Essential Question Reflection Unit 4 (Semester 2)

How does literature get to the “heart of the matter”?

Because of literature’s sheer flexibility and versatility, there are many ways in which literature can get to the “heart of the matter”. One way is by teaching the reader the truth, or in other words a lesson. The author of the literature is the teacher, and by writing, he/she is teaching the reader how to become a better person. For example, one of the sonnets I’ve read in Unit 4 is Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, where he talks about love and what it means to him. A key point that he brings out is that true love is not easily altered, and does not falter with time. In saying that, he might cause the reader to reevaluate how he/she views love and what relationships are supposed to be, or perhaps to manifest abstract thoughts in words. As an example, towards the end of 116, he says that he could not possibly be wrong in his interpretation of love because he feels it so strongly, and if what he feels is not love, then no man can ever possibly loved anyone. This leads me to another way of how literature gets to the heart of the matter, which is the reflective approach. Even if a piece of literature doesn’t explicitly teach the reader about anything, the act of taking a reader through a story and showing how the character reflects on his/her actions is enough to show a truth about the world. For example, in The Heart of Darkness by Joesph Conrad, as Marlow travels through the interior of Africa, he encounters torture and cruelty put on the natives by the European colonizers. This scene forces Marlow to reflect about the reasons why he was there in the first place; one of which was to “help” civilize the natives there. And when Marlow meets Kurtz, who is very clear on “exterminating” and “suppressing” the natives, he realizes that maybe the Europeans aren’t nearly as good as they think they are. Instead of the natives being the savages, he realizes that it was the Europeans who are the real savages. This type of reflection by characters in a story can provoke a lot of thought in readers – as it did in me – about how we view the world and the morals we use the evaluate our own actions.


To me, the way literature gets to the “heart of the matter” is very unique compared to the other disciplines I have been exposed to. For example, in science, the truth is often determined through observational studies and experiments to see if one’s thought experiments hold true in reality. In math, there are rigorous proofs to show that an equation or a theorem is the way it is. But literature is completely different. I think it embodies the human condition because it originates from the abstract (the authors’ experiences) and is transformed, thoughtfully, into words. Additionally, our own experiences also define how we interpret and absorb works. Thus, it’s actually really difficult to clearly say how literature gets to the heart of the matter – as it is different for everyone.

Essential Question Reflection Unit 1

Essential Question: Can I invite others in to see the world through my own original poetry?

To jump straight into this unit at the beginning of the year was a challenge for me. I had always shunned poetry before because I had a preconception of poetry being very opaque and hard to understand. However, this unit was a big eye-opener for me, because only through this unit was I able to get in-depth with the exact connotation and nuances of every word of a poem. The first time we shared our poetry with each other was a harrowing experience–I felt scared that other people were going to see what I wrote from the bottom of my heart. It felt like I was being exposed and out in the open, but in actuality, all of my classmates were very kind in giving me constructive feedback and compliments where it was deserved. After this first poetry-sharing session, I felt a lot more at ease inviting my peers to see my poetry. My first poem, “The Summit”, kind of missed the point of it being a personal introspection piece because I focused on the dramatics of the moment. I thought that the poetic techniques used in “The Summit” were quite simplistic and weren’t able to convey as much meaning as I intended. However, I conveyed a highly visual experience through the wording of “The Summit”, and is something I hope to continue working on because it is an important skill to paint an accurate picture of one’s mind through poetry. My second poem, “Lost In A Book”, was my first attempt to look into myself and reflect on one of my favorite past times: reading. I employed a wide variety of metaphors and similes to create abstract and concrete imagery to show my thoughts about reading a book. The stanza divisions were meant to separate ideas and to reflect on different aspects of reading a book. However, I realized that this poem was still a bit lacking in the structural department–that is, all the clever techniques (not necessarily ideas) that poets use to make their poetry more enticing and gripping to the listener. Through the writing of these two poems (an activity I had rarely engaged in before), I became much more confidence and found enjoyment in taking these small steps into poetry. My second poem was a better attempt to capture my own perception of the world–perhaps my worldview–which is something that is intensely personal and not available to be observed by anyone else. Writing poetry has taught me the intimacy in this form of writing because of its loaded and condensed form. Long prose can be very explanatory, whereas poetry forces the poet to try to embed meaning through a careful picking of vocabulary and organization of structure. I believe that this unit has taught me what it meant to invite other people to see the world through my eyes with poetry, and these writing exercises have helped me get better at it. I hope to be able to hone my poetry writing skills in the future as well, as I had greatly enjoyed doing it in this unit.

For reference (Lost In A Book): Click here