Throwback Thursday: 9th Grade – A Series of Vignettes: A Writing Project / My Version of 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.

These are mostly true but very exaggerated stories as we had to emulate the tone and style of The House on Mango Street with our own autobiographical stories.

A Series of Vignettes: A Writing Project

My Version of The House On Mango Street

My House

(“The House on Mango Street”)

We moved to my house when I was about five. Through the entire moving process I screamed, kicked, and cried in protestation. But to no avail as we still moved to this house. At the time, I was an only child. But the time I was six, this was no longer the case. I got a little sister when I asked for a puppy, and the playroom got turned into a nursery much to my dismay. She got the bigger room because the front facing window made me nervous, I had watched too many movies and thought a burglar would come in at night. That never happened though.

Our house was new construction, and to me it seemed like it was on the edge of the universe because through the back fence you could see cornfields until I was about ten. A few blocks down there is a forest. I said we lived in the middle of nowhere. But we lived in a dull yellow, one-story house that I was determined to hate because I didn’t want to move. I am not the biggest fan of change.

Our house has two round, frosted windows in the front like eyes glazed over. Most of the back wall consists of rectangular windows overlooking the admittedly small backyard. The floors were tile, and seemed extra cold to my feet that up to this point had only ever lived in a place where the floors were carpet. I got used to it soon enough, but I complained constantly. Hoping this would convince my parents to let us move back to our old house.

There is no defining line in the front yard to show where our house ends and the neighbors begins. We usually end up mowing the grass because otherwise it ends up

looking like a jungle. A knee high, suburban jungle, but a jungle all the same. We have bushes right up against the wall of the house, and a tree off to the side that is perpetually overgrown. It’s too long branches sagging into the driveway. At night it forms a hand hovering over the yard. When I was younger I thought the tree looked sad, bending under the weight of its own leaves.

A lot of things changed when we moved to this house. Like the fact we were now closer to family and didn’t have to drive for so long on a daily basis anymore. And the fact I got to see my cousins more often as well. And then things changed again when my sister was born. I wasn’t an only child anymore. I changed from private to public school. The walls were repainted as well. I remember I wanted to paint my walls this bright turquoise color to match my Winx Club fairy poster. But we accidently ended up with baby blue. I sulked for days before I realized I liked this new color. We haven’t changed it since.

My house is the home I have lived in for eight years with my parents, my sister, and the pets we have had through the years. My house is one story, and is painted a pale yellow on the outside. The cornfields I used to see through the fence are now a park. And the backyard now has a pool. And my house looks different now from when we first moved in, because now my house is home.

Age Differences

(“Boys and Girls”)

My sister and I are six years apart. 1999 and 2005. Both of us born in October. Mine the 8th, and hers the 23rd. She has dishwater-blond hair like silk. And the kind of baby blue eyes newborns have, like she just never grew into her real eye color. Compared to me, my hair was brown-curls when I was her age but has turned into a light-brown/dark-blonde mass of frizz. Partially due to the humidity South Florida is famous for, part because I dyed my hair purple in middle school. My eyes used to be blue like hers and now they’re this hazel-gold-brown-green color that changes by the day.

I am almost 15. Almost old enough to drive. Almost an adult. Almost about to almost graduate. Almost about to go to college. Almost old enough to have to worry about it. She is almost 9. Almost in the fifth grade.

I’m a Libra, she’s a Scorpio.

We couldn’t be more different. We aren’t very close, but a six-year age difference will do that to you.

We are very different, but she’s my sister. And I love her.

I think that’s all that matters.

My Name

My name means “Listener”, which is funny because I love to talk. My name means unoriginal, it was one of the top five names of my birthyear. There is always at least one other girl or boy who shared my name. My name means never being told apart from those who share it. It means three tries before you get it straight which one I am. My name is Samantha. It is too long, too common, and sounds too much like an American Girl doll. I go by Sam. People say Sam is a boy’s name. I say its my name. I am only ever called Samantha by professional strangers (i.e teachers, doctors) and when I am trouble. Though in that case, I am called Samantha Aileen Bonge. My full name, middle and all.

Samantha is a mouthful. Its awkward in the mouth of non-English speaking relatives like an ill-fitting retainer. It doesn’t quite fit. They inevitably mispronounce it as Samanta, no h. The name Samantha comes from a TV I have never seen but both my parents have. The name Aileen comes from my mother’s sister, chosen because it begins with an A, and my father’s stepsisters and their daughters all have middle names beginning with A. Aileen means compromise, two families coming together. It means tradition, and forever being mistaken as my aunt’s child. As the other granddaughter, it means immutably being called Alien by kids who can’t read the Spanish name.

