Control Leads to Rebellion

 

Imagine you are in a room alone, in front of you is a big red button, beside it sticks a yellow sticky note with big red letters “DO NOT CLICK”, you are not told what are the consequences of clicking it. You know that there’s something to do with the button, and it is hard controlling yourself from leaving it alone. This is because of the curiosity in your mind. Generally, people don’t like being controlled. They are born rebellious. When they are told not to do something, it empowers curiosity on the contrary. This was what happened to the story Fahrenheit 451, where the main character fireman Montag, once a loyal society-follower, became a rebellious criminal to the government. The theme of this story is the censorship of government, the banning of knowledge, motivates curiosity and encourages people to seek it.

 

In the beginning, Montag wasn’t quite aware of the deformation of the society. It wasn’t until Clarisse McClellan, a ‘crazy’ teenager who inspired Montag at first. Clarisse is different than others, it seems like that she is open to the world. Clarisse once said to Montag, “So many people are. Afraid of firemen, I mean. But you’re just a man, after all” (11) It was Clarisse who asked Montag “ ‘Are you happy?’ She said” (Bradbury 14) It was also Clarisse who first mentioned the idea to Montag about taking away a book from the burnt houses. This changed Montag’s rigid thought of books; drove Montag into thinking whether if his job as a fireman was meaningful; and whether the society was a perfect one with people receiving extra knowledge. After burning down the old woman’s house and herself, Montag completely changed. Montag felt passionate towards the old woman and wanted to help her. But the old woman refused and chose to become grey ashes with her books. “The fumes of kerosene bloomed up about her.”( 43) From then on, Montag felt deeply about her and started questioning his job. He was provoked from this experience and wanted to give more thought to the present status of the society. Eventually, Montag decided to stop blindly following the orders of the government. “Where the path of kerosene lay like the track of some evil snail” (43) Montag took away a book, The Bible, and started reading, which was something that was not permitted. And discovered all of the knowledge in it, even when it was hard to understand the words in the beginning. As Montag knew more, he wanted even more and became rebellious.

 

Montag started to read more together with the help of another person who supported book reading. However, Montag’s wife Mildred was addicted to technology, being with her ‘relatives’ in the walls was one of her hobbies. Mildred was isolated in her own box and had a false sense of what’s is happening in the society. “Does your family love you, love you very much, love you with all their heart and soul, Millie?” (79) Mildred is a contrast to her husband. After being reported by her, Montag’s idea of rebelling became stronger and is ready for the battle with captain Beatty and the government. When he leaves the destroyed bombed city, he realizes that “It is not burning. It was warming” (147) What he believes now was that the destruction of dystopian society will be reborn of a new, better world. Montag thought “It was a pleasure to burn”(7) at first, but Montag, in the end, escaped the deformed society which was destroyed.

 

One connection is the censorship in China. The communist party has blocked websites for the Chinese people, and established its own search engines and chat apps. Why would they do so? To take control of the people, to stop them from knowing, preventing characters like Montag who was a threat to the government in Fahrenheit 451. There is no liberty in China, what people say and write on the multimedia are all seen from the government.

 

An insightful discovery I’ve found from this story was that the word “god” has appeared several times in the book, often used as an expression before a phrase. “God knows why” (27)

“God, I’m hungry” (22) Fairly, the first ever book Montag has taken home was The Bible. So has Montag discovered the origin of how they speak each day, and discovered the meaning of “religion”?

 

Overall, Fahrenheit is a book with simple words but deep meaning within it. When governments use censorship it may seem to be an easy way to control people. Censorship really works on people, but it is also easier for citizens to find out the flaws of the society. So why not just give liberty.

Places Where I Don’t Belong

Imagine living in two places where you don’t fit in. In both places, you were the “odd” one. Your culture never matches the place, and your lifestyles are different. In the book Brown Girl Dreaming, the author, Jacqueline Woodson, describes her childhood in the 60s and 70s, especially when her brown skin color matters a lot during that period of time. Raised in North and South, Jacqueline feels she’s halfway home in both places. In the award-winning book Brown Girl Dreaming, the author, Jacqueline Woodson describes her two homes in a way so descriptive that we can imagine ourselves there. In Brooklyn, she was left out in events because of her religion, and in the South, she was teased of her Northern culture.

