Throwback Thursday: Poetry Comparison Angelou/Hughes

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.

With ironic diction and differing rhyme scheme, both “Harlem Hopscotch” by Maya Angelou and “Theme for English B” by Langston Hughes convey the relationship, particularly for African-Americans, between being an individual and conforming to society. Irony plays a large role, contrasting expectations and realities of individuals in society.

Much of the message of a poem comes from the structure and rhyme scheme. For both poems, “Harlem Hopscotch” by Maya Angelou and “Theme for English B” by Langston Hughes, this holds true. “Harlem Hopscotch” uses an AABBCC etc. rhyme scheme, resembling a child’s rhyming game much like hopscotch, conveying how even child can feel the pressure of society to conform. The poem is fourteen lines, like a sonnet but the rhyme scheme differs from traditional sonnet rhyme schemes, showing level of conformity to traditional poetry while introducing individual style, much as Maya Angelou is showing the balance in the relationship between individualism and conformity to society for acceptance, a delicate balance for many African-Americans. Childish things like hopscotch are often seen as unimportant or of less merit and Angelou bringing it to the center is unexpected and thus ironic. Compared to “Harlem Hopscotch”, Langston Hughes’s “Theme for English B” is a free-verse poem. “Theme for English B” details an assignment he was given – likely intended to be a page of prose – that he instead turns into a free-verse poem, implying he will do the assignment, he will follow instructions (e.g. writing a page) but he will do things his own way (e.g. writing a free-verse poem, no typical structure or rhyme scheme). This shows how Hughes is retaining individuality, even as he writes about not being so inherently different from his white instructor and classmates.

Both poems, “Harlem Hopscotch” by Maya Angelou and “Theme for English B” by Langston Hughes, use irony to give their message of the struggle to be an individual and conform to society all at once. For many African-Americans, conformity to society was a blow to individuality and dehumanizing, but also necessary. Beyond the structure and rhyme scheme of the poems, there is irony in the language. Maya Angelou shows this in “Harlem Hopscotch”, the poem details a child’s game, but also tackles serious issues like “the rent is due” which are not generally associated with children. The game is society – everybody plays but some have an easier time of it than others. There are different experiences due to skin color, and as shown in the last line “They think I lost. I think I won.” There is also a difference in outcome by difference of perception. Society may think they can beat her, but she will remain her own individual. The irony in the language of “Theme for English B” by Langston Hughes is more blatant. Hughes mentions being different and standing out due to being colored, but spends the majority of the poem pointing out similar he is to his white instructor and peers, with lines like “I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.” Hughes stands his ground that he is not as different as others may want to believe due to his skin color, but he will retain his individuality. With lines such as “nor do I often want to be a part of you” he rejects dehumanizing conformity – just as he has likely been rejected from places and opportunities due to his skin color.

For African-Americans there was a delicate balance to be struck between individuality and conforming to society, which was often dehumanizing, but also the way to survive. This theme is seen in both “Harlem Hopscotch” by Maya Angelou and “Theme for English B” by Langston Hughes. There is irony, in that many thought of them as less capable due to their skin color, when they clearly aren’t. Their experiences and struggles were different, and portrayed through both the structure and language of their poems. The simple act of writing these poems could be considered a way of rebelling against dehumanizing conformity, and expressing individual thought.


Hamlet “Perfect” Intros

Pre-AP Lit test, I’m posting some old school-work. Maybe it’ll help someone else out?

Also, don’t use my work as your own, teachers have plagiarism checkers.

Prompt 1 (2001)

One definition of madness is “mental delusion or the eccentric behavior arising from it.” But Emily Dickenson once wrote, “much madness is divinest sense – / To a discerning eye – …” Novelists and playwrights often have seen madness with a “discerning eye.” Show how the apparent madness or delusional behavior of a character in Hamlet plays an important role. Write an essay in which you explain what the eccentric behavior consists of and how it may be judged reasonable. Explain the significance of the “madness” to the work as a whole without merely summarizing plot.

