, so does not seek to improve his grades. He may just read on a whim, not really enjoying what he reads.
- Holden was probably never invited to be on a movie short, but just enjoys making up stories to gain attention and possibly form a character for himself.
- Holden asks about the ducks in central park because he feels estranged, and feels that he can't survive in the life he has. He is desperately searching for freedom and a place to belong, but does not know what to do.
- Holden probably did not have sex with Sunny because he was reminded of Jane. He may feel guilty for not being able to protect and encourage her. This is why he always feels as if he cannot talk to her.

The Catcher in the Rye

Opening activity: Music lyrics
We discussed music lyrics that relate to Holden from a Nirvana song. We thought that many of the specific quotes related to themes in the book.
What role do women play in Holden’s life?
We thought that Holden’s view of women varies with who the woman is. For example he respects Jane and his sister but when he meets the women in the night club he seems to not really care for them.
What is the significance of the title?
We thought that the title serves as a metaphor for life as a whole.
Does Holden’s behavior indicate that he might eventually collapse?
We think that since Holden is so stubborn and often selfish it will be hard for him to carry in life. He seems to continually emotionally digress and it will be hard for him to get out of his "slump"
Does Holden mature throughout the novel?
There are signs that could show he progresses and signs showing he has not. The only person that he can truly relate to is his 10 year old sister but also he has been able to make very tough decisions.

The Bell Jar Book Club
Opening activity
Discussion of quote "flaying back and forth between one mutually exclusive thing and another"
-set in your ways or not know what you’re doing: security v.s. freedom -Break a bone of own pride or have someone to blame: pride vs. blame: avoidance of telling others the fault, honesty question. Comes down to sibling mentality -recognition or blend into the background? Everyone wants to be recognized, but not like a celebrity.
-would you rather be decisive or go with the flow? People who don’t go with the flow don’t appreciate life. These go hand in hand- live in the moment decisively.
-rather have false happiness or something commit to something that appears special, if different? "appears?" no way. Go with the flow -cause self pain or have it pushed upon you? Accountability=hard. Struggle to make self feel pain, struggle afterwards, all pointless. Coaches pushing you=improvement more than self-inflicted.
Question discussion:
Esther's decisiveness: is this healthy? Good, no conformty, but doesn't act upon it, so unhealthy. She doesn't excel because of this, and parents make her more undecisive.

My Name is Asher Lev

Is Asher a genius, being able to replicate Guernica?
He has a knack for shape, line, and color—it’s possible that he has a photographic memory

Is Asher dedicated enough to Jacob Kahn to study with him for 5 years?
Jacob Kahn is crazy?
Does he understand the commitment to Kahn?
He has no idea what he’s doing—no direction (Corey)
Why not? He’s been drawing for many years already
Asher’s given up so much already

Why is Asher scared that his father won’t come home?
His mother’s reaction—without his father, he doesn’t know how to deal with his mother’s new withdrawal
Asher’s life is like a puzzle—we can only see through his eyes. We don’t know anything except what is happening in his world.

“Kahn” can mean “commander”. Is this fitting for Jacob?
Yes—he is a leader in Asher’s art life, but a little crazy.
No—he seems to use reverse psychology, trying to get Asher into art by telling him to do something else. Also, he’s scared of failing the Rebbe and himself after five years of hard work.

Is Asher’s father disappointed in him?
Yes, very, from all the violent reactions he had to Asher’s drawings. However, he does appreciate in some small way the effort Asher has made to somewhat balance his studies and art.

Catcher in the Rye
Day 4
(Chapters 16-19)

Today’s Focus Question: Holden is constantly criticizing those around him, but in these chapters, you see more people criticize him. What do these other people think of him? How does he want to be perceived?

