Monday, January 30, 2012

Analyzing Texts

Most of the time, we read texts without paying much attention to the way they are "made." However, looking at a text more closely does not only increase our understanding of it, but also helps us become better writers. In other words, analyzing texts is a very useful activity.

Since we all understand the same text differently, talking about it in more detail can also enrich our reading experience immensely: we can share our own way of understanding a text with others - and then learn how they understand it in turn.

I would therefore invite you all to SHARE your way of reading one of the following texts:

If you don't know what you can look at in a text, here some "tools" that might help you:

I am looking forward to reading your posts,



  1. Text Analysis
    by Joy Kogawa

    The poem “Offerings” by Joy Kogawa, is a very meticulous and a poem of very strong imagery. The beginning of the poem starts off with the author describing a sort of item or action and then in the next line she describes the matching item or action that goes with the prior line. For example, line 1 and 2 are “ what you offer us —
    a soap bubble ”. For this portion we given a huge idea to imagine here. The main goal of this poem is for the reader to use their imagination and see what the author is describing. Also, Joy, the author is using a sort of comparison between a commonly know object and an item in the poem. Almost like a metaphor, where, for example, she says “one branch of one snow fleck, a sliver of smoke”. Normally one might say, a puff of smoke or a speck of snow, but instead she uses a more detailed describing word to help us picture the object. When I first read the poem, I imagined a very small sliver of smoke instead of a huge puff. Also, one branch of snow reminds me of an actual speck of snow, when in reality the author might actually be describing this thing in hopes of the reader realizing its actually something else, or else, a special sort of symbol. Basically the first part of the poem is the author describing all of the different kinds of gifts and objects they receive using different comparisons.

    In the second part it is describing what might possibly happen to these items, despite the observation that it is very unlikely. The line “and if and if” is a repetition and this means that the “if” is important, which implies it is dubious. The hazards that could possibly occur are detrimental to the offerings. Clearly we can tell that they were given an offering of some sort and also something to do with smoke, possibly tobacco. The possible difficulties are described in the following, “the offering bursts breaks melts”. It is said that if the offering that they received either bursts, breaks, or melts then they will do what is described in the 3rd part. Also, in reference to the smoke object, it is described as the night swallowing the smoke. This could imply that it was the gift of fire and it went out or some wort of fire went out. Possibly just a loss or the smoke item.

    Last but not least, the third part of the poem. This section describes what the receivers would do if what was described in the second part actually happened. She says that if the offerings that were received somehow were destroyed then they would have to forget about it. "we lift the barricades" is basically saying we get rid of the baggage and whatever is in the way of our path. It is the end of the offering so they must accept it and move on, this is what is being portrayed when she says “we take the edges of our transience”. Finally, the offering is gone for good and basically the receivers pretend like it never happened and they don’t talk about it ever again, “we bury the ashes of our wording and sift the silences”. In essence, once it is gone, it’s gone, so there is absolutely no use worrying or fussing over it, and that is exactly what they do.

    To sum up, according to the author, Joy Kogawa, some sort of giving or offering is given to a group of some sort. It is not entirely clear who the offering is to or from and what the offerings are entirely, but we do know what the receivers think. In the rare case that the offerings may break, melt, disappear, or dissolve, they must burry them and their memories, get rid of any emotions that remain about them and believe that they weren't there and accept the fact that they are gone for good. It is a humble ending and respectable way to lose something, not only for a special item that may be close to them, but also for any item either given as a gift or from thy self.

    Tyler MacDonald

  2. Mine is too long and blogspot won't accept. Here is the link to the document:

  3. Memories Have Tongue
    “People will forget what you did, they will forget what you said, but they will never forget the way you made them feel.” –Unknown This poem, “Memories Have Tongue” by Afua Cooper defines the very meaning of this quote, as it tells us as readers about the value and importance of memories through a conversation between a grandchild and a grandmother. The poem highlights the fact that the only memories that stuck with the grandmother as she aged were the ones that made her feel a certain way. This made me reflect back on my own life, and I wasn’t surprised to find that every single memory that stood out in my mind was attached to a feeling and a person or situation that had made me feel a certain way.
    To begin with, the communicative situation in this poem is rather unique, as it starts off with the speaker of the poem speaking to the reader as an audience about his or her grandma, and then switches to the grandmother speaking to the speaker off the poem. Although not directly mentioned, looking at the text, it can be deduced that the speaker of the poem is a young boy or girl with the way “granny” is repeatedly used as a name for grandmother and the overall writing style and language of poem is not complex, its rather simple. “My granny seh she have a bad memory
when I ask her to tell me 
some of her life,” Is another clue that gives away the fact that the speaker of the poem is a child, because it reminds me of that childhood memory of being curious about the lives of my grandparents and asking them to share their stories. “Chile, I ole now
my brain gaddarin water,” marks the start of the dialogue of the grandma, as she addresses the child and starts to tell her story. We are able to learn of the background of both speakers in the poem by the use of their language, as they use words like “rememba” for remember and “dem” for them. The use of such language gives the impression that both speakers are of African American descent. Throughout this poem, we as readers are able to experience the sentimental moment of a grandma sharing her memories with her grandchild.
    Next, the time and place for this poem is not directly stated rather hinted at through the use of language in the text. It was stated above that the use of certain language gives off the impression that both speakers are of African American Descent. This and the mentioning of the 1938 riots strengthens the assumption that the speakers are of African American Descent, because the 1938 riots are referring to the riots in Jamaica. The grandma saying that she remembers how “she wanted her daughta
to grow up an be a postmistress
but di daughta died at an early age,” also adds to the assumption as it symbolizes a third world country where children are prone to die at a young age due to lack of disease diagnosis and detection and availability of doctors and medicine for everybody. The fact that this is all “new” to the child implies that the conditions where they are living now are no longer as harsh but they are still living in the same location because when talking about her dead daughter the grandma points “to the croton-covered grave
at di bottom of the yard.”