A primary part of Hamlet’s revenge plot against Claudius in Hamlet by William Shakespeare is pretending to be mad, and luring Claudius into a false sense of security. Hamlet’s artificial madness begins to appear true, as he speaks to his father’s ghost, which his mother cannot see or hear; though he claims to be of sound mind, he gets more desperate as the play moves along. His madness manifests mainly in his dialogue with Polonius and others, and is explained as heartbreak over Ophelia’s rejection, when really, it is a ploy to murder Claudius and save him father’s doomed soul from purgatory.

Prompt 2 (2000)

Many works not readily identified with mystery or detective genre literature nonetheless involve the investigation of a mystery. In these works, the solution to the mystery may be less important than the knowledge gained in the process of investigation. Identify a mystery in Hamlet and explain how the investigation illuminates the meaning of the work as a whole without merely summarizing plot.

Hamlet’s pretend madness stems from a wish to be underestimated, in order to investigate the claims of his father’s specter that Claudius had murdered him in Hamlet by William Shakespeare. King Hamlet’s death was a great mystery to his son, and verifying the specter’s claims, before killing Claudius in revenge is Hamlet’s main goal in pretended to be mad, an artifice that slowly begins leading him deeper into his own madness, consumed by his investigation of Claudius, and unable to bring himself to act until his last moments.

Prompt 3 (1988)

In many distinguished novels and plays some of the most significant events are mental or psychological – for example, awakenings, discoveries, changes in consciousness. In a well-organized essay, describe, describe how Shakespeare managers to give such an internal event or events the sense of excitement, suspense, and climax usually associated with external action in Hamlet. Do not merely summarize plot.

With vivid imagery and deeply affecting metaphor, Hamlet has a pivotal, emotional, and nearly entirely mental scene as he delivers his “To be or not to be” soliloquy in Hamlet by William Shakespeare. Physically in this scene, Hamlet is alone in a room with his thoughts, but internally he grapples with the nature of life and death, contemplating suicide and the fate of his immortal soul. Ultimately, after this scene is when Hamlet finally begins to act, having decided to live, after an arduous battle with his own consciousness, and do what needs to be done.

Prompt 4 (1994)

In some works of literature, a character who appears briefly or not at all is a significant presence. Show how such a character functions in Hamlet, discussing how the character affects action, theme, or the development of other characters. Avoid merely summarizing plot.

Hamlet the king, though only appearing in two scenes throughout the play of Hamlet by William Shakespeare, is the driving force of the play. His ghost speaks to the titular Hamlet, the prince, encouraging revenge for his murder and thus beginning Hamlet’s long, deliberative revenge plot, the very essence of the play. King Hamlet’s ghost guides Prince Hamlet’s actions, including Claudius’s murder, and serves to heighten his madness when Gertrude cannot see the specter her son claims is his father. Though appearing briefly, King Hamlet is Prince Hamlet’s motivation in everything he does throughout the course of the play, a literal ghost of the past hanging over his head.

Throwback Thursday: Ethics of Incentives for Charitable Giving

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.

Ethicality is determined by what is right for the most number of people, what is good for the majority. When considering the offering of incentives for charitable acts, such incentives are ethical in being offered as it is virtually impossible to do anything without some form of incentive, whether it be physical or emotional. The incentivizing of charity increases instances of giving – creating a sum total of good for more people.

There is no action taken without motivation, and motivation comes from incentive in some way, shape, or form, whether it be in the form of a physical good – such as a t-shirt or water bottle, or something intangible – such as absolution of guilt for not giving or personal pride in aiding the community; incentives drive charity. Even the world’s first modern charity was not excluded from this incentivizing. The Salvation Army began in Britain in the 19th century, before coming to America. The original goal of the charity wasn’t charity at all – it was the spreading of the word of God. The incentive for charity for the Salvation Army was the strengthening of the protestant church by making charity synonymous with Christianity in the eyes of the poor. While incentivized, the act of charity is not lessened. Still today, the Salvation Army is a model for other charities to follow, and is well respected for the good it does, helping the impoverished gain access to basic necessities, such as shelter, clothing, and food. The incentives given do not lessen the need or outcome of charity, but can encourage an increased prevalence of giving, meaning incentives add to charity, and doesn’t detract from it.

