Final Reflective Essay

Although I have taken my blog in a new direction (link to this new blog is in the previous post), I have decided to post one last reflective piece on the semester discussing the overall concepts learned this year and how it has affected my style of writing.

Every incoming freshman has a certain level of uncertainty that builds during the summer and increases as he/she moves in to their respective dorm room, then attends orientation, then hits its climax during the first day of classes. Personally, the tension was not high over the summer, but due to the fact I moved in somewhat late, all the nervousness built up extremely quickly on the walk to each one of my classes for the first time. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that each one of my classes had a friendly environment and all my professors had intentions to help all students, regardless of their educational background. The class that I will focus more intently on for the rest of this paper is my English 101 class that was taught by Dr. Boyd.

This excerpt is an example of what my introduction would look like while in high school. Entering my freshman year at Washington College I knew the basics of writing a paper, more specifically, I was an expert at the typical five-paragraph essay format that is engraved in every high school student. Upon completing my first semester at college, I learned three major limits to my style of writing. I was limited in direction and clarity as I commonly used passive voice, I was too vague because I would try to talk about too many topics, and I limited my writing by failing to incorporate texts to back up what I was saying and further solidify my perspective.

Passive voice limits both the writer and the reader because it creates uncertainty. The subject becomes less clear, the verb weakens, and the direct object can become misconstrued. When analyzing my text this semester, I found that I added too much detail resulting in run-on sentences to compensate when using passive voice. Avoiding passive voice in my writing was one of my bigger challenges this semester and will always be a bit of a challenge, but I have noticed when I pay careful attention to it, it has decreased substantially. I believe this is one of the main factors that has caused my writing to be much more direct and clear.

One text that I read this semester was titled, “Is Google making us stupid?” by Nicholas Carr. The text has many different applications, and I have found one personal application in my own writing. It is the concept of surfing the web quickly, skimming for main details and then moving on. When reflecting on my unpredictable essay format, I wondered what was the root of the problem I had with staying focused in my essays. Reflecting on Carr’s text, I began to believe that maybe this issue was caused from this erratic behavior that is so commonly displayed by myself and so many others while on the Internet. I get sidetracked in my ideas, effectively capturing the main ideas of each topic, but each idea is hardly linked to the next, resulting in my paper becoming horrifically encrypted in its overall message.

When discussing the uses and limits to my writing coming into this semester, there were quite a few uses that I found valuable and I wanted to continue. I had solid sentence structure, syntax, and topics to discuss (although usually too many). In the words of Joseph Harris, “It is important to view the positives and negatives of both sides before coming to a conclusion” (Rewriting). Even though my original writing style had its positives, a few minor adjustments would yield the most effect results.

It is much easier to critique than it is to praise, and that is often the case in your own writing. I never felt confident in my work coming into this year, but I am starting to appreciate the strengths of my own style. I know I am far from perfect, but I believe my work is rather effective after revision and that a few minor alterations learned this semester translated into more effective essays. Two projects I have when continuing the never-ending process of improving my writing is to assess the uses and limits when adjusting my style of writing, to debate the strengths and weaknesses of my old style versus the newly proposed ideas. The second is a concept called arguing the other side. I have found that to make my text as clear as it can be I must acknowledge there is an alternative to any decision I make and that there are positives and negatives to it. When approaching a paper this way, it encourages the reader I am not biased and have made a decision with an open mindset.

After completing my first semester as a college student, I do not feel as though I am a strong writer, but I do feel much more confident in my ability to put together a clear and concise paper, with the aid of other texts and concepts learned this semester, to effectively convey my intended message.

Reflection of Toni Morrison’s Forward in The Bluest Eye

The novel, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, writes about many extremely sensitive topics, with the most obvious being racial discrimination. She does not hold back in the novel, giving the reader an extreme reality check to say the least. When analyzing this novel, you discover even more controversy and how unjust America was at that time.

When Morrison reflected upon her novel in her forward, she reveals that most people can relate to the struggle of being hated or judged for things that they can’t change on some level. What she wanted to put an emphasis on was that hatred of oneself is greater than just simply being judged by others. She believes it is because if you hate yourself, it is due to the fact that you’ve let others opinions determine what you think is right or wrong.

I agree with her assessment of her work and I believe she really conveyed this message, and although some scenes are a bit graphic and/or vulgar, I think it was an effective way of portraying just how ruthless people were to each other when race was an issue.

The rhetorical situation I think Morrison was responding to when she wrote the novel was: “Did racism towards African Americans affect how they viewed themselves, and how so.” A perfect example of this idea is how Pecola behaves and her thought process. Racism has altered her mindset so much even as a child, to the point where she believes she is not beautiful nor in a loving household because she isn’t white and does not have blue eyes. She desperately wants to have these characteristics and believes that these traits alone will make her beautiful and loved.

In the end, it is relatively easy to see what overall concepts Morrison is hitting on and how it affects the characters throughout the novel, but the more difficult and finer details of the novel are really what makes it complex and bring out the even more negative reality African Americans faced during this time period.

The Bluest Eye Initial Reflection

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison is a much more difficult read than one may think. If you read the words for what they are, taking a literal approach to it all, you are really missing out on the actual story. The deeper meanings in almost every aspect of the story create a much more passionate and great read.