 

As a Jehovah’s Witness Jacqueline was confined to many activities and couldn’t find friends with the common language in Brooklyn. In this religion, Jacqueline was restricted from several things to do. “Because we’re witnesses, no Halloween, no Christmas, no birthdays.” (Woodson, 164) The environment that she was in was very different in comparison to the country-side life back in the South. Brooklyn was not a carefree place. With all the bustling streets and busy crowds, Jacqueline experiences an urban life there. “The rain here is different than the way it rains in Greenville. No sweet smell of honeysuckle. No soft squish of pine. No slip and slide through grass.” (165) While at school, teachers put high expectations and pressure on Jacqueline. They thought that her academics were as good as her sister, Odella’s, but Jacqueline had proved them wrong, she disappointed the adults and was forgotten soon. “Everyone knows my sister is brilliant…she is gifted we are told. And I imagine presents surrounding her. I am not gifted. When I read, the words twist twirl across the page. When they settle, it is too late. The class has already moved on.” (169) Jacqueline was trying hard, but her talent was not discovered, and she was discouraged. However, with her neighbor and best friend, Maria, she gained support. And when Jacqueline’s mother crushed her dreams of becoming a writer, she only continued writing and kept practicing with persistence. She finally wrote her first book in Brooklyn, named Butterfly. “And somehow, one day, it’s just there speckled black and white, the paper inside smelling like something I could fall right into live there-inside those clean white pages.” (164)

 

In the South where Jacqueline’s grandparents are, she and her siblings sometimes are left out by the other kids because of their way of living in the North. Children in their neighborhood would refuse to play with them, and students and teachers at school wouldn’t accept them. In the leisurely lifestyle and the relaxing activities, Jacqueline rather enjoys her time with her grandparents, with her grandfather playing the role of her ‘PaPa’. With her rural environment, everything seems closer to nature. “Warm autumn night with the crickets crying the smell of pine coming soft on the wind and the women on the porch, quilts across their laps, Aunt Lucinda, Miss Bell and whatever neighbor…”(Woodson, 98) But with her mother’s demanding rules, Jacqueline often could only watch other kids play outside. And with her Northern accent, Jacqueline was mocked by others. “While our friends are watching TV or playing outside, we are in our house, knowing that begging our mother to turn the television on is useless, begging her for ten minutes outside will only mean her saying no.” (167)

 

This book was relatable to a friend of mine. Her father was from New Zealand, and her mother was a Chinese. The mixture of Western and Asian culture made it uneasy for her. In both places, she was a minority in both places. Technically, she didn’t look alike nor acted alike to the majority of the people in neither of the country she’s from. She couldn’t blend into the society, but she always worked hard towards the problem. I saw how she adapted herself into the Chinese society through advancing her Chinese language speaking, improving skills of using chopsticks. She told me that she was from both New Zealand and China, but she seems to be coming from neither at the same time.

 

Jacqueline’s story illustrates her two major places where she grew up, and neither does she fit in well in the society. As her journey continues, she adapts and thrives in her societies with her writing talent. She also discovered her writing talent within. Brown Girl Dreaming has places with dreams and memories, and they are unforgettable for the writer, and unforgettable by the reader.

 

The places where Jacqueline doesn’t belong to, are the places where her dreams come from and become true.

My Country is Important, But My Family is More

Sergei’s Journal

August 25th, 1939

Age 53

I am relieved, my mind feels released. Yesterday the Non-Aggression Treaty was signed with Germany. I am an old man now, I do not want to fight anymore. I want to spend the remaining years of my life with my family. Perhaps this is the only one thing that Stalin did correctly. I’ve seen the changes in Russia through the years. My older son, Vasily, just turned fourteen today. My family is living just like how I imagined 15 years ago. I need to protect my children, I hope they can have a better life than I do, and escape the fearful life like mine. Now, my family is my everything, and I cannot lose them.

