Critical Thinking Example on Literature Pieces

2021-07-02 09:31:38
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Harvey Mudd College
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Critical thinking
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Question 1. The Red Shoes by Hans Christian Andersen (1845)

The narrator in the story plays the role of narrating the story about the red shoes. He tells of a girl, Karen who wears the red shoes for confirmation, something that she apparently was not supposed to do, and how the shoes possess some powers that make her dance without stopping. The shoes grow to her feet, and she cannot remove them until the executioner cuts her feet with the shoes. She is forced to use wooden feet and crutches while the chopped little feet dance away. They, however, haunt Karen until an angel of God rescues her. The narrator in this story does not prove to be reliable. He/she leaves out necessary details essential for the reader to understand the story. He/she introduces new occurrences without explaining their origin or implications. For instance, he/she does not explain why it was awkward for Karen to wear red shoes during her confirmation, or give a hint on the significance of red shoes.

Based on the flow of the story, the author expects the reader to have some prior knowledge of issues discussed in the story. One is the cultural beliefs of the community from which Karen comes. The author expects the reader to know why it was improper for Karen to wear red shoes to her confirmation. Two is the communitys association with good, evil, and death. Upon abandoning the old lady to attend a grand ball, Karen is caught up in the madness of uncontrollable dancing. She dances everywhere, even to the graves and to the executioner. She even meets an angel who curses her. These expectations negatively affect the discourse of the story. The reader is left with questions which he/she can only make guesses for yet they should have been provided by the author.

Question 2 (a). The Flea by John Dunne

The female character in the poem is portrayed as tough. She denies the speaker his wishes of being with her. The speaker is shown to be interested in marrying her based on his words in the second stanza where he claims that their marriage bed and temple are inside the flea. She is also cruel as shown in the third stanza where she kills the flea which according to the speaker was not guilty enough to die. The speaker claims that she has stained her nails with the blood of innocence. Some of the reasons for resisting the speaker is her beliefs that relating to the speaker in the way he wants would be a sin, shameful, and loss of maidenhead. The parents too are not in agreement with the suggestion as shown in the fifth line of the second stanza. They are said to be in grudge. The female character is also fearful of yielding as shown when the speaker in stanza three tells her that she will learn how false fears are when she yields to him.

Question 2 (b). The Altar by George Herbert

In the poem The Altar, Herbert capitalizes three words: altar, heart, and sacrifice. The art of capitalizing is meant to draw the attention of the reader as well as lay emphasis on the topic of the poem. The topic being The Altar, the reader is drawn to the aspects that marks an altar of God, these being a heart and a sacrifice. With the words capitalized, they are easily visible to the reader, and they alone can complete the meaning of the topic even without the support of the rest of the words from the poem. Herbert uses religious symbols and references in the poem. Symbols include an altar and sacrifices. An altar is a holy place where sacrifices are offered to God. He references a verse that says that if people fail to praise Him, stones will do.

Question 3. 'A Modest Proposal' by Jonathan Swift

In his satire A Modest Proposal, Jonathan Swift targets the politicians, policy makers, and the rich people in the country, who endeavored in oppressing the poor. This was at a time when the people were in dire poverty resulting from increased taxes and hiked rents from by the landlords. The poor people have been neglected with no proposed solution yielding fruits. The mention of the landlords come in when he says that he grants that food from infants will be dear and proper to the landlords who have already devoured a majority of the parents, and seem to be having a title for the young ones. He talks of having been wearied of many years of vain, idle, visionary thoughts, at a length utterly despairing of success. He challenges politicians who dislike his proposal to consult the poor parents on their experience of living an oppressed life. The message is also meant to reach to other nations who are eager to see Ireland languish in poverty.

Satire is a powerful tool used by Swift to bring out the truths of the situation of the poor people in Ireland. Through satire, he is able to bluntly bring out the truth and the level of despair in the people. His proposal is meant to disregard the others that had been offered before that were never actualized. He shows that the government is unable to take care of its people and it would be better if they were sold as food at infancy to prevent them from growing up in the severe poverty. This satirical article would prompt the people or institutions responsible more than it would have if the issues were outlined in a normal tone.

