What is a story?

A story is anything that tells the reader something. Stories paint pictures in the readers’ mind followed by interpretation. One of Hemingway’s stories only consists of six words and can have (depending on the interpretation) great meaning. Hemingway’s piece, argued by some as one of his greatest works, is:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

This can have a lot of meaning, leading to a number of questions. Why weren’t these brand new baby shoes ever worn? Could something have happened to the baby that it never had a chance to wear them? Could the birth have been a miscarriage? Even this makes up a story, no matter how long it is. A story can be a single object, just like when someone says, “this picture holds a thousand words.” Those words make up a story and can be made up by looking at the object, or in this case, looking at Hemingway’s piece from different angles and analyzing it.

Another one of Hemingway’s pieces, this one a bit longer than the previous one, also tells a story.

While the bombardment was knocking the trench to pieces at Fossalta, he lay very flat and sweated and prayed oh Jesus Christ get me out of here. Dear Jesus please get me out. Christ please please please Christ. If you’ll only keep me from getting killed I’ll do anything you say. I believe in you and I’ll tell every one in the world that you are the only one that matters. Please please dear Jesus. The shelling moved further up the line. We went to work on the trench and in the morning the sun came up and the day was hot and muggy and cheerful and quiet. The next night back at Mestre he did not tell the girl he went upstairs with at the Villa Rossa about Jesus. And he never told anybody.

In this story, a boy seems to be in the middle of a war, and is in a life or death situation, where he depends and prays to Jesus to get him out of his situation. The way he prays shows his desperation and fright, setting a tone to the story. This tiny story shows how the boy looks up at Jesus in a difficult time and begs to live. After he prays, the artillery moves further up the line and the story changes to a happy, peaceful scene. I do not know what the last two sentences can uncover, but they must hold importance.

Both of these pieces are stories because they not only have actions and a little plot, but they create a foundation of a long string of thoughts, one after the other, that uncover more and more as you go on. In most cases there is a character, even if he/she is not mentioned, because they can be created based on what is written. In Hemingway’s story towards the top of the page, there is a baby involved, which can create questions as to how it plays a role in the story. In the second story, there is obviously a character who struggles in a difficult situation and who looks up to Jesus for help. Without these little components, a story cannot exist.

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The Iceberg Concept

Often, I will write about going deeper into the text and I will refer to the bottom and the surface of something. That something is the iceberg. The Iceberg Concept is something Mrs. Patten taught me last year in 9th grade English. The Iceberg Concept is an illustrated way to show you two things. The first is the surface of the text, or the tip of the iceberg/the surface of water. The second is going under the water, to the bottom of the iceberg, hence going deeper. Above the surface of water is the text, and under the surface, submerged, is the true meaning and analysis. I found this to be very helpful and think it is a fantastic concept to think about and use while writing.

Reflection on “The Lottery”

I find “The Lottery” to be a very complex story that must be read more than once in order to be fully comprehended. The first time reading this short story, I hadn’t a clue as to what was happening. Everything seemed to be going normally in a typical small town, but at the end you discover that the “prize” of the lottery is a horrible death by family and friends. I reflected about how weird a story it was without even attempting go near the bottom, only scratching the surface.

So, the second time I read it, things started to make more sense, and bit by bit, I finally figured out what this story really means. The beginning of the story starts with a description of the wonderful weather and how the people interact, which is like any other tiny town where everyone is friendly with one another. Shirley Jackson, the author, uses a happy tone, making it impossible for one to guess the gruesome ending. She makes the ending even more noteworthy by giving the story such a peaceful, happy setting. She writes about the social ambience of the women and how everything is the way it always is. “They greeted one another and exchanged bits of gossip as they went to join their husbands” (Jackson par. 3). The children are playing and one can only guess that the upcoming event is a cheerful one, yet it is said numerous times that no one knows what the ritual actually means and why they take part in it.

In addition, after getting familiar with all of the names, I noticed that Mr. Summer’s name is upbeat and happy, while his assistant/the postman’s name, Mr. Graves, is gloomy, perhaps foreshadowing the death of Mrs. Hutchinson. But, more importantly, to show how each person has an underlying evil inside them, or a good, but also a bad. Without reading the story a second time, I would never have picked up on this concept. 

