Drama as Literature (EL 250)

29 Aug 2005

Reflection Paper - Sample

This sample reflection paper contains a direct quotation from the text, refers to peer agenda items, and and makes a non-obvious observation about the text. It's a little more developed than a typical "Reflection" needs to be (see "RRRR" in the glossary.)

The final statement ties several of these observations together and takes a stand.

Sample Reflection Paper

Sally Student
Prof. Dennis G. Jerz
EL 250
31 Aug 2005
"Heart in the Ground"
    Lee: I'm stuck! And so are you! And we can't do anything about it! Because I'm not the sheriff, your brother is. And I don't have the law in my hands—he does. Hell, I don't even have it on my side right now, thanks to you! So if you really care about this house and the farm and your family, you'll finish your supper, go upstairs, and stop the goddamn digging! (Hill, "Heart in the Ground")

How important are gender roles to this play? As grieving mother, housewife, former mental patient, and a nature-lover, Karen fits many roles that literary authors use to explore women's lives. Lee bosses her around in this scene... is he a male oppressor?

Is this scene setting up a feminist awakening? Do we long for Karen to stand up and give a speech, telling the sexist pigs in her life that she's her own woman and they can't take that away from her?

Actually, the play makes no sense unless Bill is a real threat to both characters. Lee is also earthy... he also grieves... and, as a former prisoner, he is also under the thumb of The Man. We can't expect Bill to suddenly go away if someone tells him he's a greedy, sexist pig.

Karen's vision of the moon seems to suggest salvation. In their comments, Katie Aikins and Katie Lambert both thought of the moon as a heavenly symbol, but in that scene Karen seems to sense power coming directly from the mooon -- that's more like nature worship than monotheistic faith. Courts and hospitals are mentioned as powerful institutions, but no churches are mentioned -- just a cemetery.

Lee and Karen are both only tenatively free from the threats of the institutions (correctional or medical) that had confined them. That fits in with the Christian concept of the fall from grace, though it's hardly an exclusively Christian concept. While Lee does try to assert his authority as head of the household, Karen is actually more violent than Lee (as when she slams the knife).

In "Heart in the Ground," the gender tension is secondary. Note that Lee is not introduced as "a famer" and Karen as "the farmer's wife". They are both spouses to each other and farmers in their own right. "Heart in the Ground" is not really about gender. It is, instead, a celebration of nature.

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First, I am glad to see that this example of a reflection paper does not belabor the feminist criticism often used as an easy rationale. Second, the moon/nature coonection, although valid, falls flat on its "dirty" face. There is more to this one-act play than a couple's embrace of Mother Earth. They lost their baby for crying out loud. How else do you expect people to react? Without dipping too deeply into psychoanalytical babble, if anyone has ever had a child, or God forbid lost one, then the reaction that Karen and Lee have is expected. In fact, I am all too surprised that their emotions, especially Karen's (remember this is baby#2 for her) aren't more severe. I concede that the play alludes to a stay in some mental hospital. No further information is given. Sadly enough, that is wher the play should focus. If you are going to focus on a topic like the death of a child, as playwright, you better be responsible enough to follow through with what truly goes on in the minds'of mother and dad.

Leslie Dolan

Posted by: Leslie Dolan at November 3, 2006 11:23 PM

Leslie, those are some pretty strong words.

It's worth recognizing that the script is really just part of the artistic work. The actors will communicate with their body, their facial expressions, and the tone of their voice, in such a way that an audience should be able to read between the lines, to provide some of the back story. Since this play starts off as a mystery, and since the playwright draws in the audience by getting them interested in figuring out what's going on between these two people, I think it wouldn't be nearly as successful artistically if it were easier to understand after a first reading.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at November 4, 2006 01:57 PM
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