First, the book club listened to “Iris,” by the Goo Goo Dolls. We thought about how Holden is and what he wants other people to think of him. As we listened, we made connections between the novel and the lyrics. After listening t the song, we discussed the connections we made and drew them back to the focus question.
And I'd give up forever to touch you Cause I know that you feel me somehow You're the closest to heaven [k1] that I'll ever be And I don't want to go home right now [k2] And all I can taste is this moment [k3] And all I can breathe is your life Cause sooner or later it's over I just don't want to miss you tonight
And I don't want the world [k4] to see me Cause I don't think that they'd understand [k5] When everything's made to be broken I just want you to know who I am And you can't fight the tears that ain't coming Or the moment of truth in your lies[k6] When everything seems like the movies [k7] Yeah you bleed just to know your alive Chorus x3I just want you to know who I am [k8] I just want you to know who I am I just want you to know who I am I just want you to know who I am

-Scared what people will think of his true opinions?
-Maybe he’s been hurt before by a friend.
-Want to be suave

-He’s afraid of growing up
-Afraid of being boring, blending in
-Prefers people his own age
-He still knows that he has to
-Scared of change (misoneist)

-He only wants what he can’t have
-Excited about the idea

[k1]He doesn’t think that he is good enough.

[k2]He never wants to go home because he will be bored/alone.

[k3]He is afraid of change.

[k4]It is full of yellow, phony, and crumby people.

[k5]He keeps his judgments to himself.

[k6]He tells so many lies that they are bound to come back at him. “what goes around comes around”

[k7]People and actors are all phonies.

[k8]This book is like a dairy for him. He is telling the whole story so you can understand him.

The Bell Jar book club

When is description too much?
- When you cannot even imagine what happens. Or parts that you don't even want to know about, like when Esther talks about cutting with the Gillette razors
When did she start going insane?
- It started from the very beginning of her life. When she didn't get the scholarship, she definitely cracked. She needs some sort of caretaker b/c she is harmful to herself. She's aware of her insanity, so does that make her more sane? Esther knows she has to control her changes, to appear "normal." She's very paranoid that her true "crazy" self will be revealed. A distorted reality--the only thing she's interested in because it's the only thing she can understand.
Do you think she's just trying to get attention?
- She wants attention from her mom. She runs away just for the attention. Her perfection and straight A's weren't for herself, but for her mother. Or there isn't a motive behind going crazy, getting attention is just one part of it. She doesn't want to be perfect anymore. She's focusing too much on herself, this is what’s making her insane and wanting to kill herself because she has nothing else to think about. There aren’t any distractions. She is deteriorating.
Will she get better or commit suicide?
- The suicidal tendencies continue to progress, she is probably going to kill herself before she gets better. Esther thinks she hates her life, but as soon as she starts to kill herself, she realizes that she almost ended something that could have been great. She could also be getting caught up in the drama, the romance of killing oneself.
Do you think that Esther doesn't want to kill herself anymore or is she happy with the asylum?
- Esther would rather kill herself. The asylum is no good. She's not trying anymore, she doesn't care. She just wants to die.
How has her paranoia increased?
- She has always been paranoid, caring about what people thought about her, and now it's magnified. Everything is catching up to her.

A Farewell to Arms
Opening Activity:
We read the poem "To His Coy Mistress" by Andrew Marvell "That long preserved virginity" could represent Henry's love for Catherine and how he wants to preserve their relationship.
Focus Question: How does war penetrate those involved and are the changes hat it makes on people ever reversible?
-War ultimately destroys those involved because it distorts their reality. They try to cope with the horrors they experience daily and it eventually drives them crazy.
What is the purpose of Henry giving up his seat?
-It shows that he sees that the world is bigger than he is. He wants to help people get through the war.
Why is Henry offended when Rinaldi asks if Catherine is "good in bed"?
-He doesn't want people to think about his relationship with her. Throughout the whole book Henry and Catherine have tried to keep their relationship on the down low because they didn't want to feel pressured by the world?
Why do the words "sacred, glorious, and sacrifice" embarrass Henry?
-Henry has never been a man of religion and these words imply a sense of religious notions.
What do you think Henry was dreaming about regarding Catherine?
-He was probably thinking about where he wanted their relationship to go? He usually thinks about the war and was probably subconsciously using her as a form of escape from reality.
Was Henry justified in shooting the abandoned engineers?
-It depends on how you look at it. If you look at it with a soft heart toward human life, then no. He murdered them in cold blood. If you look at it with a soft heart toward a man's mentality then he was justified. The war had dragged him down so much that he eventually just snapped when he saw the engineers and ended their life.
Why did Henry suddenly change from talking about his relationship with Catherine to his life in the war?
-It seems that Henry finally realized that his life with Catherine wasn't really reality. Though he will probably go back to talking about their relationship he is now focused on reality and making a good life for his soon to be born baby boy.
For our closing activity we looked for passages in the book that might explain why Henry switched from talking about his love life to talking about the war halfway through the book.