Bonge is a name that doesn’t exist. The sole relic left of a man I have never met, my father’s father. His name was too difficult to say in English, so it was shortened to

Bonge is like the name of a ghost. Maybe it existed once upon a time. Maybe it belonged to a family with twelve kids in a small Italian village. Maybe the father was fair-haired and the mother was brunette. Maybe their children were a dishwater-colored mix of the two and they shared the name. But Bonge doesn’t exist; it belongs only to the four people that live in my house. Bonge belongs to my parents, my sister, and me. Bonge sounds like a fairytale in a language you can’t read. My name is Samantha Aileen Bonge, it means listener, tradition, fairytale. But I go by Sam. And that’s me.

Street Cats

(“Cathy Queen of Cats”)

Unlike most kids who have a dog or a fish-tank, I have cats. Three of them to be exact. Max, Angel, and Jackie.

None of them are purebred. I don’t actually know what breed they are, any of them. They aren’t fancy hairless cats that everyone wants but are terrified of. They’re all rescues. They’re street cats.

Max came to our door during a thunderstorm before I was even born. He is about 16 years old now, at least in human years. He is an old, fat cat. He is diabetic as well.

Every morning my dad has to inject him with insulin. He is black and white like a checkerboard. But now his fur is slowly turning grey. He has trouble jumping up onto the bed and couch now, but it doesn’t stop him. He’s long out grown leaving dead mice as presents, but he does like to follow people around the house and hang out in the shower. He must be the only cat in existence that likes showers, running water and everything. He still hates baths though.

He doesn’t like my sister much. But he likes to sleep on my bed sometimes. My mom says he used to sleep in my crib. He’s been with us my whole life. My mom calls him

my big brother. I don’t know what I’m going to do when he’s gone. He wouldn’t be the first pet to die, but he’d be the first I’d never truly lived without. I don’t think he remembers life without me either.

We got Angel next. She’s the only girl. She’s white except for the grey on her tail and ears. Her fur is longer and fluffier than the boys’. She’s also far more antisocial than the others. She doesn’t really like anyone except me. I was maybe seven when we got her. We found her outside our church the day we went to sing for Easter. My parents wouldn’t let me pet her; worried she had rabbis and that I’d get filthy. I begged and begged to take her home. I felt bad for her all alone, little kids throwing chunks of granola bars and pebbles at her. She’s about 8-years old now, maybe 9. She was black with dirt and grime when we found her. Like the monster from black lagoon from that kids book. Skinny like a skeleton too. But I named her Angel before I ever knew the color of her fur.

Of course, she took some time to get used to our house. She’d hide under beds. Refuse to eat if anyone was anyone near her. She tore things up at night with her claws and teeth. I woke up on day to find the remains of foam blocks everywhere like a rainbow threw-up. She liked to bring us present too. Rats, lizards, small snakes, dragonflies. You name it. Their dead corpses haunted the hallways.

But she calmed down eventually. But before then, she managed to break her leg by getting it caught on a tablecloth. It was wrapped up in a green cast for a few weeks. We stopped using tablecloths after that.

Max took to having a “little sister” fairly well. He took care of her. He also once got in a fight because of her. With a real street cat that tried attacking her. My dad had to

rescue Max. It was scary. But kind of cute too.

The last of the cats is Jack. He’s orange with brownish stripes. Like a perpetually infant tiger cub. I had wanted to name him Simba or Tiger. But my dad nixed those ideas right away. I was famous for awful names. So we picked Jack and that was the end of it, Jack was more my sister’s cat. She calls him Jackie. He’s the one that gets struck on the roof and drags bats and dying birds into the house. We got him from the FurBaby adoption thing at PetCo, he was going to be put down. His name had been Prancer, because his entire litter was named after Santa’s reindeer. I think that’s why he loves the roof so much.

He’s about 5 or 6 now. He’s smaller than the other two. But still bigger than when e got him. He’s fully grown now. He’s the one that attacks for feet under the covers and sleeps on the pillow next to your head. Guarding you through the night.

Blood is Thicker than Water

(“Louie, his Cousin, and his Other Cousin”)

Most people don’t really understand the phrase “Blood is thicker than Water”. It comes from a longer quote, “The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb”. Most people see the first and know it means that family is the most important bond. But according to the second, the bonds you chose to form (i.e. Friends), are stronger than those forged by familial ties.

I like to think of it as saying some ties you make are more important than the ones we are born into. That there is something more to family than just sharing blood. Like marriage for example, you chose to form that bond.

I am very close to my maternal grandparents, very close to some of my cousins. But I am also very close to some family members to whom I am not strictly related to. With whom I do not share a single drop of blood.

Like my Mama Rosario. Who is not my mother or stepmother, but rather my grandmother’s best friend of almost sixty years. She practically raised me. She and my

grandmother have been friends since they were six years old in Cuba. For all intents and purposes, she is family. Though we are not really related.