 

Without fighting, I still fear that my family may have been purged. The purges of the party ordered by Stalin began in 1937. Stalin, our leader, was a cruel and brutal man. His favorite quote was “No man, no problem”. My colleague Petrov and his family disappeared. Petrov often complained about Stalin’s tyrannies, and he paid for his consequences. I was lucky enough that my loyalty towards Stalin saved my family from the gulags and blizzards in Siberia. I don’t like Stalin’s plans, but to keep my family safe, I have to follow orders. I understood that Stalin was trying his best to turn USSR into an industrial country, like his Five-Year-Plan eventually turned into a four-year-plan. Peasants suffered, it was not worth it.

 

Stalin was our ultimate lord, and we all were his followers. From 1924, I was hopeful that Trotsky would become a great leader after Lenin’s death. After all, what Lenin said about Stalin, how his personality wouldn’t lead our country to a great cause, I was actually a supporter of Trotsky. But Stalin’s great propaganda and secret police, the Chekas, gave him power and he soon took control of USSR. He even exiled Trotsky. To make the country look well-developed, Stalin even promoted collectivization, the Five-Year-Plan, and the uninterrupted week. In result, there were famines. Stalin caused terror amongst the country. No one ventured to oppose him because against Stalin meant being tortured to death. Back in 1930, the secret police set up the gulags, I once worked as an organizer for executioners there. People worked like slaves, and I thought that it was inhuman that we had to kill a slave every night unreasonably. But I had to tell the executioners to do it. I saw the hopelessness in the slaves’ eyes and their hatred towards us and the government. I wanted to help them, but I showed no mercy because I knew that it was either the slaves being executed, or else it would be me. It was not until 8 years later when my assistant told me that 20% of the zeks died.

 

I was a patriot. I’m trying to support entire Russia, but my family has become my center. I can’t believe the country had turned under the rule of dictatorship. But I’ve chosen to follow Stalin, I’ve become a coward. I knew the Chekas are watching every move I take. I knew that Stalin has been doing things wrong. I am an old man now, I have my own family to protect, I could no longer support the citizens of Russia. Looking back all these years from 1905, I have changed a lot in 35 years. USSR too. The only thing that hasn’t changed was the suffering of the peasants. Where is my passion for them? They are living like slaves while we are enjoying our feast. Even though I am a soldier and I have fought for Russia, the revolution…was not worth it.

Nature and Nurture – What We Are Made Of

Personality is composed of nature and nurture.” (Francis Galton 1822-1911)

This theory by Francis Galton appeared in and was explained in the book The Psychology Book by Catherine Collin, Voula Grand, Nigel Benson, Merrin Lazyan, Joannah Ginsburg, Marcus Weeks. Galton was first interested in the concept of whether abilities of people are either inborn or learned after birth. He was inspired by his relatives, because many of them were gifted individuals, including the famous evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin. Galton was the first person to give the thought of identifying “nature” and “nurture”, the two ingredients to compose the personality of a person. Nature is what is inherited within the person; nurture is what is experienced after the birth of the person, this may be the environment he lives in, or what he learns etc. These two sources differ from each other particularly.

When Galton was doing research towards inherited traits for his book Hereditary Genius, he found that most of the highly talented individuals were often in certain families, certain growing environments. These people’s intelligence was certainly not only from their nature but also from their privileged home environment, which was how they were nurtured. Galton once stated that “Characteristics cling to families.” (Galton, 1822-1911) Many examples are pieces of evidence that support this claim, even including himself, a great polymath grew up in a wealthy environment and was able to receive unusually high education, which was not accessible to most of the people.

Although Galton suggested that both nature and nurture are very important components of a person’s personality, the balance is also questioned. Therefore, Galton’s theory explains both elements are indispensable. First of all, nature may set the limit to how we develop in the world, for example, no matter how hard a person practices, how much he puts effort towards swimming, how well his coach works trains him, if he has no talent towards swimming, he will never become better than the other swimmer who is talented and works hard. Hence, nature limits on how a person may thrive amongst the community. However, it is also essential to realize that even with highest natural gifts may be badly affected by “starved by defective nurture.” (Galton, 1822-1911) For instance, if a person has an extraordinary intelligence, but his family’s condition could not afford the fees for him to receive education, then his gift is completely wasted. Thus, if the talent is not through education, then it has no use upon the person. The debate of “which component is the determining factor” continues even to nowadays. Some people agree that to receive an education is more important than ever, while others think that there’re no gifted people in this world, everyone is fairly treated.