Book Club
Catcher in the Rye
May 8, 2007


© Songs relating to the book
o Holden’s issues
§ Drinking
§ Prostitutes
· He wants her to come and then he doesn’t want her to come
© Depression and suicide
o Is there any one event that hurt him?
§ Disappointed in himself
§ No care attitude
§ Losing Jane
· Talks about her constantly
o He won’t ever actually commit suicide
o His suicidal issues are out of the blue
§ He’s kind of bipolar
© Why is he so obsessed about the ducks and fish in the pond?
o He is constantly asking about it and wondering about
o Such a simple concept
§ Ducks fly south
§ It is obvious to us
o He asks all the cab drivers
o It is something for him to think about
§ He doesn’t want to have to think about the other sad things in his life
o He needs to know an answer
o Obsession with life and death
§ He asks if the fish die or not
o Symbolize something?
§ They definitely do symbolize something
§ Life/death thing
§ Fears of being by himself
· Ducks fly south
§ Unconscious relationship with himself
· Relationship with parents
· Doesn’t know what he will do when he truly leaves his parents
© Is Holden a people person or does he like to keep to himself
o Keeps to himself but is afraid of what will happen if he stays by himself
§ Feels he needs to be with people
o More comfortable by himself
o Maybe its certain people
o I would think like originally he keeps to himself

Syllabus: The Bell Jar Book Club
May 3, 2007
Book Club Members: Ana Malnati, Allison Nonko, Amy Ordaz, and Pieter Orlandini
Today’s focus question: Why does Sylvia Plath see it fit to incorporate death, abuse, and symbolic endings up until Esther’s departure from New York? What is the significance and does it help to further the knowledge that the audience has about Esther’s character.
Opening Activity: Look up a biography on Sylvia Plath and note similarities between her own life and that of Esther’s. Is their a possibility that another character is more similar to Sylvia Plath than Esther? http://www.americanpoems.com/poets/sylviaplath
Club Discussion Questions:
1.What was Esther so hysterical over? If it was in regards to the Rosenbergs’ executions, why is she so emotional about their deaths? Did she have a personal relationship with them?
2.Why did Hilda have no sympathy for the Rosenbergs and why was she glad that they were being executed?
3.Do you think that the opportunity that Esther has had in New York has actually benefitted Esther in terms of both her career and her person life or has it set her goals back and caused her to question what she is doing with her life more?
4.What was the point of the incidence between Marco and Esther? Was there a deeper meaning that was supposed to be grasped or was it just a filler?
5.Do you think that Esther will keep any of the relationships of connections that she has made in New York or do you think that she will attempt to leave everything that has to do with New York in the past?
6)What was the significance of throwing away her clothes of the building at the end of the chapter?
7)Why did Esther not want to bring any of the clothes that she got in New York home with her?
8)Why did Sylvia Plath decide to have Esther’s last night in New York a disaster?
9)Do you think that Esther is on the verge of having a break down? What events might have led up to this break down?
Closing Activity: Find connections between Sylvia Plath’s poem and The Bell Jar that we have read thus far. What underlying themes are found in both pieces? What symbols are present within the poem that can explain what is going on in Esther’s mind and the angle in which the narration is written.