Incentives for charity are offered to encourage charity. Many people are so far removed from the issues charities work to solve that going out of one’s way to provide to charity is not often even thought-of. Charities raise awareness for social issues by giving incentives to give. A common form of incentive offered by charities today is sending address labels customized for individuals who either previously donated, or are a part of the demographic likely to donate. This gives people a personal connection to the charity, and may encourage them to give when they otherwise wouldn’t have thought to; sometimes giving becomes a habit for people, and the incentive becomes negligible. Incentives can encourage more people to give, increasing the strength, reach and overall good the charity can achieve and provide. The presence of incentives does not need to negate the idea of giving or that it can be heartfelt; incentives instead, raise awareness in a way that pushes from passive acceptance of fact – that there are people who need help, to actual taking action to give to the community. Incentives such as address labels are often of insignificant cost to the charity, but can bring in an exponentially greater amount of donations, helping charities and making donors feel appreciated in the process. Thus, more people can be helped when more donations are made, and there is a sum total of good provided, far stronger, and worth far more than the cost of any incentive able to be given, physical or otherwise.

There is a fear, that incentives gives a false reason for charity and thus should be considered unethical, but incentives are always present. The incentive of spreading religion being the first – dating back to the first modern charity, the Salvation Army; the incentive of address labels sent by charities today that raise awareness and encourages those who wouldn’t ordinarily think of it, to donate to charity. The presence of these incentives does not negate the act of charity or its good in society, but rather, can create an exponential increase in the amount of charity given and good able to be done. Whether or not incentives for charity is deemed personally wrong, it is ethically sound as the charity benefits a greater number of needy recipients; those giving charity and thus receiving incentives are no worse for it, are in fact rewarded and encouraged to continue charitable efforts, even without later incentives oftentimes – creating a sum total of good and positive effects.

Throwback Thursday: Certainty and Doubt Essay

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.

Certainty: To be absolute and steadfast in belief, in oneself or the world at large.     Doubt: To be skeptical or waver in belief, in oneself or the world at large. Parallels in definition. When there is absolute certainty, there is no doubt, but if the absence of doubt was not quantified, then to be certain would not exist either. Each cannot stand alone, they exist in relation to one another. A certain fact is only concrete when all doubt has been extinguished; opinions cannot be certain if even minimal doubt exists in one mind. Two sides of the same coin: That is the relationship between certainty and doubt, because neither can exist without the other; existing in the spaces between each other.

Without the concept of doubt, there would be no certainty. Without the ability to be certain, there would be no need to name the concept of doubt. Just as without darkness, the concept of light would not exist. If only darkness were to exist, it would not be darkness, it would simply be the way things were, likewise, light is comparative. If darkness did not exist, light would need not be named either. There are in inverse-relation. Similar is the existence of certainty and doubt; you can have both simultaneously to varying degrees, or one entirely, but you are always aware of the other’s existence, or potential for existence. You can be mostly certain, with lingering doubt, you can be mostly doubtful with faith in some minor degree of certainty, but the capacity for the other to take over is what gives meaning to the quantification of either.

The theory of gravity was held in doubt for a long time; how could we be certain of something we could not see? We need not be certain of the concept of gravity, as whether or not we are, we have no doubt on whether things will fall. The doubt of gravity was tested vigorously, and when the result stayed consistent – an apple falls, everything eventually falls – most of that doubt was replaced by certainty, the certainty that gravity exists because its physical manifestation is consistent, but there is always a minuscule, lingering doubt, as gravity with never be tangible thing; hence the “theory of gravity” because termed a theory. We are able to be certain, because you understand said certainty in relation to past doubt. Certainty and doubt are co-dependent concepts.

Nothing in this world exists in a vacuum. Just as day does not exist without night, certainty and doubt, as opposites – two sides of the same coin – exist in relation to the other. Certainty and doubt are a zero sum equation – you cannot become more certain without becoming less doubtful as well, or vise-versa. They either co-exist, or neither exists, each defined by the absence or potential presence of the other.


Throwback Thursday – Argumentative Essay: Distinction Between Disagreement and Dissent

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.

