Throwback Thursday: Fences Performance Critique

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.

Fences by August Wilson premiered in 1985. The play was adapted into a movie in 2016, with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reprising their roles, of Troy and Rose respectively, from the 2010 revival of the play on Broadway. The movie adaptation highlights the way Troy is a tragic figure, rather than a merely a sympathetic one. Based on the written play, Troy is a character who has faced a difficult life and perpetuates this in his family life, cheating on his wife and holding his son back from his dreams. Washington’s portrayal highlights the sympathy you could have for Troy more consistently than the play allows, making it a story not only of the way oppression eventually beats a man down, but the way you build a life despite of it. The play leaves it to the audience to decide if Troy can be forgiven or not, determine for themselves if he has truly gone to heaven. However, the movie uses lightening as well as physical cues throughout, to lead us to the interpretation that Troy has gone to heaven, and is ultimately a tragic character, rather than merely a sympathetic but unforgivable one. The film version ultimately gives the ambiguous ending of the play, whether or not Troy could ultimately be forgiven by his family, a definitive interpretation that he would be forgiven, that his faults did not make him irredeemable.

Systematic oppression has put Troy in his position, and though he tries his best, he falls short of living the life he intends. The way in which Troy tries but fails to measure up is clearer in the film, going beyond the stage-directions, which do not indicate Troy is showing emotion his words aren’t conveying. The film shows more humor and kindness in Troy then his stern words alone suggest in the play. Just through reading the play, it is possible to interpret Troy has someone who has lived up to society’s expectation of him, being cruel to his son, and cheating on his wife. The ways in which you can sympathize with him only emerging in specific instances. This is brought out more fully with Washington’s portrayal of the character, shifting the interpretation of Troy’s character and ultimate fate from ambiguous to solidly tragic and forgiven.

Specifically, Troy’s vulnerabilities are clearer in Washington’s portrayal, with soft, sad smiles where the play had no written direction other than stern words – highlighting the way he wasn’t only criticizing Cory, but protecting the only way he knew how. The physicality of Washington’s portrayal of Troy (referring to his facial expressions and tone of voice) leads viewers to a more sympathetic and understanding view of Troy than readers of the script may walk away with. The tone of voice Washington uses in key scenes differs from the tone you would expect from the play-script itself. In his speech to Cory where Troy is lecturing Cory “Who says I have to like you,” (Wilson 37) he is smiling and affectionate, almost joking with his son, there is humor as well as a lecture, rather than just the stern lecture of sacrifice it is in its written form. This interpretation of the play in the movie is further expressed by Cory’s reaction to singing the song with Raynell in the end of the film. While the play never lets us know directly whether Cory himself has forgiven his father for his faults, thus furthering the allowance of the readers to make their own conclusions of his character, the film has Cory crying as he sings, as he takes his mother’s rant about the good and bad parts of his father to heart; Cory accepts Troy as a flawed man, but a man who tried his best nonetheless, and leads the audience to this same interpretation.

Besides physicality, the other major way the film leads to the interpretation of Troy as a tragic character is lightning, most significantly, the lightning in the last scene. Troy’s brother Gabriel believes himself to be the archangel Gabriel, who is the messenger of God, and calls out for St. Peter to open the gates of heaven to let Troy in. The stage directions of the play indicate that the stage lights blackout after Gabriel blows his trumpet and the gates of heaven open to him, but it is ambiguous whether this means Troy has gone to heaven, or it is only a manifestation of Gabriel’s delusion, and could be played either way. The movie has bright gold across the sky, as the clouds part and open up, as the family stares up for several long seconds. The movie ends on golden light streaming through the tree into the backyard, rather than going straight to black after the sound of the trumpet. The end of the movie clearly lets you see that Troy has been forgiven in the eyes of God, rather than leaving it a possible manifestation of Gabriel’s mind.

Personally, my preferred interpretation of the play is to see Troy as a tragic figure, to see him as flawed but sympathetic, rather than irredeemable for his poor choices. Because he is flawed in a lot of ways, but he is human, and no human being has ever not made a mistake, including huge life-changing ones like his affair which results in Raynell. It is far easier to vilify someone, than to forgive them; it is easier to write someone off rather than look deeper into what lead to mistakes being made. Some of Troy’s choices were entirely on him, but others seem almost inevitable. He is harsh on Cory not because he doesn’t love him, but because systematic oppression has beaten his dreams out of him, and he can’t fix that for Cory, so he wants him not to be hurt by the battles Troy was never able to win. You can understand Troy’s behaviors, and forgive them, without excusing them. Troy’s motto seems to be “you gotta take the crookeds with the straights” (Wilson 94) and that is the interpretation of Troy’s character that the film leaves us with, which seems the honest interpretation. You forgive, because it is harder than anger, you take the good and the bad parts of life, and you make the best of the situations you have no power over, because you have power over yourself.

