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Woman at Point Zero – an excerpt

“Two eyes – two eyes alone fastened themselves upon mine. No matter how far I shifted my gaze, or how much I moved my head, they followed me closely, tightened their hold. Everything was now enveloped in a growing darkness in which I could no longer discern the slightest glimmer of light, except for two jet black eyes encircled by two rings of dazzling white.”

This scene, described by the words of Firdaus herself, is her reimagining her growing fear when she was called out to pick up her school certificate but had no guardian present to pick her certificate up with her.

Her fear and glimmer of hope is described in contradicting detail. As Firdaus is called up but she has no guardian present, she is “enveloped in a growing darkness”— a sense of fear described to us as darkness is beginning to overtake Firdaus. But in this growing darkness where she cannot “discern the slightest glimmer of light”, her beacon of light, is not light at all but eyes described as “jet black”. Firdaus cannot discern the slightest glimmer of light, but contradictorily she is able to discern the “jet black” eyes that followed her closely and “tightened their hold”. These two jet black eyes are the eyes of her teacher Miss Iqbal, who approach Firdaus and takes her up stage to receive her school certificate from the principle. This usage of detail stands out, because this passage is constantly developing an image of darkness to the reader, yet what grabs Firdaus’s attention are jet black eyes. It’s only once she notices the jet black eyes is that they are also “encircled by two rings of dazzling white”, which acts as a more symbolical representation of a “beacon of light”. She wasn’t able to notice the “dazzling white” with the growing darkness, but she was only able to notice the dazzling white by noticing the jet black eyes first.

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Half A Day

“The bell rang announcing the passing of the day and the end or work. The throngs of children rushed toward the gate, which was opened again. I bade farewell to friends and sweethearts and passed through the gate. I peered around but found no trace of my father, who had promised to be there. I stepped aside to wait…..After I had taken a few steps, a middle-aged passed by…… Good Lord! Where was the street lined with gardens? Where had it disappeared to? Where did all these vehicles invade it?….High buildings taken over, the street surged with children, and disturbing noises shook the air….”

This quote show the timelines from the author’s childhood to his adulthood. He starts with his childhood first by showing that the gates acts more like a portal, and act like a invitation of the real world. When he explained that he found no trace of my father, we eventually know that the father has died and that the author has to find his own sense of direction on his own. The strange part was that the author had no emotion, because usually without our parents, we experience sadness and confusion on what to do without the guidance. As he started growing older, he started to struggle in adjusting to present time, to know that he doesn’t see the land that he once knew. From the beautiful nature as a kid to the vehicles and high buildings as a elder, this is linked to urbanization (taking on the characteristics of a city). It was then that he has started to give up on his life and experience sadness, as the young lad (believed to be a spirit) take him to the afterlife.

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Ocean of Words

Kabilan Jeganathan (11/9/17)
“….Through bright and clean, the room seemed to be used as a repository for old furniture. On the floor was a large desk, a stool, a chair, a wooden bed standing on its head against the wall, and a rickety soft. But for Zhou this was heaven. Full of joy, he read three chapters that evening. Soon the downstairs room became Zhou’s haven. In the Radio Company he could hardly get along with anybody; there was a lot of ill feeling between him and his leaders and comrades. He tried forgetting all the unhappy things by making himself study hard downstairs.”
From this quote, it gives us a image how the room was very special to him. He calls this particular room “heaven”, simply because this is a place where he can get some peace and leave him from all of the bad things that happened to him. This is a peace where he could easily get fully engaged reading his father’s book, The Ocean of Word. The author mentioned that after Zhou getting used to the room, it became his “haven”. The word “haven” means that a place a safety, but it can also means a place that offers opportunities and conditions. The room gives him a sense of safety, without any negatively in his life (ex: ill feeling between him and his leaders and comrades or how he wasn’t able to get along with others) and gives him the opportunity to make him focus on his studies.

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Ocean of Words

“A Report” – Ha Jin

“Good-bye, mother, good-bye, mother –  The battle bugle blowing, Steel guns shiny, The outfits on our back, Our army is ready to go.   Please do not weep in secret, Please do not worry about your son. Wait for my triumphant return; I will see you then my dear mother.”

