Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Analysis #5

Katelyn Barone

Dr. Ellis

EN 101.16

October 30, 2013

What is Truly the “Right” Direction?

                All of the works we read for this week by Gary Gildner, Langston Hughes, and Richard Hague focus on the idea of choosing a certain path or direction in life. In “First Practice” Gildner brings us into the world of a football team first meeting their new, crazy coach where all the boys make the choice to choose the direction of sticking this seemingly rough ride out. In “Directions for Resisting the SAT” Hague takes an unconventional approach to this form of standardized testing and tells students to “follow no directions” (Hague, 270). Lastly, Langston Hughes’ short story “Thank you, Ma’am” addresses a main character that is made a decision he has deeply regretted. All three have varied outcomes and focus on various ways that our decisions can affect our life and our happiness.

                To begin, “First Practice” by Gary Gildner is an interesting poem because the speaker and his companions make a decision that seems poor, but is one that they stand by entirely. The poem tells a story of what seems to be an important sports team, whether it be collegiate, professional, high-school, or some other level I am not sure. The coach of the team is named Clifford Hill which seems to be ironic considering when I hear the name “Clifford” I immediately think of the Big Red Dog who I used to read about in children’s stories and who has no resemblance to this unorthodox and seemingly insane coach.  Despite Hill’s strange opening where he says he believes “dogs ate dogs” every man stays at the practice (Gildner, 275). This decision seems like a poor one from the outside, but when I thought deeper into the mentality of athletes, particularly very good ones, they will do anything and everything to succeed and further their careers. This poem leaves us without knowledge of whether or not their decision to stay is justified with “that title” but I would hope so (Gildner, 275).

                “Thank you, Ma’am” is a bit different from “First Practice” in that the reader can acknowledge that the main character, Rodger has made a poor decision and instead of sticking with that decision he changes his mind and his ways, unlike the football players. Rodger attempts to steal a purse from an older woman who then proceeds to make an example of him.  She sets Rodger straight saying “You’re going to remember Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones” (Hughes, 507). Soon, Mrs. Jones drops her harsh exterior and invites Rodger in to wash his face and have dinner clearly showing that she has an interest in helping a boy no one else is much invested in. She lectures him about the money he wanted to steal for shoes by stating “shoes come by devilish like that will burn your feet” and ends up giving him the money after all. He leaves this whole event baffled and overwhelmed to the point where all he can say when he leaves is “Thank you, ma’am” (Hughes, 507). This poem teaches us to be extremely cautious and thoughtful with our decisions, because if we are not we may not be as lucky as Rodger and have someone looking out for us when we make mistakes.

                “Directions for Resisting the SAT” by Richard Hague was my favorite work for this week because it was something I found extremely relatable and humorous. Hague essentially denounces the worth of the SAT’s or any other standardized testing right from the beginning when he says “Do not believe in October or May or in any Saturday morning with pencils” (Hague, 270). He goes on to name a variety of other things one gets tested on before college and asked on college applications. In conclusion Hague states “Desire to live whole and follow no directions” and to “Listen to know one” (Hague 270). I found these lines really interesting particularly the line that says to follow no direction, which seems to go against everything we are ever taught. I think Hague is challenging many social norms in this poem and challenging the new era of standardized testing which often leaves little focus on creative and imagination and sticks to straight facts and numbers. I definitely agree with the point he is making in this poem and believe that one test should not determine a person as a whole, there is much more to me than what was seen on my poor scoring math SAT scores. I do not think Hague truly wants us to follow “no directions” but to not follow the conventional ones that others lay down for us.

                This Monday I attended Robert Olen Butler’s lecture on his various works and got to listen to some of his readings. Butler has won the Pulitzer prize and I could tell this by how interesting and engaging his readings were. I really enjoyed the story he told from a bird’s perspective, but the bird ends up being him and the story is a personal one about his life. This connected similarly to the themes of making decisions and going through tough or trying times in our lives as seen in the three other works. Both the lecture and the works delved into the outcomes we face after we have made certain decisions and how we can become a different person once we experience them.

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