  4. The underlying message of the poem is stated by the title: “Memories Have Tongue.” This tells us that memories have a story to tell, and these stories come out as thoughts are stirred and memories evoked. Memories are able to relive a moment over and over again, and most commonly they are made from situations or events in your life where you were forced to or made to feel a certain way. We can see this in the text as the grandma repeatedly tells her grandchild that her memory is bad, as in with age she can’t remember much these days, yet she has vivid memories of all the times she was frightened or hurt or in love or nervous. Emotions are tied to everything that still remains clear in her mind, which tells us the importance that each memory still has in her life. The significance of memories and how much value they have as they make the past come alive and allow generations to connect, stands out as theme of this poem to me.
    Another aspect about the poem that can be discussed is the language and use of patterns. Certain words used represent an African American culture, but to add to that, the lack of proper grammar and proper use of language could also represent a lack of education. The poem is written in stanzas but at one point when talking about the 1938 riots, the poem is written with one word per line to emphasize the event and its importance in history. A pattern that can be seen throughout the text is the repetition of the phrase “My granny seh she have a bad memory.” The speaker’s use of repetition of this phrase shows us his or her confusion as a child that her grandma always says she doesn’t remember much but she can recollect certain memories of certain situations in her life. It is then that the speaker realizes the value of memories and how certain “memories have tongue” and you can’t erase them and the story they hold even as you age and tend to forget other things.
    In conclusion, this poem, “Memories Have Tongue” by Afua Cooper emphasizes the significance of memories in the lives of people and the value they have as they are shared. It also shows us that as time goes on and all else starts to fade with age, it’s the memories tied to emotion that remain vivid and full of life. Through the conversation between the grandma and the grandchild and the grandchild speaking to us we can see how the memories even strengthen the relationship between the two, and how they allow the grandma to relive the past.

  5. The poem “Offerings” by Kogawa takes readers on an emotional journey suffered by the Japanese-Canadians that were discriminated against during World War II. During World War II, the author and along with many others were forced to relocate due to the racism happening against the Japanese. The author writes this poem in the perspective of the many Japanese-Canadians who were placed in internment camps, had their property taken away and were treated poorly due to their race.
    The poem shows readers the perspective of the Japanese-Canadians during World War II. Therefore, the “us” revealed in the poem represents the Japanese as a group and there is one dedicated speaker, the author, who is making conversation. The author promotes herself as the speaker of the poem because she has been in the situation of the Japanese. And through her experience, she is able to describe their feelings effectively. The “you” mentioned in the poem is a representation of the hopeful individuals amongst the Japanese-Canadians. However, the “you” in the poem never replies back. This may symbolize that hope does not have to be evident in order to exist. The author uses this one-sided conversation as well as other factors to guide the reader to the real message behind this poem.
    The structure and word choice of the poem also give hints to the theme. The paragraphs are constructed in an orderly manner, beginning with a description of hope to how hope is broken and finally, how hope will always linger on for dealing with future hardships. Significantly, this plot aids the reader in finding the theme. As well, the author uses specific words to unfold a description of the theme. Through analysis of the structure and word choice, the major theme of this poem is found to be hope. This theme is parallel to the title “Offering” as readers can easily relate hope to a form of offering. However, the title and the theme hold irony in comparison to the poem itself. For instance, the words “offering” and “hope” hold many positive connotations whereas the majority of words chosen in the poem give readers a more depressing feeling. Furthermore, the author reminds the readers that hope can be very subtle and delicate but at the same time, hope is a beautiful thing to admire. This observation is derived from the first paragraph of the poem. The objects described provide readers of fragile yet capturing images which all depict how hope is pure. For example, a “soap bubble” and a “glass thread” can all be easily destroyed but have very clear and innocent appearances.
    In grammatical terms, the poem also displays the image of hope which is consistent with the image of hope demonstrated by word choice. The author limits the use of punctuation, this goes into how hope is viewed to be a very pure object. Significantly, the author keeps the poem looking simple and clean, just as how hope is depicted in the poem. There are no specks and impurities that arise from the use of punctuation. Likewise, each line in the poem contains very few words demonstrating how something small and seemingly insignificant can hold lots of meaning.
    Finally, the whole poem comes together in the end when the author realizes that although hope may exist in very minute amounts and is easily breakable, strength can be built from the painful experience that she had to face. The line “we lift the barricades” signifies the new found strength possessed by the Japanese to overcome hardships. The final paragraph of the poem also brings up the burying of ashes. Importantly, the author is trying to relate ashes to those who have suffered and died, and by burying the ashes, a new start will be able to grow. However, the past will still be remembered as the Japanese “sift the silences”. For example, after the war, many Japanese were unable to go back to their homes because their property had been sold by the government. This forced many Japanese to move to either east Canada where many had to restart their lives or to Japan which was a completely foreign country to them.