Or take my tia Lily. She bought the blanket they wrapped me in when they brought me home from the hospital. Her daughter Alejandra calls me cousin Sammy. And yet I am not related to her. But she has been my mom’s best friend for about 20 years.

I am a firm believer in the fact that family can be more than blood.

Because of this, I have more cousins than I can count.

Here Not Everywhere

(“Those Who Don’t”)

I have always lived in or at the very least near Miami. We moved to Miami from Miami Lakes. Those are the only two places I’ve lived. In those two houses. I have never even left the East Coast. At least, not that I can remember.

Miami is a big city, even when you live in the suburb type neighborhoods like Kendall. Here we do not talk to our neighbors. We do not send children outside to play alone even for a minute. You don’t walk home alone, especially at night. Not even if it’s a block away.

Here, flip-flops in winter are acceptable.

Here, we roll our eyes at tourists who squeal at the sight of the beach, because we are all so bored of sand and waves.

Here, we scoff at sunblock and silently suffer sunburns because we are too used to it to be bothered by the red peeling skin.

Here, humidity is never less than 50%. And the temperature dropping below seventy degrees means its time to break out the sweatshirts and boots. It might as well be snowing. Most people here haven’t seen snow once. Haven’t even seen the leaves change colors. But ask any Ten-year-old and they could tell you exactly when its safe and when its not to be outside during a thunderstorm. Because why should a little bit of rain stop us from running errands. Because you’ve never seen a rainstorm until you’ve seen the 15-minute flash flood Miami gives you. There’ll be water up to your knees.

Here, almost everyone speaks Spanish. And no one looks at you twice if you switch languages half way through a sentence.

Forgetting a word in one language, or only knowing it in Spanish is commonly accepted.

But anywhere else, a bathing suit any where but the pool is out of place. As is a sweater when it’s hotter than 50 degrees.

Anywhere else, forgetting how to say something in English makes people think you hit our head and are speaking in tongues.

But remember, anywhere else, there’s always someone who has never seen the ocean. Never been to Disneyworld.

Everywhere is different. And Miami is sort of messed up. But so is anywhere else. But Miami is home. No matter where we end up going to college.

Discussion: How To – Start A Book Blog

Advice from a Not-So-Seasoned Not-Quite-Professional

A long while ago, I wrote a discussion with my advice on ARC requests.

Surprisingly, to me at least, a lot of people liked it and found it useful. And I realized something, I feel like a floundering child when it comes to this blog, but with a year and 460-ish followers, I have a marginal about of experience and advice I can share with some form of authority.

So, since my best friend has finally caved to my wishes and is soon starting her own book blog (and yes, I will hype and promote the hell out of her, be prepared), I thought an advice post would be a good way to help her, and anyone else reading this blog who wants help starting a blog, or just to see my insights into blogging, to see a different point of view.

Practical Blogging Advice:

  • Be realistic with yourself. Don’t say you can post 5 times a week if you do not realistically have that time. Start with one well written post a week. Its more important to be well written and consistent than to have a lot of posts.
  • Follow and interact with other blogs. Be a part of the community.
  • Followers do not happen overnight. Do it because you like it.

Book Blogging Essentials:

  • A separate email account you feel comfortable sharing.
  • A blog directory
  • A Netgalley account
  • A Goodreads account

Memes, Features, and Common Types of Book Blog Posts:

  • Top Ten Tuesday / Top Five Wednesday
  • TBR (To Be Read)
  • Book Hauls / Unhauls
  • Book Reviews
  • Book Adaptation Reviews
  • Book Coming Out This Month/Year
  • Favorites
  • Week / Month in Review – Weekly/Monthly Reading or Blogging Wrap-ups

Connecting With Fellow Bloggers:

A big part of blogging is connecting with fellow book bloggers.

Comment on other people’s posts, and don’t be afraid to start a conversation. People will want to talk to you!

Social Media For Book Bloggers:

You can’t blog in a void.

Well, you can, but then, no one will read what you’re writing. If you want to make friends and gain readers you have to network.

Comment, like, and follow other blogs. Join twitter and follow bookish-peeps there. Get a Goodreads and join some blogger/reader groups.

Trust me, it works.

And this is coming from someone notoriously bad with both technology and people.

Other (more) helpful advice & tips:

How To Start A Book Blog By The Sassy Book Geek

Discussions by Sparkling Letters

Realities of Book Blogging by Ardent Attachments

Rave Worthy Blogging by Rant&Rave About Books

Blog Graphics Tutorial by Read At Midnight

Bloggers I Look Up To/To Follow

This is of course, not a comprehensive list of all the bloggers I like/follow/love, its just a list for the newbies to get a feel of some amazing book blogs and shoutout some people I admire.

