Brooke Kuehn: November 2009 Archives

Why so Drab?

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"Because writers of poems, plays, and stories are usually not systematic philosophers, it is not appropriate to go 'message hunting' as though their works contained nothing but ideas" (Roberts 120).

            Eh hem... this quote definitely stopped me in my tracks. Have we not been taught since middle school to look for symbolism, imagery, metaphors, similes, and so on and on and on and on in everything we read? I guess I have to give our teachers the benefit of the doubt. These texts were given to us knowing that they were literary pieces and therefore, must have reason to be close read. I just found it so strange to read this quote in a school "text book" when we are usually taught how to close read not that we should not always do it.

            Of course, it is common sense that we do not usually close read the books we read for fun. These books are meant to be an escape or as Roberts terms it, "escape literature" (123). In my opinion, "escape literature" should be added at least once into the curriculum. I know that there have been books I have read in high school and college that I really enjoyed and would have probably read by choice outside of class. These "works do embody ideas" (Roberts 123). Any idea can be analyzed; therefore, I think a book that is known to be popular amongst society, aka us college or high school students, could be added into the curriculum. I think it is important to refresh students with the reason why they truly love reading. I believe we can take something from almost everything we read. A lot of us found John Henry Days and The Quick and the Dead quite challenging and sometimes painful to read. Don't get me wrong though, I did enjoy parts of each novel. I just think it would be nice to see how books that we read for fun can also teach us something. Maybe then we will think twice when we read for fun and read between the lines a little bit more. We may be surprised by what we find.

Check out Josie's blog for more on the importance of reading literature for fun

Portfolio 3

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Portfolio 3


A Coping Method?(Maus) a discussion on how upfront Vladik is about his history of hardships in Maus.

My Thoughts are Haunting Me (Shakespeare Sonnet 30) an analysis of the speaker's train of thought in Shakespeare's Sonnet 30--negative versus positive thoughts .

Just like Blogging (Keats) a comparison between Keats' poetic response to Chapman's Homer and our class blog entries.

One Order of Imagery, Coming Right Up (Roberts Ch. 8) Is there really imagery in everything we read? Here I discuss the possibility while also analyzing the imagery in Masefield's "Cargoes".

You are What You Hear. You are What You See. (Hughes "Theme") Do we learn to be mean or is it a quality we are born with? This entry discusses possible answers to the question and also the concept that "we are what we learn" as shown in Hughes' "Theme". 

Sulk or Recover (Mansfield "Miss Brill") a look at the possible outcomes of Miss Brill being made fun of in Mansfield's "Miss Brill". Will she or wont she "people watch again"?

It's Common Sense People (Editorial) an analysis of "Texting Ban: Budgeting Fiasco", an editorial from the Patriot News Editorial Board. Why is the issue of texting while driving so overlooked?

You Reap What You Sow (Poe) an analysis of the figurative and metaphorical meanings in Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death".

Factual vs. Flowery (Roberts Ch 9) a look at the use of metaphors in news writing and the concept of getting straight to the point.

Just Like Hughes (Roberts Ch 6) a comparison between "real life" people and literary characters in response to the idea that people are sculpted by their surroundings.

We All Die Alone (John Henry Prologue and Part1) An analysis of J.'s most overwhelming emotion before death: loneliness.

Not Respected? (John Henry 2 and 3) a brief look at how Whitehead's novel has instilled a new form of respect from me for freelance journalists.

From the Perspective of a People Watcher (John Henry 4) Here I vent my frustration with needless pages of descriptions in John Henry.


Depth: I generally write rather lengthy blogs; however, my last few were short due to time crunch. I find it helpful to write longer blogs because the further I get into the entry, the deeper I get into the piece. Basically, longer blogs help me close read more efficiently.

My Thoughts are Haunting Me (Shakespeare Sonnet 30)

One Order of Imagery, Coming Right Up (Roberts Ch. 8)

You are What You Hear. You are What You See. (Hughes "Theme")

It's Common Sense People (Editorial)


Interaction: For every entry of mine that someone commented on, I commented on his/her blog for the same piece. This was something new that I tried for this portfolio and I found it quite helpful in carrying on conversations with others. I think it is common courtesy to comment on a person's blog who took the time to comment on mine.

Simple Questioning? -Melissa Schwenk

Melissa and I discuss the emotions of the speaker in Hughes' "Theme for English B". We analyze the overall feeling of anger, loneliness, and lack of confidence.


The Self-Pity Sonnet -Josie Rush

Josie, Aja, and I discuss the shift of thought at the end of Shakespeare's Sonnet 30 as well as whether or not the friend mentioned at the end was dead or alive.


I Sigh My Lack of Brain... -Carissa Altizer

Carissa, Klaryssa, and I discuss how we can relate to the feeling of regret in Hughes' "Theme for English B".


