Taking AP Lit has given me a different perspective about literature and how applicable it is to my daily life. While novels are widely based on true events or real life scenarios, I’ve never really connected to the stories or put it into the context of my own life until I took AP Lit. During this course we had the opportunity to interact with many different types of literature including poetry, novels and plays.
The first opportunity I felt that I really interacted with literature was really early in the year when we studied poetry. While I did learn meaningful things by learning about the different types of poetry and their structures, I was really able to connect to this type of literature when I was given the opportunity to write it for myself. Being able to write about all types of things spanning from ‘teenage angst’ and romantic comedies to the realities of sending my friends off to college you can definitely see my growth and confidence in poetry writing throughout the unit. I think the growth comes from the fact that I was able to use the literature to open up and be more vulnerable, which is the goal for a lot of literature. Reading about people’s vulnerable experiences and feelings of love and sorrow makes you want to open up more and I think learning about poetry allowed me to do that. Until AP Lit, poetry was always something that I almost dreaded, not because I didn’t think it was interesting but because I sometimes had trouble interpreting the message that the author was trying to get across. Through a lot of practice in the beginning of the yea and continuously throughout the year I became more comfortable with interpreting poetry and It not only connected me to literature but greatly increased my confidence for the AP Exam.
Another opportunity where I feel that interacting with literature could be connected to real life was when we studied various plays, including Hamlet and Death of a Salesman. Though these plays are both very different, I was able to learn a lot from each play. Though Hamlet’s main theme centres around Hamlet’s madness and possible insanity it also touches the realities of relationships and the complicated nature that can be a part of them when families get involved. While it is unlikely that I will ever be in the same place as Hamlet, there are definitely times where I’ve been able to relate to him a a character in terms of his conflicted nature and how that lead him to battle against insanity. Usually when one read or watches pays for entertainment, a play like Hamlet is never thought of as ‘relatable’ but through the analysis and writing we were able to do in AP Lit I was able to connect to the play in ways I never thought I would be able to. Similarly in Death of a Salesman a seemingly much simpler play, you are able to see the realities of family and how complicated financial situations can strengthen or strain relationships. While the story is broadly centred around the American Dream, there is actually a lot to unpack in this 100 page play. Aside from the father son tension that exists between Biff and Willy, there’s also the complexities of Willy’s marriage that are strained because of the Depression. While very different from Hamlet, this play is also very applicable to people’s lives because almost everyone that has a family deals with the harsh realities of it in one way or another. Being able to unpack that while reading this play allowed me to grow connected to it and realise how close literature can mirror your reality.
Finally, a time I felt I was really able to interact with literature is when we were given the opportunity to present our novels during a lecture. I read the novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close which is based around a nine year old boy that is trying to make a name for his father after his tragic death in 9/11. Again, even though this novel is based on very possible real life events, I didn’t really connect with it until I was preparing for the lecture. Through this preparation I was able to see all of the different underlying themes like lying, communication and family matters and this allowed me to feel more connected to the novel as a whole. I was able to use those themes that run throughout the story and put them into the context of my own life and it made reading the book a lot more meaningful. I also think that presenting the novel in the form of a lecture really helped me to connect it to my own life and others because you can see the connections I built with the novel as I spoke about it.
Overall, AP Lit has been an experience where I was able to learn a lot about myself in ways I didn’t expect. Through all of the different novels and means of presenting our learning I’ve learned a lot and I think I know myself better than I did before because of this course.
What are the complexities and paradoxes of “Family”?
Family is the most important thing in most people’s lives. It’s where people see themselves as most comfortable and people are who they are because of family. Being a part of a family can be really rewarding, because it means you’re always a part of something and that validation means a lot to most people as human beings are inherently ego driven beings. Being part of a family can be viewed as one of the best or worst things to happen to a person, because when you’re so invested in others (that could be for a multitude of reasons) it hurts more when they hurt you and you will bend over backwards to maintain or rebuild those relationships. There’s a saying that “you do for family” and sometimes making those sacrifices when ‘doing’ for family causes unforeseen conflicts and actually ends up hurting your relationships more than improving them.
The complexities of family are really prominent in Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller. The 100 page play follows the life of Willy Loman, a middle aged father attempting to keep his family afloat in the post depression era. Willy struggles to hold on to the hope that comes the American Dream, and the stress of keeping up his lifestyle gets in the way of family relationships. Biff, Willy’s older son is one of the two family members that receive the most grief. Willy and Biff have a tumultuous relationship, rooting in the love the two shared for American football. When Biff was in high school he was the star of his football team and two grew very close over Biff’s success. Even with this close bond, there was still moments where two would get in verbal arguments over Biff’s lack of balance between his sports career and school life. Willy only wanted the best for Biff, which is one of the reasons he’s so hard on him. This shows the paradox of the relationships that exist in close knit families. This relationship also manifests itself in a way that exposes the more negative side of the paradoxes that exist in the Loman family later in Biff’s life. After being unsuccessful in finding a stable job in his early twenties Biff returns to the family home in order to have a stable ground while attempting to sort out his employment situation and get back on his feet. This setting, the ‘present’ in the play is where we see the more taxing parts of Willy and Biff’s relationship come to light. Willy continuously rants to his wife about how useless and unhelpful Biff is, and how he’s experiencing unnecessary stress because he has accommodate for another mouth he has to feed. He claims that Biff is an adult and he should be able to provide for himself. Although Willy is frustrated with Biff’s irresponsible lifestyle and inability to provide for himself, it seems that he is truly most disappointed in the fact that his MVP son is somewhat of a failure. Even though Miller makes it clear that Willy is disappointed he never kicks Biff out and always manages to provide for him.
Willy and Biff’s relationship also affects Willy’s relationship with his wife. Mother and son relationships can be really strong bonds, and it’s obvious that Biff and his mother share that bond. Because of this bond, Linda (the wife) always finds herself being caught in between her husband and son and having to pick sides. This is a really interesting dynamic because Linda will go and yell at Willy to treat Biff better, leaving Willy feeling ganged up on who then acts defensive. Linda also yells at Biff to be more cooperative and to work harder to find a job, leaving her in kind of a lose-lose situation even though she’s just trying to be the buffer between the two of them. A mother always wants to provide for her children and care for her husband but when they don’t work together it becomes really taxing and difficult and makes for a complex family dynamic.
During this essay we were given the opportunity to write a style analysis about the book we were reading during this unit. I read “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller, a play about the American Dream.
First Draft of Essay:
Final Draft of Essay:
I didn’t rewrite this Question 3 but I had it reviewed so I could apply it to the SC targets.
During this opportunity we were able to show our improvement in writing a question 2 AP style essay.
Paper & Feedback:
During this in class essay we wrote about a poem detailing a father son relationship. We were not given a rewrite for this opportunity.
Excerpts from paper:
Rubric & Grade: 6/9 AP Scale
During this homework assignment, we were given the opportunity to analyze the social, cultural and historical values of the novel we were reading. At the time I was reading “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood. This post allowed me to consider the real world aspects of the novel and provided a unique perspective.
This was a process paper that we did at the beginning of the second semester where we were given the opportunity to rewrite an AP Question 2.
In Class Initial Paper:
Excerpt of Final Paper:
This was when we read various novels and submitted annotations to show our understanding. This was part of the prep before our novel lectures to build a basis of understanding around the context of the novel.
Example of some annotations I submitted:
This was classwork when we were given the opportunity to reduce a scene of Hamlet. This was a collaborative project and we had a lot of fun doing it.