Later on, when Mrs. Hutchinson arrives, I find her reason of lateness to be an excuse of not coming. She says, “Clean forgot what day it was. Thought my old man was out back stacking wood and then I looked out the window and the kids were gone, and then I remembered it was the twenty-sevent and came a-running” (Jackson par. 7). I believe that Mrs. Hutchinson knew exactly what day it was and where everyone was, but did not want to say tell real reason of being late. She knew what happens in this ritual and thinks of it to be harsh and an event done without thinking. She just does not have the courage to say this. 

Just as the ritual commences, there is a sudden hesitation and fright from the crowd. “A sudden hush fell on the crowd as Mr. Summers cleared his throat and looked at the list” (Jackson par. 17). When Mrs. Hutchinson is finally called forward as the “winner” of the lottery, she gets extremely nervous and scared. She feeds many excuses as to why she was picked and how it was not fair, showing selfishness, but at the same time, she expresses what she thinks of this lottery. She yells, “You didn’t give him [Bill] time enough to take any paper he wanted. I saw you. It wasn’t fair” (Jackson par. 43). She keeps telling everyone how it is not fair, with a response of how everyone had the same chance. I find it strange that she, the person who almost stands up for what she thinks is right, is the one who wins the lottery. No one knows what this ritual is really for, but they do it because it has been done for as long as they can remember. No one bothers to think about why they really follow the tradition. Who knows who will be picked and would they defend the ritual if they are chosen?  If the people of the town just reflect for a moment, they might realize that the lottery prize is really a horrendous thing.

In my opinion, this story is a way to demonstrate how everyone has a weakness inside them, but more significantly, an underlying evil. Even today, people follow what is done by others, and not what they truly believe in. In a way, depending on the ending, it is truly evil.

Getting a bit off topic now, a few days ago, Mr. Parker mentioned that we will compare “The Lottery” to Lord of the Flies. In Lord of the Flies, (don’t mind if I skip towards the end of the book) everyone who moves to Jack’s tribe, leaving Ralph and Piggy alone, are the crowd/townspeople in “The Lottery.” In both stories, the group of people are all insecure and follow the leader, who in both cases take hold of power and use the power in an immoral way. I would then relate Piggy (exclude Ralph, who is the middleman) to Mrs. Hutchinson, who both have knowledge and moral values on their strong sides. However, on their weak sides, neither know how to express their opinions to the others, which results in their final death. Because neither of them have this strength, nothing can be done to the problem.

I find this story to be startling and eye-opening because it shows the reader (after having to do some thinking) that standing up for what you believe in is paramount and can mean the difference between good and evil.

Answer to Question: What is the significance of the boys’ hair in Lord of the Flies?