This is in no particular order.

That Bookshelf Bitch

Thoughts & Afterthoughts


Heir of Glitter

My Tiny Obsessions

Calliope The Book Goddess

52 Letters in the Alphabet

Freedom Library

Bookshelves And Biros

Genie Reads


The Orangutan Librarian

Rant & Rave About Books

Read At Midnight

Bookish Things & Tea

So, what do you guys think?

Any bloggers you want to shoutout? Any advice you want to give to newbies or fellow book bloggers? Did you find anything I said helpful? Do you want me to do more of these types of discussions? Are their any topics in particular you want to see?

Let me me know down in the comments!



Throwback Thursday: “The Unknown Citizen” by W. H. Auden (1939) – Discussion Questions and Perfect Intro

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 Unknown Citizen” by W. H. Auden (1939)

Discussion Questions and Perfect Intro

Discussion Questions:

1 – The “unknown citizen” represents modern citizens, who, according to the poem, are programmed like machines. How does the title help establish the tone of the poem?

The title is an allusion to “The Unknown Solider.” The “unknown citizen” is being honored for his conformity – a parody to the soldier’s sacrifice. The citizen is unremarkable in every way, without even a name. The fact that everything about the citizen is known, yet the title calls him “unknown” shows what the state of Auden’s world values and devalues – material worth is measured and quantified, but any human value, such as a name, is forgotten, not worth remembering. The tone of the poem is clinical and ominous, touting virtues of this unknown man, with intimate details, showing the breadth of surveillance typical of this world, and the distance taken to any human emotion, with phrases like “added five children to the population” shows the clinical way the state is speaking of this citizen, wishing for machine-like conforming citizens rather than real, living, breathing people. From the title onwards, you know everything human about this citizen has been taken from his elegy.


2 – Who is the speaker? What is his attitude toward the unknown citizen? Cite examples to prove this.

The speaker in the state, or at least a mouthpiece of the state, as it is the state touting the virtues of this unknown citizen and referring to the way different government agencies reported data on him, with phrases such as “Our researchers” to show who the speaker is. His attitude towards the unknown citizen is clinical, listing statistical data rather than any human or emotional information on him. The speaker points out that he “held the proper opinions” and owned what he ought to such as “a phonograph, a radio, a car” but in referring to his children it is phrased clinically, “he…added five children to the population.” The speaker also sounds proud of the unknown citizen, conveying his conformity is a virtue and an emulatable accomplishment, listing statistics about him that they consider positive. Everything he did was right, he had “no official complaint” against him, “he bought a paper everyday”, he “was normal in every way” says the speaker with a tone that conveys that other citizens should seek to be like this unknown citizen.


3 – Identify which types of irony are present in the poem and support with examples.

There is situational irony throughout “The Unknown Citizen” because this “unknown citizen” is being honored by the state with a monument, and they know everything about him, save for his name. If you remember someone, their name is typically the first thing you know. This type of memorializing is typically for those who showed immense bravery or otherwise did something remarkable, but this man is perfectly average and remembered for conformity. There could also be considered to be situational irony in the last two lines of the poem specifically; “Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd: Had anything been wrong, we should have certainty heard.” These lines give the impression that freedom and happiness are not typically sought after, though they are generally considered ideals, but rather a sign of something “wrong” with a person. Elegy’s are typically very sincere and emotional, yet that of the “unknown citizen” is clinical and distanced from him as a human being.

The context of the poem could be considered dramatic irony, as a reader in 2018 would know how much closer the modern world has come to Auden vision than Auden ever could have expected in 1939.

Perfect Intro Prompt:

The poem “The Unknown Citizen” by W. H. Auden serves to paint a picture of a world where people are reduced to statistics and government reports. In a well-organized essay, explain how Auden conveys the sterility and soullessness of the modern world, and the techniques he uses to express his attitude, pay particular attention to tone and theme. Use specific references to the poem.

Perfect Intro:

With a clinical, ominous tone and a permeating theme of conformity, W. H. Auden’s “The Unknown Citizen” shows the deterioration of the modern world, as individuality is replaced by submission, and pen-and-paper statistics are valued more than a person’s soul, where sterile existence has replaced any emotion as trivial as happiness. The titular “unknown citizen” is a perfect model, but his name is irrelevant to history; Auden’s vision of the modern world is bleak, with ideal humans more akin to machines.

Throwback Thursday: “A Temporary Matter”

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.

“A Temporary Matter”

  1.    What is the significance of Shukumar seeing the neighbors walking past as he looks out the kitchen window after Shoba has told him that she has found an apartment?

The significance of Shukumar seeing the neighbors walking past after Shoba tells him she has found an apartment is that he will never again have that with Shoba, he will never again walk home with her, they have a relationship that he and Shoba no longer have.

