EQ U4 Reflection

What are our deepest truths about ourselves and our society–both bright and dark?

I’ve always known that humanity can be dark. I’ve known that power corrupts, and that racism is prevalent throughout the world. But despite knowing these things Heart of Darkness has still challenged my world views on human nature. This is because the central theme of heart of darkness is savagery. Are the “brutes” from the Congo savages? Has Kurtz become a savage? What differentiates the savages from the civilized? To me, this theme feels especially dark, since we see Kurtz, a man who is supposed to be incredibly moral and civilized, turn insane and exhibit violent and savage-like behavior. This is actually quite scary. Could this transition happen to anybody, given the right conditions?

The deepest truth about humanity is that everybody has the potential to do bad things. We often view the world in black and white. We think that you are either good or evil, civilized or savage. But the reality is, the world is gray, and anybody can do evil things. This explains some of the atrocities of world history, like the Holocaust or Congo genocide. It’s easy to distance yourself from those crimes against humanity. Or even distance yourself from day to day evils like racism. Oh those were committed by bad people. Not me, I’m morally righteous. But I believe that that is an overly negligent way to view life, since it ignores the possibility that we ourselves might be part of the problem.

On the flip side, I guess a deep truth is that people can change. People can learn from their mistakes and turn from “evil” to “good”.

Semester 2 Reflection

If the first semester of AP Lit was like climbing a mountain, then the second semester of AP lit has been like fighting a monster. Let me explain. During the first semester, I viewed each unit of the class as a challenge. The material was mostly new to me, so learning content and completing assignments was relatively difficult. But, it felt good to continually make progress, and eventually, I reached the summit (by completing semester 1 of AP Lit). This semester, has been equally challenging, but in a different way. I had gotten used to the format of the class, to analyzing poetry and prose, to writing AP essays, and to reading difficult books. The monster of the second semester wasn’t the content. It was myself.

There are two reasons for this. Firstly, and most obviously, was Senioritis. I know it’s cliché, but was difficult to continue to be self-motivated. In a sense, the second semester of senior year is one of the only times in high school that demands true, genuine, self-motivated learning. Most of us have already been accepted into college by the second semester, so grades lose their effectiveness as a powerful motivating force. The second reason I battled myself during the second semester was because of my writing style. Improvements in my writing are the most important thing I wanted to take away from this class. During our semester one portfolio conference, you challenged me to break from my five-paragraph essay style, where I would discuss three stylistic elements, and then tie them to the meaning of the piece in the intro and conclusion. However, it has been challenging to break away from the style since it has been so engrained in me.

I’ve dealt with these challenges through a couple of ways. To combat my Senioritis, I’ve tried to choose challenging books to read. That way, I would still be challenged by content, which would stave off my Senioritis. Ever since we read the letters from last year’s seniors warning us (or were they challenging us?) not to choose Heart of Darkness, I knew that I had to read it. The book was dense and occasionally confusing. But it ultimately proved highly rewarding, and I was very proud of my novel lecture.

My writing style is a more interesting issue. I think the best way to explain the development of my style over the course of this semester is through a Forensics analogy. Compare the old impromptu format to the new one that we used at KL. The old format pulled three unrelated examples together into a single seemingly coherent but actually disjointed speech. The new format flowed much more naturally, and thus was more engaging to listen to. That is the way I want to write. I think Forensics is actually a perfect analogy, since much of my writing style stems from the way we organize our debate speeches. However, inspired by impromptu, we have recently innovated a new debate speech structure, which abandons the three-contention structure in favor for a more natural flow of argumentation. Now, I admit, my writing (especially for in-class essays) isn’t quite there yet. But I legitimately think that it is trending in the right direction, since my writing tends to take after my speaking style.

Content wise, I’ve enjoyed all of the books I have read. In addition to Heart of Darkness, I chose read Death of a Salesman, and The Book Thief. Each of these books challenged me in different ways. With Death of a Salesman (and the style paper), I learned how to more effectively analyze stylistic elements. In my essay, I wrote about the structure of the play, and the narrative elements in each act. Learning about how playwrights decide which parts of the story to put in which act was very interesting. With The Book Thief, I focused on contextualizing the story within the history that I’ve learned. I’ve read many books set during the Holocaust, so I challenged myself to dig deeper into the values that the author was trying to convey to the audience. This was my discussion post.

Did I defeat the monster? Yeah, probably. It wasn’t a blowout win. I took more damage in the fight than I would have liked. But ultimately, I think I achieved my goals, which represents enough to defeat the monster in my opinion. I successfully challenged myself in new ways this semester through my reading choices and the changing of my writing style. All in all, AP Lit has been a highly engaging course for me. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of our class discussions, I’ve been proud of all of my projects, and am satisfied with my growth as both a reader of poetry and prose and as a writer.