English 10: Writing Portfolio

 

Catholic Memorial High School

 

2007-2008

   
   
   
   
   
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Creative Writing  
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
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Dear Master Anonymous,
As editor-in-chief to Prentice Hall, I would like to say that is an honor to have your wonderful
story in our book. As you’ve no doubt have heard from the leaks, Prentice Hall’s British Literature
textbook is too large for the 2009 edition. The decision of which author should be eliminated from
the roster was a grueling challenge, but the decision has to come. Mister Anonymous, the staff at
Prentice Hall has voted for Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to be taken out of the new
edition. For numerous reasons, such as Gawain’s lack of virtues in comparison to the other
characters, the heavy usage of Christianity in the book, and the constant question of identity, your
work did not meet with what we wanted.

Sir Gawain is a man who had hesitated to fight a man draped in green after the giant insulted his
king, who kisses the mistress of the house, and who takes a small whack on the neck as repayment for
cutting a man’s head off its body. Gawain shows, as his great quality, restraint for denying an
affair with the wife of the lord. However, Gawain kisses the maiden, and then kisses the lord as
repayment for his sins. Gawain confronts the Green Knight after a promise, but tries to play off a
test swing by the great bearded man as payment for beheading the behemoth. In the end, Gawain shows
his shame, and one of his few virtues, by wearing the girdle, given as a gift by the wife. If,
however, he were a true man of perseverance, he would never had to show shame at all. Indeed, an
article written by anonymous, agrees that “…he loses his honor by accepting a magical protection
from Bercilak's wife” when he needn’t have failed if he had had courage.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a story written in a time of religion. The story relies on
Christianity, like how Gawain leaves only on All Saint’s Day to seek the Green Knight (p. 41). The
King gives Gawain “the Lord’s blessing” (p. 43), and it seems that everyday, the characters attend a
prayer service before everything (p. 83, 84). Even the goal of Gawain’s quest is the Green Chapel.
The guide on the book on Cliffnotes comments on the pentangle, and how you “explain its significance
for the audience, bringing the narrative to a screeching halt in order to do so.” Unfortunately,
there isn’t a bulk religion of readers, so Jewish and Muslim kids, along with other religions, won’t
understand many of the importance’s that are stressed in the story.

Gawain, throughout the novel, has had his masculinity, and his name, tested by the main characters.
His name is challenged twice by the Green Knight, and twice by the wife. These questions show the
doubt Gawain gives to people, and a member of Authur’s court, shouldn’t be called out as such. The
hero that Gawain is supposed to be was obviously not present. Gawain allows his name to be tested,
and in some cases bashed, by people that have the ‘supporting role’. Even for refusing the wife’s
temptations lead to questions of what Gawain’s name represents for him.

The story of Sir Gawain and the Greek Knight is a story that has many good values, but
unfortunately, contains too many faults. It was a pleasure to have you included in our textbook, and
would like to let you know that other works by you are still under consideration for newer
editions.

With regrets,
Connor Lynch

   
   
   
   
   
   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

America is known for making many sports famous. Our pastime is the ever-popular baseball. Football
continues to hold its large fan-base in the palm of its hand. Yet even more simplistic sports are
invented in the growing nation, and one sport like this is snowboarding. The sport comes from the
US, as told by Eurosport, and is most popular in snowy North American areas, like the New England
area, or Montana, where there is plentiful snowfall in the colder months. Across the Atlantic, Great
Britain’s whitewashed mountains also play host as popular locations for snowboarding. While having a
cultural impact on modern Great Britain, especially its youth, snowboarding has never made great
strides to its history.


As stated by Shannon Schwartz, a man named Sherman Popper put two skis together for his daughter one
day in Michigan. He originally named it ‘Snurfing’ in 1965. Snurfing soon blossomed into the
high-thrilling sport we have today. In Britain, snowboarding has received as much attention as it
does in America, which doesn’t say very much. In the London Times, snowboarding isn’t mentioned on
any top pages, or indeed the ‘Other Sports’ category. Only a few journalists focus on ‘snow surfing’
for The Times and The Sun, and it’s popularity has never really ‘boomed’ over there. Still, like any
sport, there are very good traces of it over time. Snowboarding, while having a cultural impact on
modern Britain, has never made great strides to its history.