  1.    How would you explain the symbolism shown in the short story “A Temporary Matter”? There is a great deal of symbolism, so take your time and be specific.

Many things in “A Temporary Matter” can be taken as symbols in the story. The major symbol being darkness. For the four days that the power is out for an hour every night, Shoba and Shukumar finally begin to talk to each other again. They  cannot face each other in the light, but they can in the darkness. They are in the dark physically, and to each other’s feelings and motivations. Shoba is working up courage to tell him she is leaving, he wants to reconcile with her. He knows the gender of their child. They are in the dark, but are exposing secrets of themselves to each other, really seeing each other for the first time in months.

The repair of the downed power line is also a symbol. The line fell in a storm and is being repaired. As the line is being repaired in that hour of darkness each night, Shukumar feels he is repairing his relationship with Shoba. Just as the repairs are finished early for the power line, Shoba ends their relationship earlier than their vows would have suggested.

Throughout their dinners, Shukumar stacks Shoba’s plate on top of his own. A symbol for how he puts her grief before his own, shouldering her mother’s blame of the stillbirth being an example, because she needed her mother. At the very end, he stacks his own plate on top of hers, acknowledging his own grief.

They way they are with each others mothers can also be a symbol. When Shukumar’s mother comes to visit for two weeks, Shoba cannot fully tolerate it, she goes out drinking with Gillian instead. When Shoba’s mother stays for two months, Shukumar expects this fully, and tolerates the blame Shoba’s mother puts on him, ignoring that he lost his child too. He has patience with her mother, and with Shoba herself, giving her time to grieve, putting her grief before his own many times. Shoba has less patience, is more inclined to give up rather than deal with a difficult thing, shown when she decides to leave him after six months of avoiding talking about what had happened.

  1.     The ending of this short story is very uncertain.  How do you feel this story and ends and what in the literature supports your position?

At the end, Shoba and Shukumar have not reconciled. Shoba intends to move out, but they have finally told each other their greatest secrets, Shukumar’s being the gender of their child, which makes Shoba finally understand that he feels the loss of their child ust as acutely as she does. Because they are finally getting to a place that they can talk to each other about their grief, about their stillborn child, there is hope for them to reconcile fully later on down the line. Shoba was obviously torn up about leaving him but she also looks at him in the light in more than passing at the end. Shukumar still loves her, it wouldn’t hurt him as much if he didn’t. It is very likely they they will try and work things out. In terms of support from the literature, at the very end they “wept together”, grieving as a couple instead of separately as they had been doing the past six months. Neither reached any peace or ease to their grief suffering alone, grieving apart only drove them further apart, for the first time they grieve together. Shoba also obviously still cares for him, having spent five days building up courage to tell him she was leaving, she obviously wanted to minimize the hurt she caused him, she didn’t just up and leave as she could have. That is what she would have done if it was a matter of no longer caring for him.

  1.    Do you feel that Shoba is unfair in how she treats Shukumar? If so, why?

Every attempt made by Shukumar to engage Shoba is rebuffed, until he begins to avoid her completely, until the power outages. Shukumar begins to take care of the house and cook the way Shoba used to, aware that she is grieving and still having trouble, but Shoba makes no effort with him. Shoba’s mother is rude to Shukumar, blaming him for the baby’s stillbirth, and Shukumar takes it because he knows Shoba needs her mother at the time. Shoba is unfair to Shukumar she keeps her grief to herself. She doesn’t want to talk to Shukumar about it, doesn’t acknowledge that the baby’s death affected him to.

  1.    Examine a significant theme that arises from the story. What can we learn from it?

Grief and the effects it can have on individuals and relationships is a major theme of the story. The stillbirth of their child is a killing blow to their relationship, though it takes six months for Shoba to decide to leave him and work up the courage to tell Shukumar so. Both are depressed, and feel their grief in different ways. Shoba avoids the would be nursey, but Shukumar finds solace in it for example. They had different experience with their child; Shoba carried the baby that died at birth and Shukumar wasn’t there for that, but Shukumar held their child and guarded the secret that it was a boy to spare her the knowledge, until she hurts him and he throws it in her face. Grief and hurt can make people lash out. Over the days of the power outage, their relationship once again begins approaching normalcy, but it is after six months of feeling their grief and guilt separately and it isn’t enough to reconcile by the end. Grief doesn’t have a time limit, it doesn’t go away if you ignore it or wait it out.

  1.    What indications in the story prepare us for the eventual breakdown in the relationship?

Before the stillbirth, there are indications that their marriage isn’t completely solid. Shukumar rips a photo of a woman out of a magazine, and is disgusted with himself, but feels it is “the closest he has come to infidelity”. Shoba goes drinking with Gillian instead of spending time with his mother. For their third wedding anniversary, Shukumar is depressed when she gives him a sweater vest, when for their first she cooked a ten course meal. He lies about losing it, exchanging it for money to go and get drunk midday. These are not indications of a completely healthy relationship.