  6. My analysis was also too long for the blog, so here is a link.

    John Chen

  7. The text Memories Have Tongue by Afua Cooper retells tales of love and loss and shows a transition from suffering to happiness through time. Through the use of juxtaposition, language and tone, the writer creates a clear imagery and successfully brings the reader into the poem, transporting them into the worlds of both the grandmother and the speaker.
    The use of reputation in Memories Have Tongue is very interesting. The exact positioning of the words is never quite the same, but a similar thought processes is clearly evident. Afua uses the words “bad”, “memory” and “seh” repeatedly to create emphasis on the speaker’s age. I find this somewhat ironic because when the phrase “seh her memory is bad” is related to the title Memories Have Tongue, the two phrased are juxtaposed. Usually when one thinks of memories speaking, it comes from very strong, vivid memories. The same applies to a hazy memory. One usually associates this with perhaps a weak, or even muted voice of little importance.
    This poem can be divided into two main parts, the first being the first four stanzas, where the speaker is retelling her grandmothers tales. The last two stanzas make up the second section, where the story shifts from the grandmother’s point of view to the speaker’s point of view. One thing I found very interesting about this text is the time frame. The speakers grandmother speaks of her own granny, and the speaker herself uses the term “Chile”, as well as “grandfadda” indicating she is talking to her own grandchildren. This shows at least five generations have past. The use of onomatopoeic language compliments this passage of time. By using such language, it also allows the reader to acknowledge the geographical location because it creates a sense of “hearing” the words, rather than reading them. Also, from traditional words such as “frocktail”, it can be deduced that the accent of the speaker is one of a Jamaican assent. With this knowledge, we can greater visualize the setting of the poem.
    The first section of the poem has a very poignant tone. There is a running theme of death and hardships. The last lines of the first and third stanzas both have the word “bottom” in them. The image that is associated with this particular word ties into the theme greatly and emphasizes hardships the grandmother was faced with.
    Juxtaposition appears once again when analyzing section one and section two in comparison. The tone of the second section is light and happy, which contrasts greatly from the first. The speaker says that, “as a young woman I loved to dance and yellow was my favorite color”. These two facts set the mood of the last two stanzas and paint a vivid picture in the reader’s head. I think it is incredible how including a detail as simple as the colour yellow can instantly create a mood of happiness. The speaker goes on to talk about her proposal and her wedding day; she speaks of no struggles or death. The last lines of the poem, to me, depict a cheerful feast to celebrate the speakers wedding, and although the last line does not explicitly state that the speaker was happy, as I read it, I visualized her smiling.
    Memories Have Tongue chronologically shows how the passage of time has great effects. The tonal change from the first stanza to the last can be viewed as a demonstration of how through suffering, happiness can be achieved. Although not directly stated, the speaker speaks of her grandmother in high respect, most likely knowing that her hardships greatly contributed to the happiness of generations to come. The literary techniques used in this poem greatly aided in creating an atmosphere complimentary to this theme, as well as enticing the reader and painting an image.

  8. "Ten Thousand", Roo Borson

    Nature is all that surrounds us. All that we have as its inhabitants has been fashioned from it. We are its creations and return to it once our lives are complete. In the poem "Ten Thousand", nature is a recurring theme. The author, Roo Borson, uses imagery of nature to convey feelings of impermanence and insignificance.

    Natural imagery dominates this poem. The opening line places us near a lake at dusk and the only images described are those of nature. This gives the reader the illusion that they are in solitude with their environment - the sights and sounds heard are those of nature, and nature alone. Placing the poem at dusk initiates feelings of impermanence. The conclusion of a day mirrors the life cycle of nature described. Leaves on the ground imply that they have fallen due to change in season. They have served their purpose alive and are to be recycled into a new creation. Memories are spoken of in the same way. The life moments they symbolize have served their purpose in being experienced: "you wouldn't want them over again, there's no point." The cycle and continuation of nature is used to express the purpose and impermanence of our life's experiences and memories.

    The author uses imagery to personify nature as a being superior to the reader. Wind is given the ability to pick leaves up off the ground and control them as if it had the hands to do so. Nature is given a status of power over the reader, as if it could toss the reader about as easily as the leaves. This ease of manipulation that nature is given reaffirms the relative insignificant status that we hold next to it. This is illustrated in the line "nothing like branches planted against the sky to remind you of the feel of your feet on the earth". Planting the branches in the sky places them perpetually out of reach, and placing feet on the ground affirms that the reader understands their own limitations. Nature is given the status of creator and rule maker - a dictator that cannot be overthrown.

    Through the imagery used in the "Ten Thousand", readers are given a sense of intricate connection to nature. By contrast there is simultaneously a detachment from nature. It acts on our behalf and the future it holds can never be known. It leaves the reader in a perpetual state of suspense and wonderment, constantly asking "What's next".

  9. In Gwendoyln Macewan’s poem, “Let me Make This Perfectly Clear,” she uses an aggressive and straightforward undertone to get her message across to the readers. In my perspective, although she is indeed talking of a poem and the importance of real writing, there is an underlying lesson that the reader needs to interpret.
    The title of the poem, “Let me Make This Perfectly Clear,” already foreshadows that the writer has a point or message that they will want the reader to grasp by the end of the poem. We can also conclude that the title is explanatory of the poem because it too is the first line. The writer is talking to the broad audience of people that are familiar with her poems and her work. She specifies this in the quote, “This is a mistake you always make about me.” This particular poem is written in structure containing 4 stanzas. It is well organized and bold, so the message is made across in that same bold sense. Key words in the poem jump out of the page to indicate the writer’s strong emotions and feelings. Words such as mistake, dangerous, not, shove, and dark express the thoughts of frustration and the need to justify in the writer’s voice. This remains consistent throughout the entire poem as to not lose the interest of the reader. The writer expresses some of her sentences with repetition just as anyone else who feels misunderstood has the urge to do. The sentences are clear-cut with a beginning and end to create emphasis of her message. It is as though assumptions have been made about this writer thus the purpose of the poem is to, in fact, make everything perfectly clear.
    You may be wondering now as to what is the underlying message behind the structure and strong emphasis of the poem. There can be more than one-way to interpret the meaning of this poem: the first being in a literal sense. The writer explains the reason that she writes these poems is not for the exterior credit she is given. It is not the fact that she is writing a poem for which it makes it worth writing. She wants everyone to know it is the act of writing that truly matters to her heart. As opposed to the other assumptions of her caring whether it is successful or not: “I don’t care if this poem gets off the ground or not. And neither should you.” Although she is being upfront and aggressive, what the writer is trying to portray is a deeper matter of the heart. The second interpretation therefore being that nothing in the world should be done in this matter for any superficial purpose. The writer is strongly opposed to doing anything and forgetting the true meaning of it. In other words, the importance of a journey is not the destination, but the path itself. Near the end of the poem is when the writer really starts displaying her inner feelings to the reader. She expresses herself in one of the last line through irony: “And all you should ever care about is what happens when you lift your eyes from this page. Do not think for one minute it is the poem that matters.” This is pure irony because of course it is the poem that matters. It is the voice and act of writing the poem that tells us to lift our eyes from the page and gather, “what is out there.”
    Gwendolyn Macewan’s poem, “Let me Make This Perfectly Clear,” is a beautiful piece that allows a reader to digest the words of the writer, while at the same time reading between the lines to allow the poem to sink in on a personal level.