Democracy is founded on the view that the majority is “right”. Inherent to this, is the presence of opposing viewpoints – the minority is heard, acknowledged, and compromised with – but the majority wins out. The key to democracy with these opposing views, is allowing for disagreement – which can further progress and change through compromise between differing views – but not allowing disagreement to fester into dissent, where there is an irrevocable separation of views and an unwillingness to compromise on opposing ideals, putting discussion and progress at an impasse; creating a minority unwilling to concede to the majority, a view inherently against democracy. This distinction between disagreement and dissent can be seen throughout American history, and has further implications in modern political discourse.

This distinction can be seen throughout American history; take for example, the discussion of slavery throughout early American history. Originally, slavery incited disagreements between states, on both its legality and on slave representation, but disagreements can still foster an environment of peace and encourage democracy, as compromises can be made. Compromises such as the 3/5ths compromise which brokered peace between the Northern and Southern states concerning slave population representation – in that for every 5 slaves, 3 would be added to the state’s population count, increasing the number of votes in the House of Representatives – and The Missouri Compromise, which certified slavery legal in the south and illegal in the north – by establishing all territory and states south of the 36’ parallel open to slavery, and all territory north closed to slavery. Each of these compromises appeased the citizens and politician for a time, allowing other legislature to be focused on, furthering industry, commerce, and other governmental powers. Compromises such as these allowed for society and the country to progress economically, politically and socially despite disagreement, as progress should as interstate commerce and railroads became possible. Disagreements can foster democracy. However, as the growing tensions of slavery were ignored from the 1820’s to 1840’s, disagreements began to brew into dissent. Fighting broke out, manifesting as both pseudo-war in “Bleeding Kansas” – a skirmish between pro- and anti- slavery groups looking to claim the Kansas territory as a future slave or free state in their favor, leading directly up to the Civil War – and in a public caning in congress, legislature could not be passed, it was too late to make a compromise, Southern states seceded, and The Civil War broke out. By the time the country had split, and southern politicians had defected to form their own government, neither compromise nor peace was possible. Dissent pervaded quickly, nearly tore the nation apart, and for several years, democracy and the entire country were in jeopardy. While disagreement over slavery could build a nation despite it, dissent destroyed said nation.

After The Civil War, dissent atrophied back into disagreement. Southern states were brought back to the Union, eliminating the key element of total separation common for dissent, in order to come back to, rather than dissent, a state of disagreement. Things weren’t perfect, but even a state of extreme prejudice and disagreement enabled great changes and progress. Throughout this time, the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments were able to be passed – granting rights to African Americans, such as the end of slavery, citizenship with its full protections, and the right to vote. While this may not have been unanimously agreed on, the state of disagreement still functioned in society, evening allowing for reconstruction to take place in the South, building up industry and infrastructure. The overall progress able to be achieved in disagreement is seen cumulatively in the Civil Rights Act. The nation was divided on issues of segregation and civil liberties for people of color, compromises made for the induction of the south back to the union nearly 100 years prior. Had groups allowed themselves to stay separated, had further sequestered themselves politically, not rights would have been accomplished in such dissent, but in disagreement, there is an inherent fight to reach an agreement, and that agreement eventually was The Civil Rights Act of the 1960’s. The key is, that despite continued racial tensions and presence of the same opposing views as before The Civil War, the country was no longer in a state where all communication between viewpoints has broken down into dissention. Disagreements can still allow for a healthy society and progress, but dissention can kill it.

Even today, political discourse is common. Disagreements, especially the heartier ones, may not be enjoyable, but they are preferable to complete dissent. Disagreements, major or minor, are still reconcilable by nature. It is when disagreements are allowed to fester, and views allowed to polarize, to the extent of dissent, that there is an issue, because once a point of dissent is reached, it is very difficult to reign it in, and reach a state of peace once more, as normal methods of problem solving are rendered useless, and compromise inviable. Dissent is a progression of disagreement, left to an untamable extreme. While contention is never favorable, democracy can thrive in disagreement, its “life-blood” (per. Daniel Boorstin), but is choked off in dissent. When disagreements are left unchecked, or ignored, they may segue into dissent, where either side may become so entrenched in their ideal, that any original willingness to compromise may fade, leading to dissent and halting progress, breaking down the avenue by which democracy functions: compromise.


Throwback Thursday – Argumentative Essay: Disobedience

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.