I think Galton’s idea relates to me, I need to thank my family for providing me such a nice source of education by giving me the opportunity to go to ISB. I cannot say that I am talented, but with the knowledge, I am given to learn every day at school, will help me thrive in life one day. With such education, I think it is crucial for all students here to precious it, and we should be grateful and use this chance efficiently.

As a conclusion, Francis Galton’s concept is true and relatable. He devoted most of his life to philosophy, and his theory of a person’s personality is composed of nature and nurture is still influential today. And nature and nurture are both vital components of a human’s personality.

Dignity and Integrity

“Scholars read the great words of the world. But you and I must learn to read the world itself.” (Park, 7)

 

The theme of A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park is the integrity of the person. Winner of the John Newberry Award, the book is about living under the bridge, with ragged clothes, and merely enough to eat, Tree-ear and his friend Crane-man live with and follow Crane-man’s faith and ethical beliefs. They will spend and enjoy what they worked hard for, and will not take any unearned gains.

 

When Tree-ear came back under the bridge with a bag of rice, the most precious food that the two friends could ever get, Crane-man was gratified, but also puzzled with Tree-ear’s good fortune. Tree-ear told Crane-man the unusual story: It all began in the early morning when Tree-ear met a man carrying a heavy load on a jiggeh, a “framed backpack made of branches” (Park 4), but the rice was leaking, forming a marked white-dotted path. Tree-ear followed, but his conscience was shaking. He helped the man repair the jiggeh. Surprisingly, Tree-ear is free to take the rice on the ground. Good deserves good. Tree-ear’s unselfishness deserved the bag of rice. “Foraging in the woods and rubbish heaps, gathering fallen grain-heads in the autumn-these were honourable ways to garner a meal, requiring time and work. But stealing and begging, Crane-man said, made a man no better than a dog.” (Park, 5)

 

When Tree-ear saw his master Min’s rival Kang with his tremendous design, he didn’t choose to help and tell Min Kang’s secret, but instead he kept it to himself. “If a man is keeping an idea to himself, and that idea is taken by stealth or trickery-I say it is stealing. But once a man has revealed his idea to others, it is no longer his alone. It belongs to the world” (Park, 64) Stealing didn’t only include stealing items and objects, but also included the stealing of a thought, an idea. Although Tree-ear was desperate to help Min to win the emissary’s appreciation. But telling Min meant letting him steal Kang’s innovation. And theft was the worse a man could do. Therefore, Tree-ear cannot risk his beliefs and moral sense and tell Kang’s pottery idea.

 

The main character in this book, Tree-ear’s friend, Crane-man is not a scholar, but he is as wise as one. This connects to our society because it is a present situation that many people who did not even go to school have very good thoughts. Many talented people who are in bad conditions was unable to receive education, and couldn’t prove their intelligence to the society. If Crane-man’s thoughts were told to his society, his philosophical theories would be wide-spread.

 

Tree-ear’s noble actions earned him great accomplishments. After helping to deliver Min’s vase to the royal emissary, Tree-ear was finally earned Min’s acceptance and had the chance to be Min’s apprentice. Tree-ear’s dignity made him a person with integrity.

Friendships May Change a Life

“She could never talk again. Not after what happened…”

 

Winner of Australia’s Book of the Year award, So Much to Tell You is a novel written by John Marsden, filled with vivid characters that provide a vibrant and moving story. Each character – from the protagonist to the antagonist were all well described and helped develop the story. The emotional flow between people artfully built Marina, the main character’s story.

 

After her father poured acid on her and staying in the hospital for such a long time, fourteen-year-old Marina was sent to a boarding school, trying to make progress with communicating with people. Marina was sent to Warrington “because my mother can’t stand my silent presence at home.” (Marsden 1) But not until Marina started writing in a journal for English class, and her life suddenly had a dramatic turn. Every night, Marina would write down her experiences and emotions, and it was a way, and also the only way that she could express her feelings.