    - Puneet Brar

  10. An heirloom is to be chosen with much deliberation. It must hold meaning, be a beacon of hope in a dark time to whomever it has been passed on to, and not whither with the passage of time. If it were not these things, then it would not be of any importance, and it would lose any little meaning it had to begin with as it is handed down through the generations until it is lost or thrown aside by a distant descendant who would not understand why it was being given to him by his father, nor would his father be able to explain why he was handing it down to him. An inheritance such as this should be able to hold a deep meaning and express itself without spoken speech, as is the case in the poem ‘Heirloom’ by A.M. Klein.
    A.M. Klein’s poem begins with him informing the reader that his father did not pass onto him much in terms of materialistic things. “My father bequeathed me no wide estates/” writes Klein. He states this in a mournful tone. The bluntness of this first line puts the reader in a sympathetic state of mind immediately. He continues to say that “Only some holy books…” were his heritage. His use of the world ‘only’ here implies that he sees little importance in these books. If he thought they were worth something, he would have used a more joyful word to describe them. These lines hint at the character of Klein. He feels his father did not leave him much, and it shows him as being a materialistic person who feels he should have gotten more. As the poem continues on, however, Klein changes his viewpoint regarding the books left to him. He begins to speak of the books in the second passage in more detail, and in the third he calls them “Beautiful”. Further on in the poem, he describes them as being “brown and old” at the same time, evidencing that Klein now sees the inner, true beauty of this gift left to him. He finds significance not in the appearance of the books, but rather in the books’ substance. He notices the “twinkling” letters rather than the tattered pages. His demeanor changes as the poem progresses, and his character changes from being shallow to being deep.

  11. Symbolism is evident in this poem as well. When Klein speaks of his father not leaving him any “wide estates”, that can be expanded to mean any materialistic things of great value. He portrays that his father did not give to him large homes, fancy cars, jewels, treasures, or expensive businesses. The “wide estates” symbolize valuable items. Moreover, as the poem continues, we notice that the holy books Klein had received symbolize hope. Klein writes about stains on his books from “midnight liturgy”. This provides proof of the sleepless nights Klein had to endure as a result of his father’s passing, and it additionally shows that Klein looked to the holy books for strength in a time of need. They represented a source of power and inspiration Klein could always utilize.
    In addition, Klein’s religion plays a big role in this poem. He appears proud of his Jewish history, and it seems that his father valued his religion as well, as evidenced by his owning of many religious books. His father obviously thought of them as important, which is why he entrusted them to his son. A.M. Klein implies his father was a respectable follower of Judaism as well. The books given to him were “for a good Jew”, and since they were given to him by his father, his father must have been a good Jew as well. It is likely that his father saw these books as beacons of hope just as Klein did. The books were old, so they had been read through, likely more than once. Furthermore, Klein found white hair from his father’s beard inside the books. His father was probably reading these books even at old age. The finding of this hair is called a “Miracle” by Klein. He does not think it coincidental at all, showing that he believes God and his father are watching over him.
    It is often true that the last impression one has of someone seems to be of more importance than the first impression. If a lifelong friend were to leave another friend in a fit of fury, the person who had been abandoned would feel a pang of bitterness at any mention of his old pal’s name. A similar scenario may play out at the passing of a loved one. Relatives and friends may feel unjustly treated if all the material objects one has were to go to one person after their death. Klein may have felt this way at the start, though he later on realized that he had been left a priceless gift.