Roses are red, violets are blue, all my metaphors have been said, so what should I do? Josie Rush

I found Josie's entry on "Miss Brill" rather thought provoking so I shared my thoughts in a rather lengthy comment.


What is True? -Jessie Krehlik

This conversation involved several members of our class. I was the first to comment, adding that the mentioning of the age 22 in Hughes' piece helped me further relate to the piece.



You are What You Hear. You are What You See. (Hughes "Theme")

It's Common Sense People (Editorial)

Just like Blogging (Keats)

Factual vs. Flowery (Roberts Ch 9)

A Coping Method? (Maus)

My Thoughts are Haunting Me (Shakespeare Sonnet 30)


Timeliness: Because I try to write lengthier blogs, I sometimes find it difficult to blog on time. However, the following pieces were all written in a timely manner. Also, compared to my last two portfolios I wrote many more piece on time for this portfolio.

My Thoughts are Haunting Me (Shakespeare Sonnet 30)

Factual vs. Flowery (Roberts Ch 9)

Just like Blogging (Keats)

You are What You Hear. You are What You See. (Hughes "Theme")

Poor Toby (Chekhov "The Bear")



1.      I was the first to comment on the following entries:

What a Fancy Way to Say You Like Reading Kayla Lesko  

I Sigh My Lack of Brain... Carissa Altizer

Catching the Swine Flu Dianna Griffin

What is True? Jessie Krehlik


Mind Your Tone Karyssa


2.      I was the first to comment on these entries and I returned to carry on the conversations:

The Self-Pity Sonnet Josie Rush

Josie's entry ended up receiving six comments. I returned to her entry and added a second comment later on to continue our conversation.

Simple Questioning? Melissa Schwenk

Melissa's entry now has six comments, three of which are my comments.


3.      Roses are red, violets are blue, all my metaphors have been said, so what should I do? Josie Rush

I replied to Josie's blog with a very lengthy comment. Her blog entry caused me to think of many different ideas on Mansfield's "Miss Brill" which I decided to share in my comment.



You are What You Hear. You are What You See. (Hughes "Theme") I chose this blog for my wildcard piece because it generated the most comments out of all my blogs.


From the Perspective of a People Watcher

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"There's almost a fistfight.Cooler heads prevail. A man arguesd with his wife over who had the keys last, they're in his back pocket where he never puts them. The baby won't fall asleep and that little song that always works isn't today" (Whitehead 246).

            I felt like I was reading the observations of Miss Brill in the beginning of part four. Seriously, is it really necessary to spend five pages describing pointless activities going on at a festival. I think most people know what a festival is and if they don't, they could look up a simple definition and that would be enough. I remember reading that every word in writing has meaning, but I can't grasp the reason for writing such pointless descriptions. I want action not a people watcher's notes on the day's observations.

We All Die Alone

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"All these crackers looking up at me, looking up at the tree. Nobody doing nothing, just staring. They know how to watch a nigger die" (Whitehead 79).

            I found it interesting that for the majority of the prologue and part one, I didn't realize that J. was African American. It almost seemed to not be a big deal until the life or death moment at the end of part one. In the midst of fear and panic, J.'s true anger and frustration over race comes out. Everyone has an underlying sense of pride in their race and some may even have anger or resentment for others. Perhaps being in such a moment of crisis, J. looked for someone to blame, someone to be mad at to take his mind of his suffering. Also, maybe this is foreshadowing of a possible loneliness inside J. So far J. has his fellow colleagues from the list, but we have not yet heard of any family or true friends. Even the members of the list seem to be hoping J. will fail at his attempt to break the record of writing a piece a day for a year. It seems appropriate that in the moment of death, loneliness would be an overwhelming emotion, especially for a man who is lonely on a daily basis. We all die alone.

Not Respected?

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"J. Shifts on his feet. His stomach complains again" (Whitehead 28).            

              In class, Dr. Jerz said that free lance journalists like J. and the others on the list are less respected. I was surprised by this because reading this novel has instilled in me so much more respect and appreciation for people like J. I could never live such an unstable lifestyle, not knowing where I'll be in a few days or when I will be able to eat another meal. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to have a family as well. I am the kind of person who would need a steady income and a family.

Just Like Hughes

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"Like all human beings, literary characters do not exist in isolation. Just as they became human by interacting with other characters, they gain identity because of their cultural and political allegiances, their possessions, their jobs, where they live, and move, and have their being" (Roberts 109).

            This reminds me so much of my blog on Hughes' "Theme for English B". People are sculpted and somewhat defined by their surroundings. In my blog on Hughes' "Theme" I focused more on the idea of real life people being sculpted by their surroundings as opposed to literary characters. I really like how the quote above demonstrates this concept in literary figures as well as real life people.