 

In the beginning, Marina lived in isolation, not caring about the society, neither aware of other’s care for her. She felt that she is different from others, and her frightening face makes most people reject her. When people try to talk to her, she doesn’t know how to respond, so all she would do is to run away and hide. She stated in her journal “I make people uncomfortable. The kind ones get angry because their kindness doesn’t work. The unkind ones get angry because they think I am attacking them.” (Marsden 11) As she excludes herself from the “eight girls in the dorm” (Marsden 16), her teachers, and classmates, she tries to write from the heart using her journal. Then, she starts to make connections with a warmhearted girl, Cathy, in her dorm, and they soon communicate through objects like gifts or notes. As the two girls get closer through little things, Marina’s desire to show her feelings to others was stronger and starts accept people. And that was when a startling change occurred in Marina’s world again. When Marina decides to give Cathy a gift to show their friendship, she was so surprised by how overjoyed Cathy was. “Cathy cried when she opened it, did you know?” Marina’s roommate Lisa said. Marina’s English teacher, Mr. Lindell, also starts to show concern to her. With their help, Marina eventually struggled through her hardest times and found back her identity. She finally changed her introverted self and became back to her normal self and had a way better relationship with the rest of her roommates.

 

The first friend of Marina in her dorm, Cathy, played a huge role changing and helping Marina. She yelled at Marina in the beginning. Cathy got mad and threw Marina’s undies at her and said, “And don’t think we’re going to keep feeling sorry for you all year.” (Marsden 26) However when Cathy sent a card for an apology to Marina, she starts a unique correspondence between the two girls, and as their association develops, their friendship extends. This connects to me as well. Sometimes having a rough start with someone certainly doesn’t mean that you will not become best friends with her later on. Maybe it was even the conflict between people that started them to notice and finally accept each other.

 

Therefore, Marina was a strong character and illustrated the story with colors. She suffered, was depressed, but she tried hard with many help from her peers and eventually thrived. Without Cathy and the nice girls in her dorm and Mr. Lindell, Marina will still be hiding in a corner of her own world. But Marina was more open in the end and even had the courage to find her dad. Hg Marina’s story, So Much to Tell You, tells how important people around us are. And how one small kind act of a friend, may completely change a person.

 

 

The Imperfect Human

What makes a person? It is to have every single trait of the person and then put them all together as a whole that makes the person unique. In “The Rules of the Game” by Amy Tan, the main character, a child genius, chess champion Waverly had special characteristics that lead her to the success in chess. Waverly was intelligent, but it changed her and made her not as outgoing in the society.

 

First, her body language and behavior show how she achieved to her path to succeed in chess. She was patient and obedient; she would bite back her tongue whenever there was something that was hard for her. She was clever, she would observe what others do and take them as a beneficial tip to herself, like in the story, during Christmas how she “watched the older children open their gifts and realize that the big gifts weren’t necessarily the nicest ones” (Tan, 3). She was competitive, facing her opponent, her breath would “come out like an angry smoke” (9). She is enthusiastic, when it was her turn in the competition, she “leapt up” (6). others, she was also polite, she would “clasp my hands under my chin, the delicate points of my elbows poised lightly on the table in the manner my mother had shown me for posing for the press.” (8) And to her achievements, she was really proud and threw back triumphant smiles to her opponents.

 

However, when dealing with other people, Waverly failed to get along with people around her. Through her speech and her attitude towards others, she was occasionally naughty, as she once tricked a tourist and shrieked with laughter, running away. She won games, but she lost her adversaries. She was inquisitive, but a little over, resulting her brother to be annoyed with her. Like the questions that she asked, “Why? Why can’t they move more steps?” (4) or “But why do they go crossways to take other men? Why aren’t there any women and children?” (4) and it irritated her brothers. This was very relatable to myself, though, because sometimes I just cannot resist the curious over a topic, that I just keep on asking questions, however, if the one being asked is not as patient, then it will be very easy to get them bothered. Nevertheless, at the end of the story, she was acting ignorant and selfish. She disliked how her mother showed off in front of others, but she presented how she felt to her mother in a mean way and made their relationship unpleasant. She told her mother how embarrassing it was to be her daughter and scolded her mother. Waverly was smart in chess, but she was unsuccessful with coping with her peers.

 

Waverly was a very interesting character, and she was an exceptional person, with both good sides and bad sides of her. She was imperfect, but it was that negative side of her that made her a compelling character.