  12. Part 1

    With science becoming more entwined with our daily lives and rise alongside globalization, it is important for all global citizens to fully understand science’s philosophical and theological connotations. In order for this to be achieved, educators and public figures like Stephen Hawking have taken up the initiative of discussing major issues in science and relating them to metaphysical ideas. One of the longest-standing debates in the scientific community is whether physics supports or refutes the classical idea of free will. Determinism is the philosophical idea that if all the momenta and positions of all particles in the universe were known it would be possible to accurately predict the future. Determinism also implies that it would be possible to determine the past using the same method. This idea also implies that free will may be non-existent; this is troubling to many philosophers, theologians and scientists. In the text, Does God Play Dice?, Professor Hawking uses historical analysis and qualitative evidence to effectively convey the reconciliation of physics and free will. Professor Hawking uses an authoritative tone to take the listener through the history of physics as it relates to determinism in order to convey his point. Furthermore, his text targets a scientifically minded audience; however he uses brilliant analogies and metaphors to make his ideas even more accessible. Finally, the speaker adheres to his domain as a scientific authority in order to directly respond to philosophical questions. This sparks debate and engages the audience beyond the text and leaves the individual to form their own conclusions on the relationship between physics and free will as expressed by Professor Hawking.
    The first effective aspect that Hawking uses in illustrating his thesis is in the structure of Does God Play Dice? The professor’s idea is partly based on the analysis of the history of determinism in science. As such, he structures this text to flow with the important scientific influences that have come to shape the conversation on free will and determinism. The logical progression from the primitive and fear-based understanding of the natural world to the enlightened scientific pursuit of modernity provides this text with order and a suitable presentation. Furthermore, this evolution of ideas provides context to our modern perspective and effectively allows the reader to envision the commonly held views of the scientific community in ages past. For example, when Hawking speaks about Laplace, he not only describes the man and his theories, but most importantly consolidates understanding in the audience. The presentation of past theories and the reason as to why they were incorrect is vital to scientific understanding and is yet another reason why Hawking effectively utilized a historical perspective when structuring his views and ideas. This is because Hawking’s vivid description of the scientific community’s dynamic stance on the issue of determinism in the universe correlates to the scientific philosophy’s intrepid sense of constant change. This presentation of past viewpoints in a logical order is commonplace in texts relating to history; especially those in the academic world. Hawking successfully integrates history and science to analyze a quandary that puzzles both physicists and theologians. Ultimately, the structure of the text leads to a multi-disciplinary richness.

    - Cole Whittleton

  13. Part 2

    Unfortunately, the highly scientific content of this essay is likely to limit the audience that the author can reach with his message; those who are disinterested or lack scientific understanding may not value or even bother with texts of this nature. In sight of these limitations, the author strategically includes a variety of analogies and metaphors that transcend all levels of education and help to provide insight and understanding. The most striking and effective examples of Hawking’s use of metaphors are both his relation of chaos theory to weather forecasts. Both these examples take complex, scientific principles and apply them analogously to everyday life. This method is extremely effective in this text, as well; it is utilized in many attempts to increase general scientific literacy. The central metaphor that was utilized by Hawking, and undoubtedly the most profound was the concept of God as a gambler. This helped to illustrate the principles developed by quantum physicists in regards to particles having a probabilistic nature. Finally, the mention of God leads the reader to analyze the implications of free will and determinism through a theological lens, without the speaker explicitly suggesting this.
    The debate Professor Hawking speaks of, that of an ordered universe versus an arbitrary and chaotic one, has far reaching implications beyond the domain of science. Specifically, this notion of the limit on Man’s control over his own destiny is a central puzzle in both philosophy and theology. Whether the universe is predetermined by a creator entity or subject to random intervention by physical phenomena is a fierce topic of debate. Furthermore, the concept of being able to change the course of the natural world clearly relates to the idea of free will. Hawking obviously acknowledges his argument’s metaphysical implications, by mentioning God frequently. This is evident through several quotations found in the text, “Primitive people attributed such natural phenomena, to a pantheon of gods and goddesses, who behaved in a capricious and whimsical way,” and, “It seems Einstein was doubly wrong when he said, God does not play dice. Not only does God definitely play dice, but He sometimes confuses us by throwing them where they can't be seen.” What is most effective about Hawking’s references to God is that he does not make any bold statements about whether He would bestow Man with free will or if there is any real purpose in existence. This restraint from drawing conclusions outside of the scientific domain serves both to strengthen the author’s role as a scientific authority and to leave the reader to form his own conclusions about these complex metaphysical questions.
    This text was designed to educate the reader about the evolution of the idea of determinism; from its initial rejection in favour of a chaotic universe, to the assemblage of natural laws and finally to its limitations through chaos theory, uncertainty and the black hole information paradox. Does God Play Dice? is very effective at achieving these aims because it makes the subject matter accessible and relevant. Not only this, but the author succeeds in presenting his claims in a logical, chronological way that is narrative and tells a story. Personally, this text stood out to me because it appealed to my interests and allowed me to see a different perspective. The vivid metaphors helped me to conceptualize the subject matter and fostered understanding and the theological references sparked my curiosity in regards to the implications of this lecture. All and all, Does God Play Dice? successfully utilized a wide array of devices to provide educational and thought-provoking insight into the concept of causality.

    - Cole Whittleton

  14. Poem: Let Me Make This Perfectly Clear

    “Let Me Make This Perfectly Clear”, by Gwendolyn MacEwen is a free verse poem with four stanzas. Firstly, by analysing the title of the poem, it indicates a statement that the poet wants to tell the world how she feels about her surroundings. Secondly, there are some hidden symbolisms within the poem that draws a closer meaning towards the idea that the poet wants to deliver to the readers. Lastly, when reading the poem, it may carry a negative vibe, but it brings out a feeling of hope and life.

    The title, “Let Me Make This Perfectly Clear”, the word perfectly clear equals to something that is 100% certain, with no doubt at all. With such a strong title in the beginning, I believe the poem would be serious and fearful. Also, a question you may ask, who is the speaker, the poet talking to? The entire world, a friend or just a stranger? Therefore the title is always the first clue and the first thing to read about the poem, so by analysing the poem’s title, it may indicate the feeling and energy level of the poem.

    One of the symbolisms in the poem is mistake. A mistake is an error that is caused by miscommunication or not reading the instructions in a situation. However, the word mistake in the poem has another meaning. It means assumption. To assume something, the end result usually becomes a mistake. For instance, a biology midterm is in 2 days, but you assume it will be easy and you know everything. Yet, the marks are up and it shows that you earned a bad mark for the biology midterm. Therefore, by assuming things in life without personal experience or research about it, it creates more mistakes and errors in life that cannot be easily cleared up and retold.