Works Cited

Washington, Denzel, director. Fences. Paramount Pictures, 2016.

Wilson, August. Fences. New Mexico Repertory Theatre, 1989.


How I Study: Crash Course

The Best Playlists I’ve Used for Studying:

Other Educational Playlists – Ones I Haven’t Used:

Fun and Otherwise Useful Crash Course:

Throwback Thursday: Roles of Women in Society in The House on Mango Street

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.

Roles of Women in Society in The House on Mango Street

In The House on Mango Street, women are not treated as equals to men. In the vignette “Marin”, Marin is only ever described as Louie’s cousin, not her own person. She is expected to work to send money home, She is expected to take care of the kids, not go out farther than the front yard, and believes that “what matters is for the boys to see us, and for us to see them”. The vignette speaks of how Marin is waiting for a man to change her life, how she wants to get married. Esperanza praises Marin for her bravery when faced with boys that find her beautiful, indicating that she thinks they are meant to be afraid. In “Alicia who sees Mice”, Alicia is the oldest daughter when her mother dies and thus “inherits her rolling pin and her sleepiness”. Alicia is expected to wake up early to make the lunches even though her father would be perfectly capable. This conveys that cooking is a women’s job. The father doesn’t believe her about the mice. And Alicia studies because she wants a better life, though Esperanza says it as if girls don’t usually go to college. She also says “Alicia who is scared of nothing. But four-legged fur. And fathers”, again indicating that the women fear the men.

Throwback Thursday: The Raven 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.

The Raven

The Raven is a poem narrated by a man who has recently lost his wife, and is bereaved by his loss. In the poem, he is mourning his wife, when a raven taps on his window and he accidently lets it in when he goes to see what is making the noise. At first, the bird amuses him, as we can see in the line “Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling”. He then deteriorates into a sort of madness, yelling at the bird and freaking out. The raven is a symbol of grief and death, but it is ultimately just a bird.

The narrator projected his fears and grief onto the bird as an omen. He took the omen of the raven seriously, though it could not have actually been speaking to him when it said nevermore. He was correct in the lines “Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore” meaning the bird is simply repeating the only word it knows. But in his grief, he makes it, in his mind, mean something worse.

The raven’s ominous connotation was intended by Edgar Allen Poe, but the narrator followed the stages of grief in his conflict with the raven, albeit in the wrong order. The five stages of grief are: denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and finally acceptance. The narrator was depressed in the beginning (sorrow for the lost Lenore), he is in denial of the bird relevance to him (Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore), he begs it to tell him if he would see his wife again (Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn, It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore), and finally accepts she will not return. So he is less mad and more in mourning than anything. The poem is thought Poe’s way of mourning his wife, it makes sense that the narrator is doing the same.

Throwback Thursday: Similarities and Differences of Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic DNA Report

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.

Chapter 4 Project:

Similarities and Differences of Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic DNA Report

In Biology, it is common knowledge that though similar, prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells are quite different. Along with the similarities and differences between the cells in general, there are also similarities and differences between the DNA in each of the cell types.

The differences between the DNA of each cell type are important to the function and structure of each. Structure wise, eukaryotic DNA is arranged in a linear fashion, whereas prokaryotic DNA is arranged in a circular fashion, as well as being supercoiled.

Eukaryotic DNA is not supercoiled, though it does contain large amounts of filler (non-coding) DNA sections that prokaryotic DNA does not contain. DNA in eukaryotic cells are, as the name would suggest, found in the nucleus. In prokaryotic cells, DNA is found in the cytoplasm, usually connected in one spot to the plasma membrane. Both cell types possess “extra” DNA. In eukaryotic cells, this extra DNA is found in the mitochondria and chloroplasts. In prokaryotic cells, the extra DNA is found in the form of plasmids, which contain genes that can be activated in emergency situations when needed. Aside from differences in the actual structure of the DNA, there is also a difference in the general amount. Prokaryotes have only a few genes, whereas eukaryotes, though the number of chromosomes varies greatly between species, contain far more genes and thus far more DNA than prokaryotes.

