A qwriting.qc.cuny.edu blog

Formatting Issues

At this point of the revision and editing process I have encountered diffuculty with properly labeling each page with “Last name, Page #” at the top right corner. In Microsoft Word 2010, selecting “Heading” inserts an identical heading into every page; whereas the option to number pages does not indicate how to include the last name before the page number. It may seem odd that I have not acquired this simple formatting skill by now. and yet I’m guilty of having solved this problem by drawing an individual text box on each page.. 22 text boxes just for this paper! Help!

The Prime

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark was an interesting read because of Spark’s use of prolepsis, or “flash-forwards”. The use of prolepsis complicates the plot and at the same makes it more interesting because a “flash-forward” provides an outcome or a conclusion, then draws back the reader into the present moment and unravels the effects, events and circumstances that lead to a particular event in the future. One example of prolepsis in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is the telling of what sort of occupation each member of the Brodie Set will have in the future or what each girl was popular as time elapsed.

According to Oxford Dictionary, the word “prime” has a noun, adjective and a verb definition. The adjective definition is “of first importance”, “from which another thing may derive or proceed”, “of the best possible quality”; the noun definition is, “in a state of time of greatest strength”. The archaic definition of the noun is “this time of day”; the etymology of the word stems from Latin ‘first hour’ or simply ‘first’.

The verb definition of the word ‘prime’ include: “make (something) ready for use or action”, prepare (someone) for a situation or task typically by supplying them with relevant information”. The origin of the use of ‘prime’ as a verb dates back to the 16th century where ‘prime’ meant to “fill, load”; the etymology remains the same.

Why emphasize and center all the novels themes and characters around the prime of Miss Brodie, as well as repeat the word itself many times throughout the novel and in different contexts? The etymology of the word as well as it’s origin of it’s first use as a verb can be played around with and combined in many interesting ways. One way to paraphrase and connect the meanings of the word “prime” is by noting that prime has to do with someone or something being prepared for “use” at a time of it’s “greatest strength” at the “first hour”, or simply at the beginning.

How does this relate to Miss Brodie and to her pupils? Miss Brodie is in her prime because she has already been “filled” or “loaded” with knowledge that make Miss Brodie Miss Brodie. Particularly this knowledge is centered upon aesthetics, religion and strangely, fascism. In a “flash-forward”, Eunice calls Miss Brodie a “spinster” (26). From this can be concluded that Miss Brodie lived mostly for herself, perpetuating her way of life through the girls whom she selected to be the future “creme de la creme”. Miss Brodie is in her prime because she is ready to make an army for herself, mirroring the political inclinations of Mussolini to the creation the fascist army.

I would argue that the girls whom Miss Brodie selects are in their prime as well. Perhaps they are not in their “strongest” states being young, naive and in awe by Miss Brodie’s persona. However for the same exact reason they are at the “first hour” of their life in which they are still “empty” retaining much “space” to be filled by Miss Brodie with information and knowledge she deems necessary. In this sense, the girls are being “primed” by Miss Brodie because as the verb definition of the word “prime” suggests – Miss Brodie is preparing them “for a situation or task” “ready for use or action”. Miss Brodie wishes to vicariously live through the girls shaping their ivalues and goals. This makes Miss Brodie like Mussolini himself, a controlling authoritative ruler, perhaps with less violent and destructive intentions in mind.

The word “prime” has a very important function in the novel making a deeper connection between the girls, Miss Brodie and their separate futures. Thinking back to the other novels we have read, it is plausible to suggest that Emma in Jane Austen’s novel Emma, was not so much in her prime as much as she tried to “prime” characters such as Miss Smith to fulfill roles or become someone that she saw in them. Like Miss Brodie who sought to find a quality in each girl that is best at and strengthen it, Emma thought she had an insight into circumstances and tried to control them. Emma was less of a controlling and authoritative character than Miss Brodie because she had Mister Knightley to keep her in check and perhaps because she wasn’t in her prime. There was no one who kept Miss Brodie “in check” besides Sandy who accelerated Miss Brodie’s retirement with the wish of her not infiltrating anymore young girl’s minds.

Lilian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour

The beginning of the play begins with a cacophony of voices. The opening scene of the first act created a busy dynamic of eight girls sewing, talking, studying, playing and cutting hair. The reader can hear the voices and the noise produced by those voices in conjunction with Mrs. Mortar trying to quiet it down: “We cannot have this. How many people are talking in this room?” (9). Girls talking simultaneously and creating noise by exchange of words are a process generated through verbal interaction. The beginning of the play is energized by this tumult and draws a stark contrast to the silence with which the play ends. In the end of the play, there are no longer a cacophony of voices but a chain of dialogues. Karen reaction to Martha’s suicide also adds to the contrast because she did not cry or even call for help. Her silent reaction veiled the ending of a play with a somber mood that prevailed until Mrs. Tilford appeared.

Early in the semester I looked at ‘rumor’ as a helpful keyword in our study of gossip. The etymology of the word stems from Old French ‘rumur’ and Latin ‘rumor’ meaning ‘noise’. The first recorded use of the word rumor was in military context expressing the noise produced by the marching army. Thinking of the word rumor as noise of an army made me think of the eight girls setting the play to be heavily relied upon what is said, to whom and about what. Mrs. Mortar being present in both the opening and closing scene of the play, and Mary being absent from the cacophony of voices as well as the voices heard at the play’s resolution are ironic. Mrs. Mortar is the problem child that never leaves neither the boarding school nor the play and becomes a witness to all of its developments. Meanwhile Mary remains a problem child and a storyteller that manipulates behind the scenes with the effects of her manipulations unraveling without her direct presence.