Progress comes with time, but only when catalyzed by humans. One catalyst can be disobedience. Disobedience can be anything from small defiances to nation’s rebellions, not on the individual scale, but on the global scale, on the societal one. Society must change society; one individual cannot alone create progress. Progress is by definition a large scale shift, so for disobedience to ring out progress, it must be large scale, and not for the sake of disobedience, but with a purpose.

Humans are social creatures, and social progress can only come with large shifts, not small ones. Disobedience on its own, cannot be a virtue, but can be used for virtuous means; to bring about societal change in the use of large scale disobedience. Take, for example, the American revolution. Today, the revolution is celebrated as the birth of democracy, the birth of America – a nation that prides its self on progress. Though at its inception, the revolution was nothing more than a disobedience of the colonies to its authority, Britain. If only a handful of individuals had lead said disobedience – had participated in the rebellion, it would have been labeled treason, and the only change to come would have been the swift downfall of the colonies. But, as a large scale disobedience, as a rebellion, as a revolution, ideas expressed – of democracy, of freedom – can spread in society, and produce social change, create progress.

Progress is not wrought by single disobediences. A single disobedience is punishable, ignorable. For example, if one person, alone, protests a company or business practice, it is easily ignored. If many people boycott a company, then the company changes its ways or falls to ruins: progress. If one person protests a law or ruling they are imprisoned. If a significant number of people begin to protest a law, then new representatives are elected, and legislature is changed in accordance: progress is made. Disobedience is only virtuous if it incites progress, and progress can only come about when it is wanted, society moves in the direction of the mentality of the majority. So for progress to follow disobedience, disobedience must be, if not on the majority scale, then on a scale large enough to influence the majority, if not, it is a single act of incorrigible behavior, something that, at its core disrupts society, disrupts the current status quo without the introduction of a new path, and thus, not aiding progress at all. Disobedience with a goal can create progress, without a goal, disobedience disrupts society to the point where progress cannot be made, when unity of any scale can no longer be achieved. Society requires some degree of cohesion, while a large scale disobedience can shift society towards progress, small scale disobediences can destroy that societal cohesion, and impede progress when the majority becomes frightened of an unknown status quo.

In terms of disobedience and progress, the ends justify the means. It is the progress achieved that renders disobedience able to be labeled a “virtue” – only in particular instances. Disobedience is not inheritably virtuous or valuable, nor generally celebrated, but as with most human acts, it has its place, and is imbibed with value by its uses and abuses.


Throwback Thursday: Rhetorical Analysis – Mary Ann Shadd Cary / Newspaper

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.

Racial prejudice and abolition: two of the most contentious political discussions in American history, and never more so than in the years leading up to the American civil war. Mary Ann Shadd Cary, an abolitionist and African-American herself, at a time when being so made you sub-human, established a newspaper for her people, advocating for the abolitionist cause. Using abolition as a focal point, Cary establishes a need for her newspaper “The Provincial Freeman” with contentious word choice that invokes imagery of the natural body and drawing its connection to natural rights, and by drawing a clear line from the want for abolition to the need for the newspaper by establishes that, if African-Americans wanted to be freed, they must make themselves fit to be so in their own eyes and in the eyes of Americans.

The imagery and double meaning in Cary’s word choice furthers her point both for abolition, and in extension, the necessity for the newspaper. Beginning with “[a] need for an organ” (line 1), Cary conveys a need for her people to speak out for themselves – which the newspaper would provide – with imagery of the natural body, an idea parallel to the natural rights denied to them back home [America]. This language continues throughout the editorial, with phrases such as “mouthpiece” (line 14) and “discharge our duties” (line 21), “discharge” is a word not generally used in such a context, but links the need to act as “freemen” to the natural born right to be free.

Cary also establishes a need for the newspaper by making it clear that “none of the papers… [in the US] answer our purpose” (line 41-42). The purpose being, working towards abolition. If editors in America will “be of little service to [them]” (line 54), then they “must allow our fellow subjects to know what we are and what we want” (line 12-13). She makes it clear to the readers that if they wish to one day be free they must “discharge the duties of freedmen” (line 18), essentially, they must act as if they are equal, and work towards the goal themselves, or forever go unrealized, and a newspaper is a way to work towards their own rights and freedom. Cary summarizes this view neatly in the end, saying “we have a paper because we think we need one” (line 55-56).