Compelled by calamity's magnet They loiter and stare as if the house Burnt-out were theirs, or as if they thought Some scandal might any minute ooze From a smoke-choked closet into light; No deaths, no prodigious injuries Glut these hunters after an old meat, Blood-spoor of the austere tragedies. Mother Medea in a green smock Moves humbly as any housewife through Her ruined apartments, taking stock Of charred shoes, the sodden upholstery: Cheated of the pyre and the rack, The crowd sucks her last tear and turns away.

American Lit-6
Discussion of Chapter 8 of The Bell Jar
1) What do you think has made Esther so cynical about marriage?
-Esther observes Buddy Willard’s mom braiding a rug made of her husbands old suits that took a lot of time to make and once it was finished, Mrs. Willard placed the rug on the ground and it became soiled. Esther considered the rug to be symbolic of how marriage can ruin every success that a woman has achieved prior to the marriage she is currently in.
-Esther is frustrated how society illustrates the pursuit of happiness of a woman can only be attained by getting married because a man is required in order for a woman’s life to feel complete.
2) Why is Esther afraid of commitment?
-It has become that apparent that Esther does not believe in true love because she has not observed true love in any of the relationships she has witnessed throughout her lifetime.
-Esther has very high standards for men and she often finds that she is attracted to a man who does not seem to have any flaws when he is held at a distance, but once she becomes close to a man she realizes all of his flaws and is no longer interested in pursuing that relationship.
3) How are Esther’s beliefs traditional or nontraditional for the time period she is in?
-Esther wants to be a successful individual and she does not want to sacrifice her goals and ambitions in order to get married. Most of the women in the 1940s did not voice this opinion because many of them were house wives and as youth went to college in order to get a degree that helps them to prepare for marriage and to support their husbands, while their husbands went off to work.
-Esther also has a very negative view on most males in her life, she has not consistently stayed interested with a man and she has not had a lot of experience with dating. Most women were happy to start to date, in the hopes of finding a male that they could potentially marry in the near future.
4) What is more important to Esther, happiness or success?
-Esther often falsely thinks that in order to be happy, she most fulfill everything that she has aspired to achieve and after she has done this, then she can truly be content. Since Esther has had the chance to come to New York because of a scholarship opportunity, it seems that she is not happy at all because she always speaks so negatively about the city and the people who she encounters there.
-Esther has always been a straight A student, so I do not think that she has truly allowed herself to be content with anything that does not involve hard work and it appears that she is capable of holding a grudge towards people whom have not had to work as hard as she has to have the opportunities that she has made for herself.
5) Is Esther more independent than most girls her age?
-Esther takes in account of peoples opinions about her and often she determines her future by the decisions that others have made for her, not her own ambitions.
-Esther also feels that she needs to be validated by her peers, her skills need to be acknowledged and complimented on for her to feel she is headed in the right direction.
6) Why is Buddy so happy when he informs Esther that she cannot go skiing again?
-Buddy feels that he has some control over Esther’s actions when her leg is broken, she knows that she cannot go skiing because she is injured, but Buddy thinks that he has some control over her when he won’t "allow" her to do another run.
-Similar to the scriptures, shepherds used to break the legs of any of the sheep who would continually run away in order to prevent this from happening any more, so the breaking of Esther’s leg could be symbolic of Buddy’s attempts of trying to hold on to Esther forever.
7) Do you think that Esther will ever end her relationship with Buddy?
-It will be hard for Esther to be able to end the relationship she has with him because he is really sick and I think that she is afraid that breaking up with him could possibly jeopardize his health even further.
8) What are Buddy’s feelings towards Esther? Does he actually love her?
-Buddy is feeling pressure from his parents to marry Esther because they have always dreamed of having a daughter and Buddy has a really close bond to his parents.
-Buddy might want to get married, just to be able to be married because he is not sure how much more time he has to live and I think that quite possibly he just wants the chance to be able to be married one time in his life.


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