    What is the most important thing in the world? Breathing, the action that carries on in life that gives people hope and energy. So what matters? Everyone has their own mind set to what things are important to them and what it is not. But basically, what does not matter are the small details such as a poem which can be toss around because there is plenty of other poems to read, not just one. Therefore, in life, we may be stubborn because of little details that happen, yet we must need to let go of it or else it may bring unnecessary mistakes into our lives. Choose to forget and forgive, and focus on the bigger picture in life.

    In conclusion, the poem “Let Me Make This Perfectly Clear”, it showed me how everyone has their own opinion to state to the world because of our different backgrounds and values. However, sometimes I believe that when I am closed minded to my surroundings, it feels like I am missing the main focus or idea of the meaning. So, the poem indicated that as long as I am open minded to new things and not focus on the little details that can lead to misinterpret of the idea. Be free and relax, there is only one life to enjoy and see the world.

    Jane Chow

  15. From Many Imaginations, One Fearsome Creature
    From the introduction of the speech, the reader is given hints of what the text is going to about. It is not anything definite, but the writer creatively and descriptively announces that the main focus of his text is going to be dragons. Through further reading, the reader can infer that the purpose of the text is to attempt at explaining the possible reasons behind depictions of dragons by isolated civilizations at approximately the same era.
    The form of the text is quite interesting as the author progresses from informal to formal so as not to lose the reader in a sea of complicated words. McNeil Jr’s text is full of allusions to various fictional and mythical characters. He alludes to Harry Potter, Beowulf to name a few. The purpose of this allusions seems to be to loosen up the tone of the text, before moving on to a much more formal explanation. The tone of the text becomes much more formal as the author moves on to explain the possible reasons behind dragons.
    McNeil follows a very logical chain of thought. He chooses to follow a sequential chronological chain, starting from 59BC and eventually using evidence from 2000AD. This seems to effectively explain the progression and spread of the so called dragon believers over time. Besides these, the author also uses various other writer’s works, to help him better explain the possible scientific as well as religious beliefs behind this mythical beasts.
    Overall, the author does a good job in explaining the possibilities, while not imposing his opinion on the reader. Rather, he just introduces the reader to the different possible reasons, and lets the reader themselves pick a reason behind the myth of the dragon.
    Arnold Palha

  16. “From Many Imaginations, One Fearsome Creature” by Donald McNeil Jr published in the New York Times on April 29, 2003, is an interesting explorative piece about how the dragon became so prevalent in the culture and beliefs of numerous people around the globe despite ultimately being a mythical creature. The introduction was written is a humorous style introducing the reader to the many types of dragons that have manifested in our culture. It pokes fun at the fact if we are asked about dragons, we may think about a character in a “Disney movie” that “guards a treasure” and feeds on a “diet [of] virgin [blood].” By showing the reader the many humorous interpretations dragons can have, we start to critically think just how a creature clearly manifested from imagination become so real to people in the past. Immediately, the author starts to build his case on how human civilization from across the globe, independently could believe in the dragon. McNeil Jr explains the different theories in a neutral and factual tone so as readers, we can come to realize and understand just how people justify their beliefs of dragons. When we realize that sperm whale skeletons with “a half-rotted [body], with its jawbones and vestigial legs bones exposed, would look rather dragonlike” we can sympathize with the people at the time witnessing such a sight. McNeil Jr also provides good contrast to other relevant examples such as people mistaking prehistoric elephant skeletons to be Cyclopes to show how easily skeletons can lead to misunderstandings. While using factual research, the theories shown are interesting and relatable to people for example in the bible, there are cases of Dragons. Christians can affiliate with people reading about dragons in the bible as they are taught to believe all the contents of it. McNeil Jr uses a mix of factual research and relatable theories to allow readers to understand how a myth could be thought of as truth.

  17. Legend of the Salad Woman - Michael Ondaatje

    Spending a lifetime with the person you love can be exciting, or inspiring – challenging or even terrifying. But doubtlessly, it opens you to a man or woman in ways you never thought possible. In Michael Ondaatje’s poem, The Legend of the Salad Woman, he captures his reader in the garden of his imagination where his wife reigns Queen. The poem makes reference to the garden of Eden, where God gave Adam and Eve life as the first human’s on this Earth. Ondaatje gives his wife the hypothetical role of Eve who consumes all things green. It is unique in nature as it uses ecological metaphors to intrigue the reader and provide a comedic tone. Analytically, I believe the poem uses the Salad Woman as a symbol of the speaker’s wife who selflessly consumes life from the lowest form of nature while remaining lustfully intoxicating.

    The plot of the Legend of the Salad Woman is focused on the description of the speaker’s wife. She is depicted as a consumer of life from the salads of nature. The speaker begins by saying that “she must have eaten/the equivalent of two-thirds/of the original garden of Eden.” I believe that this is a positive symbol in which he places his wife in the role of Eve. The concept that he puts forth in my opinion is that the garden of Eden is a symbol of life and prosperity, of which his wife consumes thoroughly. He goes on to explain that his wife prefers not to eat “the dripping lush fruit/or the meat in the ribs of animals.” The fact that she avoids these luxuries may represent her generous character or her desire to elude materialist aspects of life. The speaker demonstrates repetition throughout the poem with reference to different greens of Mother Nature. He writes that “her mouth is a laundromat of spinning drowning herbs,” and that she “is sucking the pith out of grass.” Both of these quotes reference herbs and grass as the Salad Woman’s primal need for salvation. Lastly, in the third and final stanza, her true character and the result of her cyclical consumption of greens and life is revealed. The speaker writes;

    “she nibbled the leaves at her breasts and crotch.
    But there’s none to touch
    none to equal
    the Chlorophyll Kiss.”