The sport of snowboarding, like any athletics, is fueled by some of its greatest stars. The Times
wrote an article of a girl just four years old, whom has ascended into the pro leagues of
snowboarding, leaving men and women ten times her age in the snow behind her. Another great athlete
is Lesley McKenna. As mentioned in BBC’s World Service, the Britain native plays through the game,
being a role model for aspiring women athletes. She states ”the women and men divisions are two
separate classes, but that one doesn’t hold dominance over the other.” An article by the Times’
Tamsin Leachaside says, “Today, the number of women in board sports - surf, skate and snow - is
snowballing.”


The Times frequents its snowboarding articles to the hazards people face when the snowboard. As said
by Jeremy Clarkson, “Snowboarding is like skiing, except you have absolutely no control over your
direction of travel.” The Sun’s only two articles on snowboarding from 2008 deal with the deaths of
a man who fell off a mountain 260ft near a French Alps resort, and a Brit who was hit by a boulder.
Of The Mirror’s last five articles, three of those reports dealt with deaths and dismays on the
trails.


While professional writers seem to deviate their pens from the slopes, there’s no denying the
popularity snowboarding has with its youth. The Evening Standard’s Emily Sheffield comments
“Snowboarding is the fastest-growing youth sport, with clothing alone worth £20 million in Britain.”
£20 million is equal to a little over $40 million. Books have been written for both history and
technique – Jim Smith’s “The Art of Snowboarding” covers both these angles. “The Illustrated Guide
of Snowboarding”, by Kevin Ryan, goes step-by-step to teach new and veteran boarders how to perform
fantastic stunts. Even technical DVDs have been complied, like “Fresh Start Snowboarding”, by
CustomFlix Studios.


Like any sport, snowboarding will continue to be successful in the future. While not making breaking
headlines in papers, Britain’s tourists will continue to enjoy a great time riding down the slopes.
The history of the sport neither spawns nor furthers the empire, yet the novelty and the danger
people face whenever they rush down the snow-packed hills and mountains will never wear off.

   
   
   
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It was nearing ten o’clock when, on 88 Ipswich Road, lights flicked on in the huge manor. Within the
estate were thirteen famous authors – whether they were of flesh or the spirit of their former
selves, the British authors sat nonetheless in grand parlors scattered around the large ballroom. In
addition to these famous authors were critics; each trying to catch an interview of the living and
dead authors, each riddled with questions for their childhood heroes. Where I sat wasn’t important –
it was who I was with and what we talked about that was the big issue everywhere. As authors, from
Chaucer to Rowling, the thirteen ‘houseguests’ discussed their methods of their worksmanship. Their
work, as British Literature, relies heavily on five devices; their settings within the various
writings; the themes that are ever-present in the masterpieces they’ve produced; the forms used that
are required in many poems; the resolutions of which every story must end; and the use of
mixed-genders in specific works. Their work shows that their prose and dramas overpower poetry –
none of the houseguest I encountered were too bothered with them.

I first entered a parlor where John Keats, Mary Shelley, J. K. Rowling, Daniel Defoe, and Virginia
Woolf. Here, we discussed the theme of death. The odes that Keats wrote are plagued with misery, as
seen in When I have Fears That I May Cease To Be. Not only does the title describe the tone of the
poem, but Keats also writes, “Till love and fame to nothingness do sink”(748). At this time, Keats
was suffering from tuberculosis, like his brother. This poem is more than likely the reflection on
Keats’ fears. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein also held misery, as shown when Elizabeth’s lips “tasted
of death”. J.K. Rowling talked about her Harry Potter series, where the theme of death was reversed
by resurrection, when Dumbledore informs Hogwarts School that “Voldemort has returned [from death]
(439)”. This quote from The Goblet of Fire tells the reader that even the dead can come back. S.T.
Coleridge follows a similar, but not exact, suit to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.. The setting in Ode
to a Grecian Urn is, as the title sys, on an urn. But the urn paints a picture, in “that deep
romantic chasm which slanted/ Down the green hill [across a covering of cedar trees](739)”. The fact
that the story is all on an urn adds a unique spin to the story. Virginia Woolf’s near-autobiography
contains her explicit childhood with a sexually abusive brother. Critic Frank Stockton wrote, “Near
all books contain some form of death- Chinese folklore, British literature, American poetry –
nothing is limited.” This says that while British literature is unique, its very core doesn’t define
itself, as its characteristics say something about itself.