  1.    How does the stillbirth of their child affect the relationship between Shoba and Shukumar ?  Is the stillbirth in and of itself significant?

The stillbirth of their child completely destroys Shoba and Shukumar’s relationship. Shoba leaves before he gets up and comes home late, doesn’t speak to him when she is home, stops caring about things she once cared about, like their home and his degree. Shukumar whose perspective we see, is wracked with guilt, we learn because he wasn’t there for her, and because he learned their child’s gender, and held him. Shukumar avoids Shoba, not knowing how to face her. He hides in the would be nursey because the room pains her. Problems existed in their marriage before the stillbirth, but it was a fatal blow to them. After the stillbirth they were both depressed and grieving in different ways and could communicate with each other about it; Shoba likely feeling slightly resentful that he wasn’t there despite having pushed him to go to the conference, and Shukumar for the secret he harbors that their child was a boy.

  1.    Examine the significance of the title, “A Temporary Matter.” After reading the short story, what do you consider its meaning to be?

“A Temporary Matter” most immediately refers to the temporary maintenance of the electricity, the temporary inconvenience. This is of course the vehicle of the story, not the point of the story. The “temporary matter” can also refer to the four-day period in which Shoba builds up the courage to tell Shukumar the truth, and Shukumar attempting to rebuild their fractured relationship; a temporary mending period. It could refer to their relationship, their love, their marriage, as a temporary matter because it is coming to an end. The title could refer to their son’s life as well.

  1.     Discuss the relationship between Shoba and Shukumar in detail. How would you describe it before the death of their baby?

Shoba and Shukumar got married quickly, having met four years before the story and being married for three years. They didn’t know everything about each other, they had their secrets, but they loved each other. They went shopping and spent most of their time together. Shoba cooked elaborately. Shukumar took pictures of her all the time; she recorded when they first ate different meals together. Before the death of their baby they had a good relationship, even if Shoba did keep some of her money in a separate account, Shukumar respected it. After the death of their baby, their relationship nearly entirely disintegrates, they avoid each other nearly completely, from Shukumar’s perspective, because he is wracked with guilt and grief when he sees her. They relationship was fracturing before the stillbirth, as evidenced by Shukumar’s account of their third wedding anniversary, and his exchange of a sweater vest for drinking money. Shoba goes drinking with Gillian because she cannot stand to be with his mother. They didn’t have a perfect relationship before the stillbirth, but they loved each other.

  1. Why do Shoba and Shukumar fail to reconnect? Do they fail to reconnect?

At the end of A Temporary Matter, Shoba and Shukumar have not reconnected. Despite their attempts over the last four days, Shoba informs Shukamar of her intentions to move out, effectively dismantling all progress they have made. This failure to reconnect comes from never having spoken about the tragedy they faced – the stillbirth of their child. Shoba and Shukumar couldn’t face each other – Shukumar didn’t want to hurt her with the knowledge that their child was a boy until she hurts him in the end. Their guilt and grief separates them. There is always a chance for them to reconnect properly after the end of the story, because they have finally begun to communicate truthfully again, even if it hurts.

  1. What is a major idea that comes out of the themes of “A Temporary Matter?”

A major idea that comes out of “A Temporary Matter” is that marriages are hard, and require effort to maintain a good relationship and communication is a major role in that. Grief can be a major breaking point.


Throwback Thursday: Biblical Allusions – Literary Basics Group Assignment

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.

No one in the English-speaking world can be considered literate without a basic knowledge of the Bible… All educated speakers of American English need to understand what is meant when someone describes a contest as being between David and Goliath, or whether a person who has the ‘wisdom of Solomon’ is wise or foolish, or whether saying ‘My cup runneth over’ means the person feels fortunate or unfortunate. Those who cannot understand such allusions cannot fully participate in literate English…

                                                        -Dan Pogreba, Helena High School

“No person in the modern world can be considered educated without a basic knowledge of all the great religions of the world — Islam, Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and Christianity. But our knowledge of Judaism and Christianity needs to be more detailed than that of other great religions, if only because of the historical accident that has embedded the Bible in our thought and language.”

                                                        –E.D. Hirsch, The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy

Directions: For each of the biblical allusions below, find enough information to make yourself familiar with the meaning of the story. You may want to even find the passage in the Bible and add the reference.

1) Alpha and Omega—

when Jesus was entering the world, God stated that He is “the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”  Alpha and Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet respectively, represent that God was there when the world started and will be there when the world ends.