Throughout Lord of the Flies, I noticed a recurring mention of the boys’ hair growing. There are numerous quotes explaining how everybody’s hair grows to become tangled and matted. Yet, Piggy’s hair remains short and clean, which is the way it was when they were first stranded on the island. He is the only one whose hair did not change from the beginning, connoting an importance of the boys’ hair. I believe the significance is to demonstrate how a civilization and its civilians develop, but more importantly, to display how Piggy sticks to his morals while the others become savages. An example of how the other boys’ hair grow wildly and recklessly is when the author says, “Not one of them was an obvious subject for a shower, and yet-hair, much too long, tangled here and there, knotted round a dead leaf or a twig…scurfy with brine” (Golding 110). This quote shows the reader how their appearance, particularly their hair is a way to look at their development into savages. Because of the lack of strict laws that should be enforced (the “adult world”), the boys become chaotic and wild to the point that risks someone’s life.The author’s use of hair is a symbol to represent the ways the schoolchildren turn into savages, and as the book progresses, so does their hair growth or the developing savagery. Ralph is in the middle of all of this chaos and development into savages. In the chapter called “Painted Faces and Long Hair,” Golding writes, “Ralph stood, one hand holding back his hair, the other clenched” (Golding 66). This quote has great meaning that can be stretched. Ralph’s long hair shows that he is becoming savage-like, however, he is trying to withstand and prevent the development by holding back his growing hair, pulling it away from his eyes. He knows the only civilized one on the island is Piggy, and tries to pick up on his concepts, but he too is affected by the lack of rules. In this book, Piggy stays civilized in the entirety, and is displayed in one quote. Golding writes, “He [Piggy] was the only boy on the island whose hair never seemed to grow. The rest were shockheaded, but Piggy’s hair still lay in wisps over his head as though baldness were his natural state and this imperfect covering would soon go, like the velvet on a young stag’s antlers” (Golding 64). Piggy’s hair, as said in this quote, seems to remain the same length, and therefore remains civilized and sticks to his morals, unlike the others. Before Piggy’s death, he had a great deal on his mind, which was to keep all society and values balanced and orderly. He did all he could and slowly felt stronger in the process, yet the stupidity and carelessness of Jack’s tribe killed him. Finally, the significance of the boys’ hair in Lord of the Flies is to show how it is a symbol for the developing savagery, and how its growth parallels with the growth of the boys’ hair.

Quotes About Books

A good book has no ending. ~R.D. Cumming

A house without books is like a room without windows. ~Heinrich Mann

My test of a good novel is dreading to begin the last chapter. ~Thomas Helm

If there’s a book that you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it. ~Toni Morrison

A good book on your shelf is a friend that turns its back on you and remains a friend. ~Unknown

Active Reading

Successful active reading is being able to analyze the book and hone in on not only the broad components of the story, but to pull out all of the little details that can be stretched into something huge. One has to think about every angle that the words come from and understand from what point of view they represent and why. Sometimes it can even be a single word that is pulled in so many different directions that it becomes something bigger than the book itself! Each and every word has a great deal of meaning and should be analyzed in order to dig deeper into the story. Active reading is the act of marking the pages with notes and ways to reflect upon the text, but coming from the reader’s noggin. The marks in the book should be circles, underlines or highlights, but only key words or phrases. If too much text is underlined, then it is hard to look back on important, key information. One of my annotations in Lord of the Flies is in scene where Simon speaks with the Lord of the Flies. I chose this scene because it seemed one of the most significant parts of the story. When the sow tells Simon that they are going to have fun, I found it to show how the Lord of the Flies is a symbol for the brutality and mayhem that happens on the island. So, I wrote a small note saying that the Lord of the Flies is a (with an arrow pointing to) symbol of brutality and mayhem. Because I did this, if I ever have to, I can look back on that page (p.144) and easily see how the Lord of the Flies is a symbol for brutality and mayhem. I think I actively read Lord of the Flies well because I was able to pick out details and stretch them in a way that is easy to look back upon, whether it is in the book, or in a separate note. Either way, active reading should be an easy way for someone to understand what they are reading and also to have their thoughts available to look back upon in a quick, easy way. I marked a variety of places in the book from the significance of setting to why a character feels a certain way in a situation. I could have used more diagrams (arrows that relate one thing to another) in my annotations, because I find them to be a fast, uncomplicated way to express thoughts and facts from the story. In the future, I think it would be helpful to have a separate notebook/journal when I read so that I can draw diagrams and write analyses. At the same time I will also use the book to jot down some small, yet significant facts and analyses. To summarize, active reading is a way for the reader to uncover more about the book, by thinking while writing and literally putting your thoughts (sweet and simply) on paper.

Lord of the Flies: Questions

Here are a few questions on Lord of the Flies:

1. Why does Jack crave so much order?

2. How does he interfere with the growth and unification of the group on the island?

3. What quality does Jack have that makes the others move to his tribe?

4. How does Jack develop from “the choirboy” to a savage?

5. Why does Simon connect with the Lord of the Flies?

6. How do the littluns play a role in the book?

7. Did the children develop the beast and form it into something it is not?

8. What caused the children to dramatize about the beast?      

9. What is the significance of Piggy’s hair not growing?