    In this stanza, the speaker returns to his original reference to the garden of Eden where now the Salad Woman leaves while eating the last of the greens in the garden which are covering her genitalia. I believe that the speaker identifies the most important aspect of her character in this final line, and uses the Chlorophyll Kiss as a symbol of the Salad Woman’s element of seduction. Her consumption of life has given her a lethal quality of desirability comparable to that of the effects of Chlorophyll.

    The author is most likely dedicating this poem to his wife as a reflection of her character and beauty, while illustrating a symbol of her desire to enjoy life. The comedic title and introduction grasps the reader’s attention, but as it progresses it grows more somber to show the underlying features of a true love poem. It is a piece of literature that any married couple could relate to as it shows the frustrations of having partner’s consumed with the aspirations of life, but concludes with the toxic element of loving them unconditionally.

  18. The topic of fate versus chance can be challenging to reason about. On one hand, it can sometimes feel as though things happen purely by chance, such as running into an old friend at a coffee shop or being dealt a full house while playing poker. On the other hand, it can be difficult to imagine that the individual particles that make up the universe (and everything we have ever known in it) do not follow a strict set of rules at all times. Professor Hawking successfully addresses these issues in his text Does God Play Dice? and we will analyze how he was able to succeed in reasoning that God does in fact play dice.

    There are three major parts to this text. The first is an introduction to determinism and a look at the origins of such thinking as humankind began to develop explanations for events and occurrences that had previously seemed arbitrary (such as the weather or natural disasters). The second part involves examining the scientific history of determinism beginning with the ideas of Laplace (who believed strongly in a deterministic universe) and the discoveries which began to erode the support for determinism. The final major section is Hawking’s claim that the universe is not deterministic, based on his studies of black holes and their seemingly random behaviour.

    The common denominator in each part is identification of society’s changing view of determinism. The first section outlines how ancient people must have viewed many events and natural disasters as completely non-deterministic and unpredictable events. As technology and science advanced over time, the view of determinism went to the complete opposite end of the spectrum - everything and anything happens as the direct result of some other events, obeying strict laws of physics. The last part of Hawking’s text brings us back to the non-deterministic end of the spectrum. The change of perspective is the thing that is common to each section, and it’s used to help convince the skeptical reader that may possess a strong attachment to determinism. It’s effective because Hawking demonstrates what lines of thinking lead to the deterministic beliefs in the first place, and then dissects and refutes them using his own evidence.

    This core of this text is about determinism, that is, the ability to know or predict the future based on the current state of the world. The main message is that there is some inherent randomness in the universe that will not allow us to ever predict the future with certainty. The core of the text is Hawking’s discussion about black holes and their ability to cause information to be lost forever when matter falls into them, which undermines the idea of determinism. The first half of the essay is a discussion of the historical views of determinism, and the various theories of famous scientists such as Laplace and Einstein, who famously said, “God does not play dice”, arguing that the particles of the universe did not operate in a random fashion.

    God and dice are two key words in the story. Dice are used to represent randomness. It is effective because it is easier to relate to throwing a pair of dice than it is to relate to highly technical scientific language and ideas (such as electron spin, quantas, and such).

    By effectively using a structure that provided adequate background information and historical context, along with a a strong emphasis on the core theme of determinism, Hawking succeeds in convincing the reader that randomness does indeed exist in the universe. These techniques allowed Hawking to breakdown and simplify subject-matter that is (I assume) based on incredibly detailed and complicated concepts, and provide a text that is very accessible, even to readers not familiar with the underlying ideas.

  19. "God does not play with dice", were my first thoughts when I saw the title of this speech. The famous quote of Einstein phrased in a question captured my attention, as I was aware that the title was not focused on the question of god, but a philosophical point of view that many individuals who study science often develop. This view of reality describes the universe being predictable, that we are able to know the past and the future, given we are able to overcome our practical difficulties. A belief that everything in reality is deterministic and a philosophical position of scientists and those who study science will come to believe that reality follows the idea of determinism. I am one of the many individuals who had adopted that concept, and the title raises the question of my belief: is reality really predictable, or is it random?
    The speaker, Stephen Hawking begins with a question that will linger throughout the speech, essentially the thesis itself. He employs a chronological plot of the cultures' way of thinking about reality, and how their beliefs had changed and were overshadowed by new beliefs of the next generations. Hawking described that in ancient times, people viewed the world being unpredictable, as it seemed it was on the whims of the gods, and they would continue to hold onto those beliefs as absolute truths, like some beliefs today. But as people began to noticed patterns and are able to predict future events from consistent behavior in nature, the notion of determinism and science emerged. Cleverly, Hawking did not necessary need to mention the old views in order to question determinism, but this created a parallel later in his speech, where scientists who held dearly to the notion of determinism are indifferent to those in ancient times. This is reflected near in the end of his speech, where he states, "I feel scientists have not learnt the lesson of history. The universe does not behave according to our pre-conceived ideas. it continues to surprise us."
    Throughout the speech, Hawking's tone and mood opposed the idea of determinism, as he builds a case against it, explaining how new scientific discoveries and ideas opposes the belief of determinism. He concluded that god does play dice, and reality is less predictable then we anticipated. This created a structure for his speech which he begins with a question indicated before, then provides an answer, which is not something that always happens in science. Regardless of an answer, he also provided perspective of others, such as Einstein that had opinions that differ from Hawking's in which they attempted to support determinism. But in Hawking's speech, the evidence continued to disagree with the notion of determinism, such that did the structure did not only provide a fair argument for those who support determinism, but the design of his speech made it difficult to refute Hawking's disagreement when he described the supporting evidence.
    Although Stephan Hawking claimed that his speech was focused on determinism, this was most likely a parallel to Hawking's struggle with scientific community. As scientists had a difficult time accepting that reality was not deterministic but random, Hawking had a difficult time convincing the scientific community that information was lost when an object enters a black hole, as it violates a law that states information is always conserved. Despite who is correct in that argument, the answer is most likely to come from evidences that we obtain, not from our beliefs or desires.