The song above is from the short story “A Report” Within the story Chen Jun the head of the reconnaissance party of China’s Second Division laments to Commissar Lin after witnessing  soldiers “sobbing” and bleating without shame.”  The fiasco occurred after Chen Jun instructed Hsu Fang to start a song which unintentionally had the soldiers follow suit. The point of the song was in efforts of impressing the common folk as the soldiers marched by. Despite the failure of Chen Jun’s intent, the song signals something much deeper about itself and the men singing. The song begins with “Good-bye, mother, good-bye, mother” but it begs the question as to who’s mother are soldier’s bidding farewell to? “Mother” in truth as expressed from the song refers to the motherland or China itself. Although “mother” in the case of the song refers to China there remains another side to the word “Mother” sung by the soldiers which again reveals a sad detail. As the soldiers sing, imminent death beams across the horizon, there is no hiding from that reality for some if not most entering the bloodshed to come. To the soldiers themselves “Mother” refers to the ones who birthed them. This separation of the of the meaning of the word “Mother is made evident because of the emotion pouring out from the soldiers. The powerful sorrow signifies that the men are not “disciplined fighters” as described by Chen Jun but instead partially made up of young men ripped from their homes to fight for a different “Mother.” The scene in effect causes Chen Jun to call the song “counterrevolutionary.” Chen Jun’s description evokes the sad reality that the soldiers are merely cogs in the wheel for revolution. When one gets picked off, a replacement will always be available.


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Second Major Paper Prompt


Your task for the second essay will be the same as for the first.  That it is to say, you will be choosing a work (or series of works by the same author) that you find compelling, and attempting to articulate what purpose that work performs.  For the second essay, however, I want you to address the following question:

How does the text resonate with your own life experiences as a twenty-first century New Yorker?  Have you been in a situation similar to the one described by the author?  Have you faced the same kinds of challenges?  Have you found yourself viewing the world in the same way as one of the characters or the narrator?  How has reading the work affected your way of thinking about the problems that you have confronted in your own life? Has it offered you a new understanding or attitude, a new way of addressing particular obstacles?  Has it influenced the way you feel about a particular situation?  If so, how?  Please try to come up with a specific concrete example from your life.  You will need to offer a first-person account of your own experience so as to explore how the text is relevant to that experience.  Your paper, in other words, should combine an analysis of the text with a personal narrative and explore the connections between the two.

You can choose any author assigned after Chekhov, from Tagore to Mahfouz.


4-6 Pages, double-spaced. Due November 14.

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“Liusu couldn’t bear hearing that phrase “time to eat.” Her heart ached and her throat went dry. Forcing a smile, she demurred.” (120)

Time to eat is what everyone wants to hear, but it has cost a stir for Liusu. It may seem simple but that phrase relates back to an argument between Liusu and Third Master. Liusu was once married but after the divorce she lives with Third Master. Liusu claims Third Master spend all her money. Third Master got upset that Liusu has the audacity to bring up money after letting her stay in the house and providing the necessities. The phrase
” time to eat” makes Liusu uneasy because at this point she is embarrassed to have to eat with her family because she does not make any money to contribute to the family. She is eating and living for free and it isn’t a problem in the beginning because some Chinese culture care more about helping out family and sometimes it is the right thing to do because of relation. But Liusu now knows how Third Master and everyone else feels about her free loading. She forces a smile to hide her emotions or thought. She doubts whether or not she should go eat. She may feel shameful if she does.

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Love in A Fallen City

” Bai Liusu laughed sarcastically. ‘Third Brother has certainly planned out everything.’ she said, ‘but unfortunately it’s a bit late. The divorce went through some seven or eight years ago. Are you saying that those legal proceedings were empty non-sense? You can’t fool around with the law!’