Question 4. Alices Adventures in Wonderland

Psychoanalytic literary criticism involves critiquing books and the minds associated therein. According to Freud, a psychoanalytic critic, this kind of criticism can only be conducted on three people, that is, the author, the audience, and some character represented in or associated with a text. How the critic analyzes the minds of these three people depends on his or her orientation. Among the areas that psychoanalytic criticism focuses on are fantasies and the range at which an author can apply them. In Freuds terms, it is possible to analyze Lewis Carrolls book Alices Adventures in Wonderland. Carroll writes a story about a young girl named Alice who finds herself in a wonderland after falling through a rabbit hole. Alice experiences physical as well as identity changes throughout her adventure until when she wakes up from her adventure.

The happenings in the book are the work of the author and reveal his level of imagination. His competence in imagination and the ability to create fantasies is well demonstrated as the character Alice experiences the different forms of changes throughout the story. The audience is children which explains why the author uses a child character to tell the story. The character Alice is shown to be curious and bold. Curiosity is shown when she follows the rabbit which lands her into the wonderland. While there, she continues to demonstrate curiosity coupled with boldness as she faces the animals she encounters there. As the story ends, she faces up with the king and queen even after a threat by the queen to cut off her head. She gathers up courage at the trial, and she refuses to leave when she is ordered. She even calls them just a pack or cards and as such was not afraid of them. It is after this that she wakes up from her mysterious world.

Question 5. The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

In this book, Campbell shows the commonality of the mythical stories about heroes. Campbell demonstrates that all heroic stories share a common structure which he referred to as the monomyth.. The monomyth involves a hero venturing forth from the common world into a place of supernatural experience where incredible forces are encountered, and a decisive triumph achieved. The hero then comes back from the mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man. Along with this specific structure, there is a repeating cast of characters referred to as character archetypes. They tell of the role a character plays in the story without specifying the age, gender, or race. The character archetypes fall under the following roles. First, the hero who is the guide to the adventure in the story. Second, the mentor who guides the hero in the new world. The third is the ally, who accompanies the hero and offers help where needed. Fourth is the herald who works as a catalyst to fuel the adventure into motion. Fifth is the trickster who brings humor to the story. Sixth is the shapeshifter who starts as an ally to the hero but later betrays him at a critical point. Seventh is the guardian who puts the hero to test before he faces a great challenge. Finally, there is the shadow who are the villains that pose threats to the hero.

The archetypal pattern involves the hero being introduced in his ordinary world, then receives a call for adventure. He is reluctant at first but agrees upon persuasion by a wise old man or woman. He encounters tests and helpers, faces the greatest challenge and overcomes. He seizes power or treasure and is pursued on his way back to his world. He is then transformed from his experience and into the real world.

Question 6. No such country by Gary Crew

No Such Country by Gary Crew tells a story of an archaeological student, Sam Shadows, who visits an isolated village in Australia in the hope of learning about his Aboriginal origin. He finds a village, New Canaan, submitted to an oppressive will of a character known by the name The Father. In this town lives two sixteen-year-old friends named Sarah and Rachel who together discover why The Father had so much control over the lives of the people in New Canaan. Sam Shadows discovers secrets of the past that ignite an apocalyptic chain of events that are witnessed in the sky, on the sea, and in the trembling earth. These are the indications of the fall of the Father, and the only people aware of this are the two girls and Sam Shadows.

This novel contains elements that give it its distinctive features. First, it uses religious beliefs to elaborate how these can be misused to oppress people as in the case of the Father and how he oppressed the people of New Canaan. Religious happenings outlined in the Bible such as signs in the sky, sea, and trembling earth support this claim. Secondly, the novel utilizes archaeological discoveries to reveal truths that had been hidden from the people and whose discoveries set up apocalyptic changes. Third, children are used in bringing about the downfall of a highly regarded oppressive master, the Father. Although this approach has been used in literary works, it is not common in traditional storytelling approaches. The approach is derived from tried and proven storytelling approach but is uncommon. This makes Crews novel to be distinctive.

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