You Reap What You Sow

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"'Who dares'--he demanded hoarsely of the courtiers who stood near him--'who dares insult us with this blasphemous mockery? Seize him and unmask him--that we may know who we have to hang, at sunrise, from the battlements!"' (Roberts 359).

            I have had to read this piece for a few classes since high school and I still cannot decide whether I personally believe the mask of the Red Death was actually a person wearing a mask or a metaphor for the presence of the disease at the masquerade. I am unaware of what scholars believe it to mean; this is simply what I personally took from the short story. I also feel almost ashamed for writing such a brief analysis of such a powerful piece.

            "His vesture was dabbled in blood--and his broad brow, with all the features of the face, was besprinkled with the scarlet horror" (Roberts 359). Notice how blood is italicized in this quote. Is the purpose of this to emphasize the fact that the blood was believed to have been real or perhaps to demonstrate the uncertainty of whether or not it was fake?

            "and, seizing the murmur, whose tall figure stood erect and motionless within the shadow of the ebony clock, gasped in unutterable horror at finding the grave cerements and corpse-like mask, which they handled with so violent a rudeness, untenanted by any tangible form" (Roberts 360).  It almost seems as though the Prince has killed himself for fear of dying from the disease, while the face behind the mask looks on in horror at the results of his shameful joke. Or perhaps the "slow and solemn movement" (Roberts 359) of the Red Death was the spreading of the disease throughout the party guests. Maybe we are not supposed to know who actually brought the disease to the party but rather that the guests were paranoid of the possibility of its presence.

            This story reminds me of two age old sayings. First of all, "do unto your neighbors as you would unto yourself". Would you want someone to leave you alone dying without any help to go to a party? Prince Prospero died alone felling helpless in the face of the disease because he refused to help the sick, but instead party. This can also be related to the saying "You reap what you sow" for the same reason. He turned his back on his people and therefore, life turned its back on the Prince and allowed death to take over.

It's Common Sense People

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            This editorial, "Texting ban: Budget fiasco",  is on an issue that has been overlooked for far too long. Texting while driving causes deaths every year and yet only "eighteen states have banned it". The Patriot News Editorial Board argues that deaths caused by texting while driving are "casualties of the budget fiasco...Because, while lawmakers have negotiated and postured and stonewalled about the budget for months, all other work at the Capitol has slowed to a crawl".  Perhaps if all states had banned texting while driving, a taxi driver, a social worker, and a teacher would still be alive. And yet, legislators seem to not have time for this matter. The author writes, "In 2007, legislators passed 95 laws through September. Last year, they passed 174 laws during that period. This year? 54".

            The author of this article admits that there are a few "valid" arguments against banning texting while driving. In my opinion, weak arguments, such as, saying that drinking coffee is just as bad as texting while driving. But the author shuts down this ridiculous claim saying, "Texting requires looking at the phone's keyboard not just for a few seconds but over and over, leaving no eyes on the road. Texting often requires two hands, leaving no hands on the wheel".   

            The author also touches on the fact that there a few bills against texting while driving, but some only target drivers under age 18. I thought this country was about equality? Who's to say that a teenage driver is any worse than a middle age driver? Just because middle age drivers generally have more experience does not mean they are any better than a newer driver. Many newer drivers are even more cautious then other drivers because they do not have that false sense of security that experienced drivers get once they've driven long enough to feel they have perfected the art. No matter how much experience one has, texting while driving is just as risky for a new driver as it is for a more experienced driver.

            Just to prove how little attention is being placed on this issue, the author states, "A weak texting ban passed the Senate July 7. That bill by Sen. Robert 'Tommy' Tomlinson, R-Bucks County, would make DWT -- driving while texting -- a secondary offense, enforceable only if a driver is cited for another violation. It would carry a maximum $100 fine. You can get a stiffer fine in many towns for playing music too loud".  So there you have it. Government is regarding texting while driving as being as dangerous as playing loud music. Even though the first is likely to cause casualties and the latter, a headache? I could not agree more with the author saying "It's time for the Legislature to pass a comprehensive ban on driving while texting, as a primary offense with stiff penalties, before another life is lost".

            In the meantime, drivers need to understand the risks of texting while driving and stop doing the act. It is common sense that an accident could result from taking one's eyes off the road so people need to understand they are not exempt from car accidents. It can happen to anyone, but fewer accidents could occur if people started being more cautious drivers.

Sulk or Recover?

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"But to-day she passed the baker's by, climbed the stairs, went into the little dark room--her room like a cupboard--and sat down on the red eiderdown" (Roberts 351).