2)  Cain and Abel–

sons of Adam and Eve.  When making a sacrifice to God, Abel sacrificed the best of his flock, while Cain did not.  God then favored Abel’s sacrifice over Cain’s, causing Cain’s envy to drive him to murder his younger brother.  Therefore, Cain was the first man to be born, and Abel was the first man to die. Due to the murder of his brother, Cain was forced to bear what is known as the Mark of Cain, and he was also killed by stones, the way he murdered Abel.

3) Abraham and Isaac—

God ordered Abraham to sacrifice his son, and when Abraham bound Isaac to an altar atop a mountain, God sent a messenger, who told Abraham that he had proven himself to God as a God-fearing man.  God stayed his hand and then sent a ram so that Abraham could sacrifice it instead of Isaac.

4) Eye of the Needle—

Jesus, when a wealthy man asks him how to achieve eternal life, responds that the man must sell all his belongings, give to the poor, and follow Jesus. When the man expresses hesitation, Jesus states, “Indeed it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a wealthy man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

5) David and Goliath–

Goliath of Gath continuously provoked the Kingdom of Israel for forty days and forty nights, challenging the Israelites to send a warrior to defeat him. While all the other soldiers fled at his colossal appearance, David (youngest of eight) accepted his challenge on the forty-first day.  Goliath wielded a sword, and David the word of God. With a stone, David struck Goliath in the head and defeated him.

6) Good Samaritan

Luke 10:25-37

This is the typical axiom “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Jesus is explaining how you should be kind and loving to your neighbor, which is quite vague, to a lawyer. The lawyer, in true student of the law fashion, tries to get an exact definition of a neighbor, and basically the outcome is that those you should consider a neighbor are those who are kind and loving, and that each person should try to be that neighbor to someone else.

7) Ten Commandments

Exodus 20

The ten commandments are:

  1. I am thy lord, thy god. Thou shalt have no other gods but me, which basically says that God wants to be the only god that people worship.
  2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, which means the people can’t have Idols, and God admits that he’s really jealous.
  3. Thou shalt not take thy name of the Lord thy God in vain, which is God saying that you can’t use his name in any insulting or slanderous manner, and you can’t just run around saying his name, it has to be in prayer or worship or a sermon or something where it’s religiously appropriate.
  4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. This means that, since God made the world in 6 days and took a break, the people should too, and that they must toil for the first 6 days of the week, (then Sunday through Friday) and rest the 7th (then Saturday), and they must allow anyone who works with or for them to do the same.
  5. Honor thy father and thy mother, which means respect your parents since they gave birth to you.
  6. Thou shalt not kill.
  7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
  8. Thou shalt not steal.
  9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
  10. Thou shalt not covet.

8) Doubting Thomas

John 20:24-29

When Jesus was resurrected, 10 other apostles were able to see him before Thomas had a chance to, and Thomas didn’t believe it was feasible for him to be resurrected, so he basically said “I’ll believe it when I see it and feel it for myself”. The apostles gathered together, and Jesus appeared, asking Thomas to do what he needed to do in order to believe, then saying that those who had faith and didn’t need proof were blessed.   

9) Gethsemane

Matthew 26:36-46

Jesus went to Gethsemane to pray to God, as he knew he was going to be killed by his “betrayer”, Judas. Though he is the son of God, he knew he has to die, but, since he is human, he is scared. He asked his followers to watch his back, but they fell asleep, as they do not believe any harm will come to him, but they are mislead, as one of their own will be the one who will kill Jesus.

10) Samson and Delilah

Samson was an incredibly strong man, whose only weakness was that if he shaved his hair, he would lose all his strength. He fell in love with a woman, Delilah, and she was paid to discover his secret. He lied to her, as he had promised God that he would keep his weakness secret. Eventually, she plagued him with guilt, and he revealed his secret to her. An army came in and shaved his hair, then bound him. They placed him on display and, though he thought he had lost God, he called out to Him for his strength to return once more, to get his revenge, and he brought down the entire temple he was trapped within.

11) Solomon

Solomon was the last leader of a United Israelite Kingdom. He was most famous for his wisdom. According to the Bible, two women came to Solomon for him to decide custody of a child that each claimed was theirs. Solomon said that since it was impossible for him to tell, he would cut the child in half and give one half to each woman. The woman that cried out and immediately retracted her claim on the child was declared to be the true mother by Solomon, as any mother would give up her child rather than have it killed.

12) Four Horsemen

The four horsemen are symbols of an upcoming apocalypse. In the bible, a scroll held in God’s left hand had seven seals holding it closed. When the lamb of god opened the first four seals, he released four horsemen. One rode a white horse, the other black, and the last two rode red and pale horses. The traditional interpretation is that Humanity will experience four calamities, where many will die. These horsemen each represent calamity, and are often referred to as the “four horsemen of the apocalypse” as they are seen as symbols of death and destruction (Conquest, war, famine, and death).

