English 10: Writing Portfolio
Essay the First

Essay the Second

Essay the third

Essay the fourth


















  Choosing the best piece of writing to write about for this assignment was very easy for me.   Immidiately upon hearing the assigment I knew i wanted to write about a letter invloving my uncle Lenny in the army.  My uncle was extremely excited for the chance to dust off his box containing all his old army possesions.   That box contained everything from medals, to pictures, to certificates, to letters.   And the bulk of the box was letters, which was a good as well as a bad thing because now i had to choose one out of about 200 or so letters to write about.   I read some very interesting letters including a few from some of my uncle's girlfriends in Europe, unfortunately most of those were too inappropriate to write about.   So i settled on a letter from my mother.  
     My uncle joined the army around the begginning of 1962.   Thankfully this was a few years before the Vietnam War started.   My mother wrote this letter in September of 1962.   She and my aunt always looked up to my uncle, as most children do to their older siblings.   However in this situation it was slightly different because my mothers family was extremely close as most Italian families were in those days.   My uncle mainly joined the army in an attempt to get his life in order.   He was always getting into trouble in his teens and he knew he had to do something to turn his life around.   This is why my mother often mentions how proud she is of him in the letter.    
     If you read this letter carefully you may notice how the english used by my mother is quite different than how most teenagers would speak today.   In a few different cases my mother uses the term, "brother Lenny", which you would almost never hear teenagers say today.   In an interview with my sister whom had never seen the letter, she seemed suprised that my mother used to talk like that.   When i asked my sister  if she would have known who wrote the letter if my uncles name wasnt mentioned and she replied "I wouldn't have had any idea, the words she used were so unfamiliar".
     In conclusion, i chose this letter because i like how it represents a sisters love for her older brother.   I also like how it shows how the way teenagers felt and talked in comparison to teenagers today.   There are many differences as well as many similarities.   When i talked to my uncle about this letter i found out that the letters his family wrote to him were a big part of what kept him going so many miles away.   Especially the letters from my mother.



























  The speech I chose was written by Nicholas Pileggi, the writer of the 1990 movie "Goodfellas",   a movie about a man named Henry Hill who grows up in New York City and becomes involved in the Italian Mob, (played by Ray Liotta).   The speech is said by Henry at the very beginning of the movie as he is looking back on his childhood.   It was written to introduce the audience to Henry, mainly to emphasize just how badly he wants to be a gangster when he grows up and how he won't have it any other way.    
   When Henry is explaining the life of the gangsters in his neighborhood, he really lets the audience know that he feels there was no better life.   This quote really gets that point across: "I mean they (the gangsters) did whatever the wanted.   They double-parked in front of hydrants and nobody ever gave them a ticket.  In the summer when they played cards all night, nobody ever called the cops."   He explains it as if they were immune to normal society.   When he is explaining how he did small jobs for the mob, he describes his semi-gangster life almost as a utopian society, nothing less than perfect.   It was the only life for him.
   Pileggi uses a few tricks in the speech to emphasize Henry Hill's point.   One of these tricks is comparing the life of a gangster to other lifestyles and people who are opposed to the life. To me, being a gangster was better than being president of the United States."   This quote is almost comical.   Most kids his age would dream of being the president, a professional baseball player, an astronaut, but a gangster?  
   In my opinion this speech is very ahead of its time.   Pileggi explains how a kid growing up could want to make illegal activity a career, a very modern issue.   Many kids today have aspirations of being in gangs and dealing drugs.   They have the naive notion that criminals are invincible to the law, very similar to Henry's thoughts in the speech.



