America was built as a land of equality, a land of the free, but for much of its history, both equal rights and freedom were denied to significant portion of the population. When this hypocrisy was in the political forefront, Mary Ann Shadd Cary, an abolitionist and African-America herself, established a newspaper to work towards freedom and equality for her people. She established a need for her paper with word choice invoking imagery to the natural body, drawing as a parallel to natural rights, and by maintaining that, if they wish to one day be free, they must both prove they can be so, and work towards it themselves.



Throwback Thursday: Argumentative Essay Value of Public Opinions

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.

In America today, information and opinions can reach millions in minutes, the spread of information has never been easier; though for much of history this was not the case – the spread of information was limited to personal interactions and letters – opinions could not be easily shared.  This changes the access to, and role of, opinions in America – it does not change their worth. Opinions, ideas, thoughts, information all have worth – even if not equal in weight or worth – in a democratic nation like America. In fact, the first amendment protects the freedom of speech and expression, every opinion may not be correct or agreeable but every opinion carries worth by fostering democratic values – every voice given a chance to be heard.

Democracy relies on equal consideration to all, and acquiescence to the majority. But the majority cannot truly be found if not all voices can be heard –  this makes all opinions worthwhile in furthering democracy. This is why the very first amendment made to the constitution ensured free speech. When information and opinions spread, more can be learned. The opinion of the majority can shift – as history shows it does – on the grand scale, to progress. Accessibility of information has always been important, even back in world War One with FDR’s Freedom of Information Act – the keeping of information and opinions aids no one. If an opinion is wrong or infactual, by being voiced and listening to other voices, progress is made as people can learn. When wrong or unfavorable opinions are not allowed to be expressed, there can be a bias – progress can standstill when discussion is curtailed. Those with factually wrong opinions never have a chance to be corrected and wrong information continues to fester and influence. Though often, there is no possible objective truth, the truth in democracy is the will of the majority – which cannot be reached if all opinions are not considered worthwhile, even if to varying degrees, no opinion is worthless.

The first amendment shows a central tenant of democracy – if public opinions are stifled, democracy is stifled. But there are always considerations to be made – some statements are not permitted by the freedom of speech, as established by the supreme court with the “clear and present danger” clause – you cannot shout “fire” in a crowded theater for example because of a physical safety hazard. With public opinions, there is a greater threat in preventing opinions than in allowing them. Especially in today’s world where opinions are shared on social media – physical safety is not the primary concern. Whether an opinion is personally deemed worthwhile or not, in general, public opinions are worth something because they further the conversation and can influence or add to change the majority – which is how democracy functions. By allowing the spread of ideas, the change of ideals, and the voices of all to determine the majority is how democracy functions.

Public statements of opinion have differing value based upon the value assigned by the person hearing the opinion – but all opinions do have value, have worth – even if not equal worth. They have worth, because every voice must be heard – allowed to speak – for democracy to function – because hearing every voice is how the majority is found and allowing every voice to be heard is one of democracies central tenants.

Throwback Thursday: Rhetorical Analysis – Scientific Research

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.

Science is, in and of its self, a study in uncertainty. Author John M. Barry qualifies this uncertainty, and its acceptance as a quality necessary in a scientist, using the characterization of the ideal scientist to characterize scientific research itself, expounding on qualities necessary for one to reach an answer to their inquiries, focusing on the ultimate goal of the scientist and positing questions to parallel the inquisitive nature needed for success.

Barry begins with definitions of certainty and uncertainty to expand on qualities required in a scientist, namely the requirement to “accept – indeed embrace – uncertainty” (line 10) as a basis for scientific research. With research, a scientist’s certainties and “even beliefs may break apart” (line 15) with new findings. Barry characterizes scientific research by characterizing the scientist that conducts it, emphasizing the ultimate goal of a scientist “to yield an answer” – a certainty (line 67). Barry moves through the passage with a scientist’s capacity for creation and inquisitiveness stating “ a scientist must create…everything…figuring out what tools are needs and then making them” – asking questions of a “would” and “if” nature (lines 39-49), so the tools of a scientist, is his tool to show the inquisitiveness necessary in scientific research. Ultimately ending the passage with the scientist’s possibility of either success or failure, both likely ends to the research and answers to the questions of the scientist, the structure of the passage thus parallels the structure of research its self: defining limits, gathering tools, asking questions, and seeking then yielding answers.