Going back to the end of the play, I read Mrs. Tilford appearance after Martha shot herself as an attempt to reincarnate the energy and noise of verbal interaction between Karen and Martha and the society now that the claim has been proved as fictitious; as well as the school and the girls. This attempt fails because even though it was a lie that ostracized the two women and their establishment, there was an “ounce” of truth in the lie realization of which took a life.

A Fork in the Road and Female Sexuality

The most distressing part of participating in an English Honors Seminar as a junior was proposing a thesis and a topic for the research paper but finding out that I had proposed a “non-working” thesis and thus will have to think about a different topic. An English Major, I would argue, is one of the hardest because it requires one to think, to really think, as opposed to think that you are performing an act of thinking and be proved otherwise. I thought that my topic was just and I could weave a revelation out of it, or at the least, an interesting literary paper. With this minor set back, after dealing with negative emotions, I came to view this as a challenge to the way I think, what I think about and how I can improve my thinking in order to produce worthy work.

On the road of an English Honors Seminar, I came upon a fork. I wish that I do not just only gain an insight as to why this happened and how to better my skills to avoid it in the future; but I also hope to dig this fork out of my road with my bare hands.

Watching a movie called “Easy A” brought some humor into the gloomy reality of a failed thesis topic. The idea for the movie was derived from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlett Letter but was executed with a 21st century twist. If in The Scarlet Letter a red letter “A” as a token of a sin of adultery then in “Easy A”, Oliver Penderghast wore a red letter “A” as an inducement to her popularity.

Connecting Edith Wharton’s novel Summer to the two above mentioned works, one can derive a theme that connects all three: Female Sexuality. In The Scarlett Letter, Summer and “Easy A” a female had explored and used her sexuality, however repercussions were different for each woman because their stories were situated in different times. Hester Prynne’s story took place in the 1600s in a Puritan community where performing an act of adultery was punishable by death, as well as shamed and disgraced the woman forever. In Edith Wharton’s Summer, Charity Royall exploration of her sexuality in the 19th century New England is no longer viewed as a sinful action, but rather views it through the lens of the development of human relationships. Finally, Oliver’s strange desire to deliberately wear a letter A representing her licentiousness in a modern day high school allows her to enter and exit this desire at little or no cost.

The expectations for female behavior, views and restraints of female sexuality have changed as we moved in time. Literature in this sense is a reflection of the time, as well as location, in which a story takes place.  In the 21st century, women are allowed more “play” and are able to explore as well as show off their sexuality in ways that women of past eras were not able to. I do not know if this means that the standard of morality in regards to what kind of a behavior is acceptable or not has downgraded or whether new versions of morality have been introduced with an integration of people of different cultures, beliefs and ideals. Education (and English Major), however allows human beings to always look back into the past and compare how our society is today with the way it was before. I think knowledge and an opportunity to obtain it allows human beings to maintain certain morals and beliefs through time, remembering that in the 1600’s, even in a Puritan community, adultery and frivolous sexual acts were condemned. The nature of any act doesn’t change through time, it is how the society, depending on a particular time and place, views and judges that act that takes precedence over other factors.

The function of Mrs. Elton as a character in the novel “Emma” by Jane Austen

I am convinced that the character of Mrs. Elton plays an important role in the novel by helping to maintain the equilibrium of the state of Gossip in the little town of Highbury.

Emma describes Mrs. Weston as having no elegance, “ease, but no elegance” (251). Emma’s opinion is repressed on the basis that as a respectable lady of Highbury, to whom others look up to in order to make up their own mind, she shouldn’t express the full scope of her thoughts. However, all manners aside, Emma finds Mrs. Elton vulgar because of her inadequate use of “caro sposo”, spelled different all three times intimating Mrs. Weston’s poor knowledge of Italian, and her frivolous use of Mr.E to address her beloved (568). Emma simply does not like her.

However Emma does not realize that Mrs. Weston serves a function in the novel that keeps the equilibrium of the gossip intact. What do I mean by the “equilibrium” of gossip? Gossip resides in a constant state of flux and motion of information coming in, being digested, assimilated and synthesized, taking the form of rumors (if it is interesting enough to be spread further), or remains gossip in the private circle where it started and will die away. This information travels from one person to another and any character realizing that the only worthy form of entertainment in Highbury is gossip will ensure to be a part of this chain.

When Mr.Elton failed to capture Emma and Emma failed to match Harriet with Mr.Elton, the character of Mr.Elton was facing an unfortunate moment of being reduced to a minor character, that which does not fight in the frontline of verbal war that is gossip (minus the violence and the blood); and, that which does not generate gossip but participates in passing it along or simply has the advantage of hearing it. Therefore the introduction of Augusta Hawkins as his wife was a necessary political movement to remain on the frontiers of the society by generating many gossips for time to come, starting with their engagement, wedding, interviews and introduction into the society.

Aside from securing her own and Mr.Elton’s position in the front row seat of Highbury’s society and it’s gossip, Mrs.Elton also helped to ‘move along’ the character of Jane Fairfax. Jane Fairfax is not allowed indirect free speech in Jane Austen’s novel because her persona and thoughts are veiled with mystery. She does not allow anyone in and she does not gossip. This agitates Emma because she, perhaps subconsciously, seeks to claim authority over everyone’s participation in her circle. Mrs.Elton helps to “open” up the character of Jane Fairfax, however slightly but ambitiously, allowing for the reader to indulge in dialogues that otherwise would not have taken place, as well as learn more both about Jane and Augusta.

Next entries »

Spam prevention powered by Akismet

Skip to toolbar