            Wow that story was depressing. I wonder what Miss Brill would do in the days following being made fun of. Would she sulk all week in self pity, hiding in her room? Would she consult with a friend, perhaps her English colleagues or the man she reads the paper to? Maybe these people would tell her how great she is and how much they care about her, anything to make her feel better and pull her out of her rut.  Would she follow her usual routine on the Sunday ahead or would she wait a few weeks before returning? Maybe she wouldn't return at all. Maybe she would find a new location to "people watch"at. If she did decide to return to the park, maybe someone would confront her there. Maybe just being spoken to nicely and noticed in a positive way would help her feel better.

            I find it strange that people "people watch". Yes, I am sure we have all listened in a conversation at one time or another on purpose or by accident, which would make us all slightly guilty of "people watching". What I find strange is when people "people watch" for long periods of time. I remember a girl admitting in class once that she and her boyfriend would sit in their car in a parking lot for a few hours at a time, watching people and talking about them. How about that for making you feel even more self conscience then society already makes us feel.  

            I tried to think of a possible positive for "people watching" and this was all that I could come up with. Maybe to get an idea for a character or story to write about, watching everyday people could jolt some ideas. Maybe you could look at someone and then write what you would imagine that person's life to be like. It just might help you write a novel someday, who knows. I can't say whether or not this actually works because I never tried it, but I would imagine it would.  


You are What You Hear. You are What You See.

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"Sometimes perhaps you don't want to be a part of me.

Nor do I often want to be a part of you.

But we are, that's true!" (34-36).

            It may be obvious that we learn from others and thus are sculpted by them; however, I still found this passage of the poem must thought provoking and interesting. We learn to hate, to be mean, to be racist. These are not qualities we are born with. However, as I write this I think to myself, could children be this way without being taught? Maybe children do look at each other and think they should be mean to someone else for being different from them, but is this something they learned to do?

            We are sculpted by our surroundings, the people, the environment, all that we see and experience. After every difficulty we face, we are changed. Hopefully, we use the difficulty as a learning experience, one to grow from. But regardless of whether these hardships change us for the good or the bad, the fact is, we change.  I do not have the statistics in front of me or the proven facts, so I am going to do some assuming here. I would assume, a child born into a racist family would be more likely to be racist over a child born into a family that believes all are equal. Perhaps children look at others wondering why they are different, not yet being mean to them for it though. These children may ask their parents, the teacher, other students, or the  actual student being observed, why they look different. Whatever answer the student receives will play a role in how the questioning child perceives the different child.

            We all know the saying "a child is like a sponge". Children take in all that they hear and learn, like a sponge. Maybe the same child who became curious about the different child decided to ask everyone this time, the teacher, his/her parents, other students, and the student in question, why the different child is different. Maybe the curious child used each answer to make a generalization about the different child.

            I really do not know the answer to these questions. If we are not born with the ability to be mean, but rather learn to be, then who was the first person to decide to be mean to others? I mean it all had to start somewhere right?

            Either way, Hughes had it right when he said, "As I learn from you/I guess you learn from me" (37-38). We take in what we learn from our teachers and that knowledge becomes a part of us. I believe the saying "children are like sponges" should be "people are like sponges". We never stop taking in what we see or hear. I also believe we never stop learning whether we want to or not. Good and bad experiences continue to occur throughout our lifetime and we are sculpted by them.

Poor Toby

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"Luka, tell them in the stable not to give Toby any oats today" (Roberts 392).

            So then, is that what it takes to get over the death of a spouse, a new lover? Hmm... I guess it makes sense if the deceased spouse was loyal and good, but not if the spouse was hurtful. I understand it being difficult to get over the death of a spouse regardless of how they treated you, but proclaiming to never fall in love again is ridiculous. Well let me clarify something. I think it is understandable for someone who lost a loving spouse to claim commitment to the deceased for the rest of his/her life and I also think it is perfectly understandable to fall in love again. However, I think it is ridiculous for someone to proclaim commitment to a deceased loved one who cheated on you! Did this play anger anyone else? First of all, I hate the deceased spouse for being so disloyal, and I hate Smirnov for being such an obnoxious hothead. Could these characters be any more annoying? Ugh I could hear the voices rising in my head as Smirnov and Mrs. Popov argued and all I wanted to do was scream SHUT UP!!!

            Okay, now for what I did like about the play. I was cringing up until the part where Smirnov and Mrs. Popov challenge each other to a duel. Once Mrs. Popov goes "gun happy" and Smirnov falls in love with her, the play actually gets funny. Finally, we no longer have to hear Smirnov vent uncontrollably, but instead laugh at his weakness for having fallen love. I probably laughed the hardest when Smirnov says "Shoot! You could never understand what happiness it would be to die under the gaze of those wonderful eyes" (Roberts 391).  

            Despite my hating Smirnov in the beginning, I am glad he found love at the end of the play. I am also glad Mrs. Popov finally stood up for herself by challenging Smirnov to a gun fight. My only regret is that poor Toby will not get his oats now. Hopefully, Mrs. Popov won't be hateful of everything that reminds her of her deceased husband.

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