Apart from the structure of the passage being parallel to a research structure, Barry characterizes scientific research in other ways; such as, the personification of a “single step” in research to a scientist’s “single step [which] can take them through the looking glass” (line 31) or “take one off a cliff” (line 35) – scientific research is a gamble – one will find answers or more questions – certainty or uncertainty. A scientist must “move forcefully…even while uncertain” (line 21) and “the less known, the more one has to… force experiments to yield an answer” (line 66-68). In this characterization of the scientist, Barry characterizes scientific research in a way eve a non-scientist could understand.

Scientific research is built on uncertainty, and in yielding an answer and as John M. Barry characterizes a scientist’s journey from uncertainty to result, he characterizes scientific research itself, from the structure to inherent inquisitiveness to the search for certainty.


Throwback Thursday: Rhetorical Analysis – Banneker Letter

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.

There are certain arguments that seen impossible to make, because the answer seems so clear it is hard to imagine an argument at all; such is the argument of slavery. While today, slavery is very obviously illegal, in 1791, when Benjamin Banneker – a slave’s son – wrote to Thomas Jefferson on the issue, slavery was a point of political contention, not moral. In his letter, Banneker introduces the modern, moral argument to slavery, asking Jefferson to do his part in ending the extensive suffering and cruelty slaves face. Banneker also draws a parallel between Jefferson’s beliefs enumerated by the Declaration of Independence and the plight of slaves, showing the logical progression in that, if it is the new nation’s right to liberty, then surely it is the slave’s right as well.

Modernly, slavery in inarguably wrong, though such has not always seen to be true. One of slavery’s early opponents was Benjamin Banneker, who in 1791 wrote to Thomas Jefferson, imploring him to “wean [the nation] from those narrow prejudices [of slavery]” (line 46-47). In his comparison of the slaves to Job (line 48-50), Banneker makes the argument against slavery wholly moral by introducing a religious precedent for his position, indicating that the nation should not “counteract [God’s] mercies” (line 36) with “fraud and violence so numerous…groaning captivity and cruel oppression” (37-39). While the moral argument is strong, Banneker needs Jefferson’s political sway to have anything accomplished. By indicting Jefferson himself, claiming he has been “found guilty of that most criminal act [slavery] which you professedly detested” (line 39-41), showing that politics can sway a man to slavery and indicating so can it be used to sway a man from slavery and urging Jefferson to stick with his original morals.

Other than a moral argument, Banneker presents Jefferson with a logical one. If the American people can claim freedom from the “tyranny of the British Crown” (line 2), than surely slaves should claim freedom as well. He used Jefferson’s own words against him, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and are endowed…with certain inalienable rights…life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (line 21-25). Jefferson himself enumerated the right of all to freedom, of the “valuation of liberty and the free possession of those blessings to which you were entitled by nature” (line 29-30). Which then begs the questions of why a nation founded on liberty, would withhold “impartial distribution of those rights and privileges” (line 33-34) from all its inhabitants. It stands to reason then, that if Americans had a right to freedom, so did American slaves. Banneker draws the parallel between the plight of the slaves, and that of the American Revolution in such a way that that Jefferson, and by extension American politicians, would have no other conclusion to draw. Banneker even ends his letters, “thus shall {Jefferson] need neither the direction of myself or others, in what manner to proceed herein” (line 51-53), so confident in his argument he is, he doesn’t feel the need to spell out that he wants Jefferson to curb slavery as he works on building the new nation.

Slavery is a moral wrong in the modern day, but for the first century of America’s history, it was a political right. So contentious was the issue, it lead to the civil war, which many believe could have been avoided if the founders had curbed slavery from the start, though they feared the union would not survive such an early display of overt power. As the nation was in its infancy, the son of slaves wrote to Thomas Jefferson, a man who wrote of inalienable rights, and asked the same for his people, because if America was truly to be a land of the free, then how could so many continue to be oppressed?