‘Don’t you try to scare us with the law,’ Third Master warned. ‘The law is one thing today and another tomorrow. What I’m talking about is the law of family relations, and that never changes! As long as you live you belong to his family, and after you die your ghost will belong to them too! The tree may be a thousand feet tall, but the leaves fall back to the roots.’ ” (page 113)

Eileen describes Bai Liusu’s characteristic through Third Master’s words in this part. It is obvious to see that Bai Liusu was borned in a traditional and feudal family. In this family, each one’s thought is closed. They all think women should stay at their husbands’ families during their whole lives. They don’t accept the law made by government, so that is why Third Master says “what I’m talking about is the law of family relations”. However, Bai Liusu is different with them. She is talking about the real law. And the biggest difference between her and other women during that time is her bravery. Liusu violates the traditional rules. She divorces with her ex-husband bravely and breaks the law of her family relations. This conversation between Liusu and Third Master also indicates their conflicts in later part of story because Liusu is different with anyone in this big family. Third Master’s words show that this family is feudal. He says “the tree may be thousand feet tall, but the leaves fall back to the roots.” He describes his sister, Liusu as a tree, and tells her that her “root” is her ex-husband’s family, not this family. He doesn’t treat Liusu as a part of this family just because she had married before.


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Love in A Fallen City

“SHANGHAI”S clock were set an hour ahead so the city could “save daylight,” but the Bai family said: “We go by the old clock.” Ten’o clock to them was elecven to everyone else. Their singing was behind the beat; they couldn’t keep up with the huqin of life. ” (111)

In the beginning of the novel, the author alludes the Bai family is a old and traditional family. The author says Shanghai’s clock were set an hour ahead, it means the city Shanghai was moving step forward into the new age. However, the author says Bai family still continued the old and traditional clock, and “couldn’t keep up with the huqin of life”. These all illustrate that Bai family couldn’t follow up the advance of time. The people in Bai family don’t want to change their life, and have same life in the future just like past.

“But here it was just Fourth Master Bai sunk in darkness, sitting alone on a ramshackle balcony and palying the huqin.” (111)

The author alludes the Bai family is old and traditional here again. She uses words “darkness”, “alone” and ramshackle” to emphasize the decay of the Bai family.

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Ode to the Book

“I love adventurous
books of forest or snow,
depth or sky
but hate
the spider book
in which thought
has laid poisonous wires
to trap the juvenile
and circling fly.”

In this part of Pablo Neruda’s poem “Ode to the Book”, he shows his love and hate to the book. He loves the book that can gives him beautiful imagination. Book can help him to explore the world, not only the physical world, but also the psychological world. “Forest or snow, depth or sky” can represent other lives in the book, such as a happy life, a sad life, or maybe an adventurous life. On the next line, he says “but hate”, he hates the book at the same time. He hates books that limit people’s thinking. He uses the word “spider” to describe it, these “poisonous wires” lead people into a certain way of thinking. He is trying to say that many people love reading books to experience different things, but books can sometimes mislead these readers like little flies are trapped by spiders.

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Ode to the Tomato



in two



and the streets


with juice.

In December

the tomato

cuts loose,



takes over lunches,


at rest

on sideboards,

with the glasses,

butter dishes,

blue salt-cellars.

It has

its own radiance,

a goodly majesty.

This poem can be classified as a political poem. Neruda is using the tomato to symbolize his country. One reading of the  word “halves” in the poem is that it refers to his country’s history.  Between the 15th century and the 19th century, Spain colonized Chile–a subject of great concern to Neruda.  Thus the two halves could represent the indigenous and the European people who continue to live together in Chile.   It might seem as if this poem is solely about the beauty of tomatoes, but key words such as “invade” and “take over” suggest military aggression.

Neruda uses words like “invades” and “takes over” to refer to Spain’s invasion in Chile


Spain has taken over Chile, and Chile was divided in half. In the lines ” invades kitchens, takes over lunches”, . The tomato is metaphors of Spain, and the “kitchens” is a metaphor of Chile. Beside a political poem, Neruda also uses a lot of imagery to develop the poem. In the line “and the streets run with juice”, Neruda gives reader an image of the red tomato juice in the street, which also gives us a historical image of Spain’s invasion in Chile that Chilen’s bloods were on the street and many Chilens killed by the Spainish.

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