One concept that I would like to point out that really changed the novel so far for me is how Pecola and Claudia react to receiving a doll. If you read it as a story, one that states how they reacted, you might assume that Pecola was just happy to be given a doll and Claudia is not appreciative. However, the reason as to why these girls react this way is for us to figure out and it gives the novel so much more power. When analyzing, you learn that Claudia is not a selfish or unappreciative girl that rips up the doll because she thinks she deserves better or anything along those lines. In actuality, she has hatred for what the doll represents-a white girl with blue eyes-something she will never be. She has extreme envy over what she believes is a white girls lifestyle and the doll brings out that anger.

Pecola, while still having the same conception of what a white girls lifestyle is like, reacts completely opposite of Claudia. She takes care of the doll, playing with it constantly. She believes that if she could be white and have those “perfect blue eyes”, she would be better off and in a loving and supportive family.

It is interesting to compare these two characters as they have the same ideas, yet their tactics are completely different, showing the reader how, given the same situation, it can be handled in at least two totally different ways and how that affects them throughout the novel.

In modern times, racial profiling or prejudice seems like a thing of the very distant past, but it really isn’t. To put it in perspective, this is written about the time period of 1941, just before World War II. Another thing to note is that this is the year president Roosevelt signed an executive order prohibiting racial discrimination in the defense industry (Encyclopedia). It took until 1941 for this to happen. A perfect example of how this prejudice was displayed is in the novel To Kill A Mockingbird.

It is novels like these that really make Americans realize the prejudice we have shown in our past and how we took so long to correct this behavior. The Bluest Eye really exemplifies how racism affected every thought and action of all Americans, even children.

Essay 2 Reflection

When writing my second essay, I encountered much more difficulty than the first. This is in large part because the first was a personal narrative so obtaining background information was basically just using my memory where the second essay required much more research to form a specific idea. The second essay was without a doubt much more challenging; however, I got more out of it. I did so because I already knew how I felt and all the information of the first essay, and the only main challenge there was how I was going to transcribe that onto paper. With the second essay though, I had to research, check the credibility of websites, and really think about the issue, and then use that to begin writing. I think that the biggest change in writing style from my first essay to my second was that I was more succinct and to the point while also using a lot more references. I think that I have progressed as a writer after completing my second essay because of what I have learned from reading and applying texts from this semester-such as Rewriting by Joseph Harris. Using these texts I think that I formulated a much more powerful thesis, which helped really keep the reader focused on my main message I was getting across. And also the reader did not think I was biased because of argument tactics such as arguing the other side to really show how I was open to hearing both sides and formulating my own specific opinion based off of all the facts. I think that these were the main skills that I learned and applied to this essay that I was not as effective with last time, making the essay more clear and succinct.

Thoughts on rough draft…

I think I need one more supporting detail similar to the one of carbon dioxide so i can give a more supporting argument, and with that comes finer details, but the main concerns I would like resolved is my thesis and overall conclusion.  Does my thesis properly introduce my paper and is it well developed?  And does my conclusion tie into the thesis and show why I believe my side and thoroughly dispute any reason why it wouldn’t be?

Rough Draft Essay 2

There has been much debate over the years as to the extent humans have caused damage to Earth’s environment. Claims have been made that as early as 1610, the human race began causing irreversible damage. How much damage irreversible damage we have caused up until now is speculatory, but it is impossible to deny the fact that our actions as a race are on the pathway to disaster, killing off species one by one, destroying ecosystems, the ozone layer, all without thinking much about it. I believe if we continue down this path, life as we know it will not be possible in future, “These are not future problems, but rather urgent matters” (Washington Post).

In addition to the irreversible changes we have already done listed earlier, one of the most common topics of discussion when it comes to damage that the human race causes is the issue of carbon dioxide that we produce-carbon dioxide is a product of cellular respiration. According to scientists from the Washington Post, “The safe-operating-zone boundary for CO2 had previously been estimated at levels up to 350 parts per million. We are already past that, with the current levels close to 400 ppm. That puts the planet in the CO2 zone of uncertainty that the authors say extends from 350 to 450 ppm.” They go on to say, “At the rate CO2 is rising — about 2 ppm per year — we will surpass 450 ppm in just a couple of decades.”

The argument here is that the earth has faced shocks before, such as during the ice age, and the biosphere has fully recovered, but the effects we have put it through are in my opinion, even more drastic and what’s worse, as long as humans are around and breathing CO2, the effects can only worsen.

Although our carbon dioxide emission is horrendous to say the least (irreversible), alone it is arguable that it may prove my hypothesis wrong. That is of course if dramatic changes occur, but when combining these with other problems with others that also contribute to extremely harmful irreversible effects, I believe it proves we have already caused an extreme amount of damage, to the point where I am unsure what adaptations need to occur for the human race to survive in the future.

Sources:

  1. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2990011/The-year-humans-caused-irreversible-damage-Earth-Scientists-pinpoint-1610-start-Anthropocene-era.html
  1. http://earthednet.org/EEDMaterials/Content/WORLD%20SCIENTIST%20Warning.htm
  1.  http://www.npr.org/2014/11/03/361069841/u-n-report-warns-of-irreversible-damage-to-earths-climate
  1.  http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jun/07/local/la-me-0607-global-tipping-20120607
  1.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/scientists-human-activity-has-pushed-earth-beyond-four-of-nine-planetary-boundaries/2015/01/15/f52b61b6-9b5e-11e4-a7ee-526210d665b4_story.html