I took my leave from the parlor and was hailed in a second booth, occupied by George Orwell,
Geoffrey Chaucer, ST Coleridge, Jane Austen, and J.R.R. Toliken. They were in a full-out discussion
on open-world setting – where the entire world is open. George Orwell disagrees by using the setting
of Oceania in his dynastopian novel 1984. He said that Oceania was a place where “Big Brother Is
Watching You”(2). The fact that Winston is always being watched leaves Oceania in a place where only
your thoughts are trustworthy. JRR Toelkin favors open areas, like in The Fellowship of the Rings,
where the group reach “a wide ring of ancient stonework, now crumbling or covered in age-long grass
(211)” Geoffrey Chaucer offers an alternative – where he uses multiple setting in Canterbury Tales,
where each pilgrim will be “telling two stories on the outward trip…And, on the homeward way to
journey’s end/another two.” (114) This scenario not only leaves the pilgrims’ settings open for
whatever they desire, but the plot of the entire book also follows suit. This story is unique in the
way that there is no definitive setting. S.T. Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner takes place on
the most open setting of them all: the sea. The ocean held a “fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
the furrow followed free” (691). The setting of a boat leaves such a vast world of opportunities,
like we see further in the book, when a ghost ship kills the mariners crewmates. Jane Austen’s Sense
and Sensibility features Edward and Elanore discussing their lives. When Elanore asks Edward if he
would want to stay in London, he stubbornly replied “I hate London. No peace. A country living is my
ideal- a small parish where I might do some good, keep chickens and give sermons” (793).

Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf, Daniel Defoe, Mary Shelley, and A.E. Housing were in another booth,
touching on the subject of which sex was more the hero – males or females. Shakespeare lets men take
reign, as the lead female role of Lady Macbeth in Macbeth, wishes “spirits, unsex me here (302)”,
saying that she would make a better man than Macbeth. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein says, “We are not
free from the creature; not man or women, nor old or young (101)”. The victims of Victor’s creation
do not matter on their bodies – both were equally killable. Virginia Woolf’s On Making An Agreeable
Marriage deals with a woman whose “mistake has been one that thousands of women fall into. He was
the first young Man who attacked himself to you.” (781) This suggests that women fall for the first
man that they see, which implies an eternal weakness in women. Daniel Defoe’s grim short story, A
Journal Of The Plague Year, describes a person who was “neither a person infected and desperate…or a
person distempered in mind, but one oppressed with a dreadful weight of grief indeed” (506). Defoe’s
choice to exclude the gender of the narrator and townspeople leaves most people to infer that both
men and women were in danger; not just men were singled out by the Bubonic Plague. Critic Charles
Dibdin comments on Romeo: “The two grand points that Garrick has insisted on are the expunging the
idea of Rosalind, and Romeo’s sudden inconstancy on the first impression of Juliet’s superior
beauty…” (198). Dibdin seems to make his point that Juliet is nothing more than a guilty pleasure to
Romeo- she’s nothing without her beauty. This is like many stories, old and modern, where the brave
protagonist goes after the beautiful woman who, by a coincidence, has the good conscience.