    -Eddy Cheong

  20. *Shortened + Intro Cut*—to see the mistakes and errors of logic and reasoning of my past. It is my belief that the poem, Heirloom by A.M. Klein describes the change from childhood values, to more mature beliefs and views.

    The context that this poem was written in was of 1990’s by a man of Jewish faith. His father, presumably a poor man, left nothing to his son but holy books containing “Yahrzeit” dates, dates representative of a family member passing away. In this beginning stanza, the author appears to be somewhat angry with his father for not being able to pass down much, the author at this point seems to be writing as a disgruntled teenager. The second stanza appears to depict the author’s tumultuous early adulthood. I believe that in this stanza, the author is depicting what he is experiencing in life. He depicts himself as a
    “terrible Jew”, dealing with “Road Demons and Witches,” or in other words, cars and women.

    In the third stanza of the poem, the author appears to be losing his teenage angst, and adopting a quieter, more appreciative nature. This is represented by the fine description of the zodiac contained in his father’s heirloom. At this the tone of the poem drastically changes from one of anger to one of admiration for his father. The fourth stanza holds great significance towards the meaning of this poem as it brings in the aspect of time with the line, “ The snuff left on this page, now brown and old. “ With age, the author gains a new respect for his heritage and his ancestors.

    Finally, in the last stanza, it is revealed to us the author’s feeling for this heirloom given to him by his father and of the tears shed by him as he reads on about his heritage and “great lineage”. The power from this poem is felt in the final line, as the author finds within the heirloom a hair fallen from his father and both the sadness , respect and admiration that the author has for him.

    - Kevin Xu

  21. Gwendolyn MacEwen's poem, "Let me make this perfectly clear" starts off with a bold statement. What makes it even bolder is the fact that it is a direct restatement of the poem's title. The literal message conveyed by the poem is emphasized in a direct manner. It is made clear that the speaker is referring to the reader. From the strict tone to the firm motivation of a one-sided conversation, the reader instantly knows how stubborn the speaker of the poem is. The author makes no attempt to elaborate on the surroundings, nor does she mention any other characters. The reader is in isolation from the rest of the world and the speaker has their full undivided attention. The message is most definitely made clear.
    An image of someone lecturing me is the first thing that appears in my head. From the tone of the speaker, it feels that you and the speaker have a very close relationship. The speaker mentions "This is a mistake you always make about me", implying history of being acquainted. It is uncommon for a complete stranger to berate another person about how to read a poem. The use of the word "dangerous" and "promise" further reinforce the sternness of the tone. The speaker also jumps back and forth, speaking about themselves and then about the reader. The second paragraph has an interesting way of displaying the reader's personality. It is conveyed in a way that shows the reader as skeptical of what the speaker is trying to get across. "All I have every cared about". This line may seem a bit unusual due to the grammatical error, but I think it is a excellent intentional piece of detail the author chose to put in. It gives the poem a very personal feel, unlike a carefully typed message. The spelling mistake expresses urgency and emotion in the speaker, as if they are thinking faster than they can type.
    The last paragraph sheds a whole new light on the poem. This is my favorite paragraph. Up until this paragraph, the reader is left in the dark regarding the speaker's true intentions and emotional setting of the poem. The imagery in my head consists of the speaker flinging open the doors to a dark room, metaphorically shedding light on their message. I personally find this to be the paragraph with the most impact, it is the build up to the final line: "Breathing.". To me, this word explains that we should not merely stare at words with emptiness, but with life. I feel that this is the reason why the speaker insists that they have never written anything, even though it is said in text. The speaker feels that a poem is much more than just writing and text but a breathing, living entity.
    What I like about this forceful delivery is that it is ironic. The author is insisting that the poem is insignificant, yet it is the ingenuity of the poem that is the driving force of the message. The one-sided approach is very captivating and I find it enjoyable to read. The speaker's message is artistically made clear to us.

  22. document is too large
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    -Tanjot Gill


  24. Dear All,

    Great contributions! Thank you all very much for posting your observations, insights, and ideas!


  25. *shortened*

    Margaret Atwood’s poem “In the Secular Night” portrays a story of the speaker’s life from since she was sixteen to where she is at present time, forty years later. This piece by Atwood is interesting and relatable to majority of people who share the same feelings as the speaker of being lonely in one’s childhood but growing to embrace solitude.

    The theme of the poem mainly emphasizes on how people tend to mature and learn to overcome their weakness even when the situation may not necessarily change. In the first stanza, the speaker is upset about the fact that everyone except herself is having fun where as she is left to babysit. She takes out ice-cream, turns on music and even lights a cigarette, but she ends up in tears because she cannot bear the solitude. Forty years later in the second stanza, the speaker mentions that “things have changed”, however she is still by herself. Although she does not mention it directly, it is certain that she is still alone when the speaker says that the woman “[talks] to [herself] out loud”.

    In the beginning, the time frame of Atwood’s poem is set in an old-fashioned time. The reference to Glenn Miller and “big-band sound” in the first stanza shows that it is set when the jazz was first introduced in early 1930’s.
    There is also a time transition from the first stanza to the second as the speaker makes the comparison from the past and present, which is forty years later. At the very end of the poem, it states that “the century grinds on”, which implies that time goes by nevertheless. The author used various references to time to compare and contrast the changes made depending on the time setting. It says “several hundred years ago this could have been mysticism” and later mentions how things have changed. As mentioned earlier, the author uses time setting to emphasize on changes that occur depending on the time.