13) The Flood

The flood occurred when God saw that the people on earth were wicked. He decided to flood it in order to wipe it clean, but Instructed Noah, a righteous man by him, to build an ark to save the animals. Once the ark was built, a pair of each animal boarded, and Noah and his family boarded. Then, it rained for 40 days and 40 nights, until the whole world flooded and all life not on the ark perished. After that, when the waters receded, Noah and god agreed that god would never flood the earth again.

14) Job

Job was a prosperous man, who lived righteously. One day, God’s praise of Job angered Satan, who claimed that Job only loved God because he protected Job and gave him prosperity. To prove that this wasn’t true, Satan was given permission to take his health, and prosperity, but not his life. Job only responded by cursing the day he was born, but not questioning God, as all was god’s will. Later, he met three friends of his, who claimed God was unjustly punishing him. Job debated them, defending God. Later, God appeared to Job, but Job did not ask him any questions or challenge him. This proved to Satan that Job really was loyal to God. So, God restored his life and prosperity, but made it even better than before, as a reward for being loyal to him.

15) Jonah

Jonah was instructed by God to go to Nineveh to go and preach to the people there. Jonah refused, as they were the enemies of his people, and went instead to Joppa to flee to Tarshish. In anger, God sent a bad storm to the ship. The people on the ship prayed to God, and asked Jonah to pray to God to stop the storm. It failed.They then asked Jonah where he was from and why he was on the ship. After he told them, he said that they needed to throw him off the ship to get the storm to stop. They refused, and tried to plead with God instead. This also failed. The passengers threw Jonah off the ship and the storm instantly stopped. Then a fish ate Jonah, where he stayed for three days and three nights. Afterwards, he was commanded to travel to Nineveh again and preach. This he did, telling residents that their city would be destroyed. This caused the city to repent, and God decided to spare the city. When Jonah found out, he wanted to die, so that he would not be ridiculed as a false prophet. The lesson God wanted him to learn was that all people hold his love and affection, and that people who worship idols could also have good in their hearts.

16) Judas/30 pieces of silver –

Judas was one of Jesus’s original twelve disciples. Judas’s name is synonymous with betrayal and treason, as before the Last Supper, he agreed to hand over Jesus in exchange for 30 silver coins. He showed them who Jesus was with a kiss, referenced as the kiss of betrayal. This set in motion the events that led to Jesus’s crucifixion and later, resurrection. Judas later returned the money, filled with remorse for what he had done. The “blood money” was used to purchase potter’s field – a common grave for unknown or indigent people, where Judas died.

17) Prodigal Son –

The story of the prodigal son is the third and final part of the cycle of redemption, and is one of the parables Jesus shares in Luke. The parable begins with a man with two sons. The younger of which asks for his inheritance, and wastes away his fortune (prodigal meaning “wastefully extravagant”). After becoming destitute, he returns home, expecting to beg his father to make him a servant in order for him not to be sent away. The father welcomes his son with open arms, while the older brother refuses to celebrate. The father reminds the elder that he will inherit everything, and that they should celebrate that the younger has been lost and now found. The parable is meant to impart that it is never too late for sinners to ask for forgiveness in the eyes of God, because the father will always welcome them with open arms.

18) Armageddon –

Armageddon is described in the Book of Revelations in the Bible. Armageddon being the prophesied location for the gathering of the armies of heaven and hell, for the battle at the end of times. As a location, Armageddon is interpreted both literally and figuratively. Armageddon also refers the scenario of the end of the world itself. Armageddon is often synonymous with apocalypse.

19) Sodom and Gomorrah –

Genesis 19:24
Sodom and Gomorrah are two cities of the five cities of the plain. Sodom and Gomorrah are known for having divine judgement passed by God, and being consumed by fire and brimstone. The names are synonymous with impenitent sin, and their fall a manifestation of divine retribution for sin. The sins of Sodom and Gomorrah are often referred to as vices or homosexuality. (Sodomy) Abraham asked God to spare the cities, as his nephew Lot lived in Sodom. God says he will spare the cities if ten righteous men can be found among them. When Lot and his family are found to be the only righteous ones, God tells them to flee and not look back. Lot’s wife turns back and is turned into a pillar of salt, while the cities are destroyed by sulfur and fire.

20) Christ Figure –

Jesus Christ was the son of God, born to the virgin Mary. Christ figures in literature often display traits such as performing miracles, healing others, being guided by their father or their father’s spirit, are often kind and forgiving, and are often a martyr. Christ figures are often resurrected after their death, as Jesus proved himself as the son of God by rising from the dead three days after his crucifixion.



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.