Shakespeare, Chaucer, Coleridge, and Housman, were discussing the form of rhyme schemes.
Shakespeare quoted his Sonnet 116 with:


“Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments, Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove”


This sonnet is a great example of the ever-popular ABAB rhyme scheme, which is followed also in
Shakespeare’s Sonnet 106. Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales follows a different, but fundamentally similar
scheme as the Sonnets:


“Now I have told you shortly, in a clause
The rank, the array, the number and the cause
Of our assembly in this company
In Southwark, at that high-class hostelry” (112)


The AABB scheme here is very popular, and is a constant rival to the ABAB scheme. A.E. Housman’s To
An Athlete Dying Young follows the AABB rhyme, but uses a form of rhyme called slanted rhyme:
“Today, the road all runners come/ Shoulder-high we bring you home” (933). The use of ‘come’ and
‘home’ fits as rhymes, but using poetic license, the pronunciation of one of the words is different.
S.T. Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner has the unique ABCB scheme:


“And through the drifts the snowy clifts
Did send a dismal sheen;
Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken-
The ice was all between” (688)


The scheme here is unique between the assumed rhyming lines, A and C, do not. “It adds an artistic
flow to the story the Mariner tries to tell us.” says Roden Noel. “The rhyming used in the
masterpiece makes the story that much more interesting.” Noel sympathizes with me; the flow that is
carried out by these poets leaves an example for everyone to follow in their own feats.

Finally, with the party rapping up, I slipped into a final booth. It contained Jane Austin, J.K.
Rowling, John Keats, Daniel Defoe and George Orwell. They were discussing resolutions, and how their
ending possibly leave sequels. Mary Shelley definitely ends Frankenstein, but the ending is very
vague: “He sprung from the cabin window, as he said this, upon the ice-raft which lay close to the
vessel. He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance” (192). This ending
leaves the creature roaming the Arctic Circle, where he could make another grand adventure. Keats’
poems, like When I have Fears That I May Cease to Be, ends on a gloomier note: “Till love and fame
to nothingness do sink” (748). The ending suggests that Keats never cared about his fame or his
wealth, because his death was fast approaching anyways. The ending of Rowling’s Harry Potter and the
Deathly Hallows ends in an epilogue, where the finale is quite anti-climatic to readers: “His scar
hadn’t hurt in sixteen years. All was well” (639). George Orwell’s 1984 follows an ending that not
only disappointed fans, such as myself, but also leaving the protagonist in a situation where he
will not be making another adventure: “But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle
was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother”(308). No doubt readers were
baffled at the behavior Winston displays towards his most hated enemy, but the reason behind the
disappointing resolution is found in the novel itself, which is a great read. Defoe’s A Journal of
The Plague Year ends in a historically accurate way: “for coffins were not to be had for the
prodigious numbers that fell in such a calamity as this”(508). One –third of Europe’s population was
wiped out in the Black Plague; this line says that the number of corpses were too large for coffins.
Therefore, everyone’s life ended in the same way, like the poem; abruptly. Jane Austen’s On Making
an Agreeable Marriage ends “you will enter into mine, at receiving the praise which every now &
then comes to me, through some channel or another.-“(783). This ending is confusing with the dash at
the end, but what baffles me is the way the letter ends. There’s no signature- no snippy line- it’s
a complex and perplexing end to a story that I don’t understand.

The party closed, and at exactly three o’clock, the spirits of the departed left the abode, as the
living authors took their leaves as well. The memento that I received from the authors who visited
wasn’t physical – rather, it was such an experience that I am remaining convinced on one thing.
While the entire genre of literature follows suit, it is British literature that is defined by
setting, gender, form, resolutions, and themes in works. These devices don’t define British
literature, however; British Literature IS the devices.






Works Cited


Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Bantam Classics: December, 1983
Dibdin, Charles. History of the Stage. London: Garland Publishers, 1970
Kinsella, Kate et al. Prentice Hall Literature: The British Tradition. New Jersey : Pearson Prentice
Hall. 2005
Orwell, George. 1984: Centennial Edition. London: Penguin Group, 2003
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. :ondon: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2007
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2000
Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. London: Dover Publications, 1993
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. London: Almat Publishing Corp., 1957
Tucker, Martin. A Llibrary of Literary Criticism: Modern British Literature. United States:
Frederick Ungar Publishinng Co., 1966
Tolkien, J.R.R. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. New York: Ballantine Books,
1982.
Tolkein, J.R.R. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. New York: Ballantine Books, 1983