Despite all these important differences between the DNA of prokaryotes and eukaryotes, they are actually quite similar. Both types of DNA share the same base pairs. The same nucleotides. Adenine binds with Thymine, and Guanine binds with cytosine regardless of cell type, this holds true for all DNA. All DNA is held together with phosphodiester bonds between the sugar backbones and base pairs, and hydrogen bonds between the nucleotide bases, binding them together. Along with being made of the same components, DNA in both cell types is arranged in a double helix structure, this is a defining characteristic of all DNA, as is its unique anti-parallel orientation of the DNA strands that are found in both types of cells. Because of this anti-parallel orientation eukaryotes and prokaryotes have in common, the DNA of each cell type is able undergo semi-conservative replication.

As you can see, even the DNA of prokaryotes and eukaryotes reflects the similarities they share, and the differences between them.

Throwback Thursday: The Revenant Movie Reflection: Extra Credit

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.

The Revenant Movie Reflection: Extra Credit

The Revenant is a survival story, which seems odd for a movie whose body count reaches the double digits before we’ve even made it past the first scene. But it fits, when death is a real possibility for the characters, it raises the stakes, leaving you tense as to whether or not the characters you are rooting for will actually survive. The title is especially fitting, as revenant means “one who has returned, as if from the dead”.

The Revenant doesn’t pull any punches. Between the high stakes of death, the emotion shown by family and friends when a loved one is injured or killed it feels real. Even more so when you realize that the gore from a fight doesn’t disappear in the next scene, wounds carry and do not becomes magically healed for convenience, as is often the case in movies. The Revenant also makes use of the setting’s native language to not only make the story seem genuine, it makes it impossible for the viewer to become disengaged or distracted from the story, because you have to pay such close attention to what they are saying by keeping your eyes on the screen, lest you miss an important detail. It seems to do justice to the true-life story of Hugh Glass on which it is based, and neither glorifies nor infantilizes his struggle.

The setting is used incredibly effectively; they are not simply in a forest. The animals, even when unimportant to the plot, make noises in the background. Frost clings

to eyelashes. People cough, sniffle and shiver even when the attention is not on them. Leonardo Dicaprio conveys much of his emotion and thoughts without speaking for a part of the film. It comes as no surprise that the movie was not only nominated for, but won, Oscars.

The Revenant is a phenomenal film, with heart-wrenching, wonderful acting and amazing, if a little hard to stomach, cinematography. It makes great use of suspense and the progression of the plot, making sure you feel every consequence, and every uncertainty the characters feel. Every action comes with high stakes, and you never feel like there is a certainty in how the movie will continue. I highly recommend The Revenant.

Throwback Thursday: Fairchild Project (5th Grade?)

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.

Vicaria Blanca

(Catharanthus roseus)

(Madagascar periwinkle)

Ever been in history class and found it weird that people didn’t have medicine all those years ago, and died from common diseases? You’d think that they form of medicine didn’t work, but actually, some of those methods are still used today, and some people think they work better the usual run of the mill medicine we all use! The elder I interviewed for this project on the use of plants, as medicine was my grandfather, Jose Rios. He was born and raised in Cuba, where he met my grandmother and had his three children, my uncle, my mother, and aunt. They moved to Miami, Florida when he was forty years old in 1980, and has been here ever since. He speaks primarily Spanish and can understand English, though when he speaks it, it’s heavily accented and usually has butchered grammar. He is now 72, and he cares for my younger sister and me after school everyday.

When I interviewed him, he told me he uses Vicaria Blanca (White Vicaria) to treat pink eye, and other problems. He’s been using it since he was a child, when his grandmother used it on him and taught him how to use it. He told me that to use it, you boil the flower bowling in water, into a type of tea looking liquid, greenish-yellow in color. You then use it as eye drops or wet a napkin with it and hold it on the eye. He’s been using it for over 50 years and says it’s worked for him every time. He says he prefers to use this then over the counter eye drops because it has the natural vitamins and has less chemicals, which makes it good to use on small children and adults.

Based on the research done by the University of Florida Herbarium, Vicaria Blanca is useful for treating eye infections. Based on a study in 1995, the drops made from boiling the flower in water does help your vision. And according to Wikipedia, Vicaria Blanca, a type of Madagascar Periwinkle commonly found in tropical and sub-tropical regions, has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat many things, including: diabetes, malaria, Hodgkin’s disease, and well as some extracted substances used to treat leukemia. On the other side however, if ingested orally, it can be fatal and if not, it causes hallucinations. So, if used on children, it should under supervision.

What I’ve learned from this, is that plants can be used as medicine just as they did thousands of years ago, and that, though I hadn’t known it, my grandfather has been using it on me since I was an infant. It seems odd that people would still use these things, but they do, I’ve also learned that they still use poisonous plants…at least people don’t poison themselves anymore!