   During the Middle Ages, few authors explored into the uniqueness of characters as well as Geoffrey Chaucer.   This is best demonstrated in his Canterbury Tales.   More specifically in The Pardoner's Tale, one of the many short stories included in the Canterbury Tales.   In this short story, Chaucer uses the uniqueness of characters as well as the element of irony perhaps better than any writer of his time.
     In the beginning of the story, there are three men talking in a bar.   As a funeral procession passes by,  one of the men (the rioter) is curious as to who the deceased was and what happenned.   The tavern-knave, or bartender, answers him that it was a man whom the rioter had known in his childhood.   He explains that he was slain by Death: "Upon his bench , face up, dead drunk again.   There came a privy thief, they call him Death...He speared him through the heart, he never stirred."   In these few lines Chaucer personifies Death as an actual man. He says that Death physically committed the murder.  By doing this,  Chaucer puts a supernatural spin on the story making it very interesting in my opinion.
     Irony is the most important theme in the story and stands out the most in my eyes.   When the three men are talking in the beginning of the story , they make a pact to seek out and kill Death.   They find a man along the way who tells them he left Death under a tree, but instead they find a pile of gold coins in his place.   After they find the treasure they decide to split it up three ways, but secretly they are all planning to kill the others and take all the gold for themselves.   In a twisted turn of events, all three of the men end up dead.   I guess you could say they found Death, but Death got the better of them.   If thats not ironic i dont know what is.
     In conclusion,  I think Chaucer brilliantly established these two elements to compliment eachother perfectly.   The result is nothing less than a a fun, adventurous masterpiece that few authors have been able to match as far as his style of writing is concerned, even to this day.


































   When I think of the greatest British songs, plays, short stories, novels, and poems from WWII to the 21st century, the only words that come to my mind are "The British Wonder Years".   There are so many great works that came fom this era that its extremely difficult to choose the best.   However, there are a few that seem to stick out from the rest.   These include the song "Another Brick in the Wall" by Pink Floyd, the play "Les Miserables" by Andrew LLoyd Webber, the book The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, the short story "The Monkey's Paw" by W.W. Jacobs, and the poem "Digging" by Seamus Heaney.
          The song "Another Brick in the Wall" is probably the most popular song by Pink Floyd.   It was written by Roger Waters, a former member of Pink Floyd.   "We Dont need no education, we dont need no thought control"(2),  are some lyrics from the song.   It expresses the strict discipline and brainwashing that occurred in British schools during the 40's and 50's."Daddy's flown across the ocean leaving just a memory, a snapshot in the family album, Daddy what else did you leave for me"(2).   These lyrics explain a childs pain felt when his father left for WWII.   WWII was a unique theme used in many Pink Floyd songs.  Many people attribute the strange lyrics in the music to mind altering drugs that were taken by the band.
          Les Miserables is perhaps one of the most famous musicals by Andrew Lloyd Webber along with The Phantom of the Opera and Cats.   It explores the life of a French parolee and an officer.   This musical is goin into its 13th year on Broadway which alone speaks for the popularity of it.   "Les Miserables has a compelling, poignant story, it has music thats remarkably easy to enjoy, and its directed and designed with more skill and attention to detail your likely to have encountered in recent memory"-Les Gutman(1).
          The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis is without question my favorite childhood book.   After first reading it in 7th grade I immidiately fell in love with it.   Its element of mischief and wonder revolutionized childrens literature in the 20th century.   "The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe is, in turn, beautiful, frightening, wise." - The New York Times.   I couldnt have put it better myself.
          "The Monkey's Paw" by W.W. Jacobs is a terrifying short story about a magic monkey paw that you can wish upon.   However all it brings is death and hardship to the family that finds it.   This story is the perfect example of the phrase be careful what you wish for. This the most popular short story by Jacobs and is probably one of the most terrifying short stories to come out of 20th century Britain.   Its by far the most frightening I've ever read.
          "Digging", a poem by Seamus Heaney explores the common theme of Heaneys which is his interest in his father's work on his farm.   This is also a common theme among many 20th century Irish writers as most of their father worked as farmers, mainly potatoes.   "Under my window, a clean rasping sound, when the spade sinks into gravelly ground:My Father, digging, I look down". (2).   This short stanza of the poem tells about this boy who watches his father work in the potatoe fields just outside his window.
          In conclusion, all types of British works have certainly changed a lot in the last 50 years.   Wether it be songs, plays, novels, short stories or poems, there always changing and will forever continue to adapt to the culture.