October INP Post #1: Deeper than Deep in Knowles’ Work

I recently finished reading the book “A Separate Peace” by the renowned author John Knowles. Being one of the numerous classics I read this quarter, this book seemed to fortify the same quality I observed in all the classics I read so far: the quality of possessing a deep plot open to all manners of interpretation, the quality of the ability to instill all manners of emotions within different readers, and the quality of stimulating reflections within readers long after the end of the novel. “A Separate Peace” achieved all of those aspects, and my contemplations of the text are still going on presently.

Furthermore, I can boldly proclaim that this novel is one of the deepest I have ever read. The central idea is a unique one that I never before experienced: two characters, one excelling in sport (Phineas) and another in academics, maintain an enviable friendship while at school in World War 2 New Hampshire. However, when the studious character discovers that Phineas was trying to bog him down in his studies in order to catch up and seem even more outstanding, the scholarly character is not pleased. His abhorrence after finding out caused him to do one action that injured Phineas so severely it lead to his withdrawal from sports. The rest of the novel illustrates the struggles the studious character struggles through; struggles like depression, emotional inbalance, and overarching guilt. After all, Phineas had never suspected him of the henious crime, and carried his belief that the main character was innocent to his premature death.

I’ve turned this central idea John Knowles implanted in my head over and over again. I’ve mused its applications in real life and come to the conclusion that this moral does not terminate with the book. It governs a large variety of the negative, sometimes detrimental actions we do to friends. Briefly ponder this: have you ever felt that someone else was better than you in some way? And instead of working harder to match their proficiency, you find it easier and faster to drag them down? If your answer is no, I hold no offense in this accusation, but you’re a liar. Everyone has experienced those emotions once in a while. Everyone wants to surpass everyone else. However, this is not possible. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. The root of the problem is how people tend to take their weaknesses in an area and compare it to the strengths of others in that same area. This stirs up resentment, thoughts of “why does he have to be so good?” and “why can’t I be that good?” reverberate in their heads. As a result, it leads to the conclusion that tainting the outshiners dishonestly is the best solution, and the formulation of plans to hinder the progress of better individuals begin.

When the plan is carried out, but it goes too far, I want you to now imagine what that will feel like. You have taken away the only thing your friend can proudly state he is good at. Now he’s a nobody, whose strengths were demolished by your actions. Although this won’t happen often in real life, smaller issues are often based on this greed to be better than peers. Or simply revenge: if your friend is obviously trying to hurt you, you turn around and cuff them. This will only escalate problems, leaving the situation worse off than before.

John Knowles, I realized, based his entire novel on the human nature of greed and conflict within the narrator, a conflict with himself and guilt. His greed had made him to commit an atrocious wrongdoing. All I can say after reading this book was “wow”. The deepness of its thought astounded me, and its moral lessons applicable for my entire life. The lessons are not merely present in paper form, but extended beyond the confines of pages and wound itself into everyday life.

INP Blog Post #1: Teacher Calamity

I recently finished reading the extremely interesting and deep “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. This American classic, aside from being a symbol of American literature, is open for “countless ways of interpretation of the deeper meaning and provides a myriad of opportunties for connections”, according to the New York Times. I wholeheartedly agree to the second component of that quote: I had a plethora of connections just within the exposition of the novel. It will be of my great enjoyment to share and elaborate on just one of the connections I made with the characters and setting in the first 27 pages.

The connection that I would like to share is the uncanny relation between Mrs. Caroline, Scout’s first teacher during her first year at school, and my fifth-grade teacher Mr. Cooper. As a newcomer into Maycomb county, Mrs. Caroline was ignorant with all of Maycomb’s intricate traditions and mutual understandings. As a result, Mrs. Caroline was largely unsucessful in effectively controlling the class, and her actions were laughed upon by every student. For example, it was of common knowledge that the Cunningham family was financially pitiable, and that the only way they paid for goods and services was through a barter system. Their actions slowly became acceptable within the Maycomb community, but Mrs. Caroline wasn’t aware of it. Walter Cunningham, a boy in the Cunningham family, had classes with Mrs. Caroline. Ignorant as she was, Mrs. Caroline persisted in offering Walter a quarter for lunch downtown, which humiliated Walter greatly because of his inability to pay her back. This, in turn, embarrassed Mrs. Caroline, and she felt extremely pressured to learn all the ways of Maycomb in order to make it a beneficial experience for all students. In fact, the pressure was so great that Scout found her “…with her head buried into her palms and crying hysterically, her back trembling with each gargantuan sob.” (page 31).

This experience Harper Lee outlines vividly is reminisce of an experience I had in Mr. Cooper’s classroom. Although it didn’t get to a point where Mr. Cooper let loose a barrage of waterworks, it did embarrass him greatly. We had a student who was autistic, and his speech was uninhibited by any inhibitions. During the second class we had with Mr. Cooper, that student stood up and said in a brash voice: “Mr. Cooper, I don’t understand why I can’t say s***, because I like the sound of it!” This remark made a profound impact on Mr. Cooper, as we watched his face flash through the spectrum: from normal to red to purple to violet. Long story short, they fired phrases at each other unsuitable to be repeated in this blog post, and resulted in the student crying hysterically, and Mr. Cooper apologizing profusely for not “understanding his condition”. We all felt a pang of sympathy for Mr. Cooper, as he was new that year and started off on the wrong foot.

If you think this connection is elaborate and complicated, briefly contemplate this fact: I experienced four of these just in the exposition! This intriguing novel encourages deep thinking and connections, and I really enjoyed experiencing all those throughout the course of reading it.