30 October 2013
What’s Your Decision?
The literary works of Richard Hague, Gary Gildner, and Langston Hughes revolve around the three central ideas of straying from the norms of society and making individual decisions, and being compassionate. Hague’s “Directions for Resisting the SAT” sheds light mainly on the idea of straying from norms and making one’s own decisions by refusing to follow directions in certain scenarios, exemplified through taking the SAT. Similarly, Gildner’s “First Practice” uses an intense sports practice in order to portray that although the speaker was offered with a great opportunity to play sports, he has the ability to make a decision to walk away from this opportunity. Finally, Langston Hughes’ “Thank You, Ma’am” expresses the idea of compassion and straying from what is known as “a normal thing to do “ through the actions of both Mrs. Jones and the boy as he is seen stealing her purse and going to her house. All of these works relate to Catherina Savell’s presentation, “Solidarity from a distance: Can outsiders make a difference?” based on the common idea of compassion and helping others. Through the discussion of community service involvement in Haiti, her helpfulness and dedication represents her compassion by helping others in need. Therefore, through each literary work and event, there are clear commonalities based on the ideas of straying from norms and making decisions, as well as being compassionate.
Hague’s “Directions for Resisting the SAT” mainly deals with the idea of straying from the norm by refusing to follow directions put out by society, like taking the SAT. The speaker explains that taking the SAT is just a set of rules that have become something “normal.” Essentially, this standardized test does not portray any sense of intelligence; rather, it is just something that we have become pressured into taking by society. With this, the speaker suggests that instead of continuing to follow the rules that bring us such “rotten luck,” we should stray from this normality and make our mark on something that we are truly passionate about. In the closing lines of the poem, the speaker states, “and follow no directions, listen to no one. Make your mark on everything” (14-16). Essentially, the speaker is suggesting that we forget about the rules that have confined us for so long and make our own decisions along with our own impact on something far better. Therefore, through resisting taking the SAT, the speaker portrays the idea of nonconformity as well making decisions.
Similarly, Gildner’s “First Practice” focuses on the ideas of straying from traditional norms and making decisions through the portrayal of an extremely intense first sports practice. Throughout the poem, the coach strives to create the best team possible, which is why he enforces such a strict and intense practice style. The speaker; however, has the decision of following through with the same ideals as his coach or choosing to step away from the team to find a better opportunity that he is more passionate about. In this sense, what the player does is completely and totally up to his own decisions. He can either follow what his teammates and coach believe or stray from this “norm” and find something he is less nervous and more passionate about. The final lines of the poem suggest the inner conflict of the player as he has to decide whether he wants to fight through and practice with this intense coach or walk away from the chance. The speaker states, “But I don’t want to see any marks when you’re dressed, he said. He said, Now” (25-27). In a sense, the italicized “now,” could suggest that right now the player is going to make it look like he has no marks – right now he is going to step away from the chance without even experiencing the intensity of the practice. Thus, this poem relates to the ideas of making decisions and straying away from something that is considered to be normal. He chose to make a decision to stay on the team or stray from the “normal” sports practice that every player engages in. Although the player is given a great opportunity that he should not take for granted, he also does have to right to make a decision to walk away and find better opportunities.
Additionally, Hughes’ short story “Thank You Ma’am” illustrates the common idea of compassion and straying from daily norms through the experiences she had when almost having her purse stolen. Throughout the story, Mrs. Jones, unlike any other person that has had their stuff stolen, helped the little boy who was trying to steal from her. She made sure not to let him flee the scene and took him back to her house. There, she made sure that he had enough food and drink as well as cleaned up his face and combed his hair. At the ending of the story, Mrs. Jones let the boy go and made sure he left with ten dollars to buy suede shoes. She states, “’Now here take this ten dollars and buy yourself some blue suede shoes. And next time do not make the mistake of latching onto my pocketbook nor nobody else’s”’ (508). Essentially, Mrs. Jones is straying from the “norm” in this situation. While anyone who has just been stolen from would not let the suspect come back to their house or give them money, Mrs. Jones was compassionate and understood how she could help the boy and show him a lesson. She acted in a very sympathetic way and instead of calling the police or reporting him, she helped him not only in a monetary way but also in a moral way. In forcing him to do all the things she did and taking him back to her house, she taught him a valuable lesson. Therefore, through this incident and Mrs. Jones’s actions, there is a clear portrayal of straying from normal reactions and making the decision of being compassionate to the boy.
Finally, like Hughes’ short story, Catherine Savell’s presentation also illustrates the theme of compassion through her community service work, exemplified through her influence in Haiti. She took six months off to travel to Haiti and help the citizens who suffered from poor living conditions. As a part of her service, she brings students from Loyola with her as a community service program. With their involvement, they helped to create better living conditions by creating dorms, kitchens, water supply units, and playgrounds for the kids receiving an education in Haiti. In addition, service workers in Haiti help to teach computer literacy and offer academic support. This community service project relates to the central theme of compassion and making decisions in all three literary works, because just as each speaker made decisions and exemplified compassion, Catherine Savell’s service project demonstrates the compassion of both Mrs. Savell and service members as they help to better a nation in need. They made decisions to help others and offered their time in order to benefit the well being of others in need. With this, the service group was capable of making a difference in the schools of Haiti – they were outsiders making a positive difference. Therefore, the major aspects of this event relate to the themes exemplified in each of the three literary works.
Overall, the literary works by Hague, Gildner, and Hughes as well as Catherine Savell’s presentation, “Solidarity from a distance: Can outsiders make a difference?” all focus on the ideas of straying from norms, making individual decisions, and being compassionate. Through refusing to take the SAT, experiencing the intense practice, helping a boy who tried to steal, and helping others in need in Haiti, these central ideas were clearly demonstrated.