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Text to Text, Tadeusz Borowski, “This Way to the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen”

Dating back to the concentration camps during the 1940s, it is clear to see how people were treated under such inhumane conditions. In the short story, “This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen” it describes vividly how people imprisoned at Auschwitz camp had to live their day to day lives. Walking around naked with no respect, having insufficient food, and not getting any treatment which would only lead to multiple threats. The story states, “The camp has been sealed off tight. Not a single prisoner, not one solitary louse, can sneak through the gate… Thousands of naked men shuffle up and down the roads.” This portrays the lifestyle that these innocent people had to live under a lot of pressure and with hope that they would not get any further mistreatment whenever soldiers felt the desire. Having the feeling of being insecure is not easy, and more so when it’s a fact that it will always turn into a bad outcome. Furthermore, one of the other difficulties that the imprisoned individuals had to suffer through was the actions against their will and beliefs. The thought of being forced to do things to please other people for no positive outcome is cruel; but this is what was meant to happen at these camps.

In a similar context, the novel that has captured a lot of attention and has been made into a film is “The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas”. The novel which was released in 2006 gave back to the readers a lot of vivid and traumatic experiences that a lot of people in the concentration camps went through. This text with its descriptions of its two primary characters has a lot of connections with Borowski’ short story. In this novel, two young boys with their lives ahead of them had no sense of how negative their reality was aside from being separated by a fence. However, when Bruno who is the boy from Berlin saw the difference of clothing and work that had to be put into daily marked the difference between him and Shmuel who is the Jew living under those harsh conditions in Brunos’ father concentration camp. Being this young at the age of eight, and in this situation marked interest on each of the boy’s eyes. Wondering if there was a possibility to actually meet aside from being separated by the fence. However, nothing could ever be done since there would always be malicious threats and death in the future for Shmuel.

Both stories have the similarity with the problematic system that occurred in concentration camps. I believe that each individual had a story to share for people to take into account how their lifestyle was drastically changed for worse. Each person living in the concentration camp had to deal with brutal experiences not only from their own but from what they could see being done to others. Everything that occurred during this time period was unacceptable and unforgivable. People in the concentration camps had to adjust to this new life forcibly and with much pain; and similarly to what they felt it will never be forgotten.

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Salih, “The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid”

In Tayib Salih’s story, “The Doum tree of Wad Hamid” describes changes and modernization of the society which existed back then. The tree symbolized faith, prosperity, wisdom, and most importantly, strength. Wad Hamid was a slave to a man who did not allow him to express his religious values and prayer. He ran away to follow the will of God, and saw miracles happen in the form of prophesies and receiving help. His tomb buried next to the doum tree shaped the society and helped establish great principle amongst the people who resided at that time before modernization came into place. The story is much relatable to the events happening in society today, more in connection to the genocide and concentration camps in China.

In China, the Uyghurs are a small Turkic-speaking ethnic group residing in the northwestern region of Xinjiang. The Chinese government for the past few years, have been detaining more than one million Muslims in reeducation camps. This is a form used by Chinese authorities of cracking down on Uyghurs residing in parts of China and removing them from public. The biggest reason as to the cause of this movement is religion. Religion plays a huge role in society and establishes norms, values, and ethics amongst the people.

Islam, the sole religion of the Uyghurs, has been heavily criticized due to its faith, and differences in China. Those detained in camps are forced and influenced to pledge their loyalty to the Communist Party of China, and no longer accept their religion of Islam. The values, the culture, the ethics, and most importantly the faith, must all be dismissed, and adapt to the views of the society they are living in today. Each and every one of those affected in these camps grew up realizing the importance of religion and must be forced to give that up to fit into the norms of the civilization of China. This relates to the story of Wad Hamid, as growing up, he was not allowed to practice his religion nor express his values.

With religion being a big aspect in the shaping of society today, the correlation between the doum tree and Islam is impeccable. Majority of the Uyghurs in concentration camps struggle to have their voice heard because of the many indifferences they have. Forced to praise communism and adapt to the Mandarin language, these are just the few practices happening in these reeducation camps held for them. Relating back to the doum tree, people living in society looked up to its symbolism and importance as everything around them was being modernized and stripped of its values. Just like the situation in China, Uyghurs are being forced to change, adapt, and modernize to the norms of society. However they would still like to uphold their faith in religion because it’s the only thing that they have to look up to.

The doum tree of Wad Hamid has a stronger connotation than it’s face value. As time progresses, humanity evolves, and modernization takes place. Newer inventions are also discovered, but our values will always remain the same. There will always be something to believe in, whether it’s a higher power, or a greater good. The doum tree of Wad Hamid is a prime example of how the significance of symbolism, wisdom and faith are portrayed.

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Salih, “The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid”

–The narrator tells us that “every new generation finds the doum tree as though it had been born at the time of their birth and would grow up with them.” What do you make of this?

–What seems to be the story’s perspective on the government in newly independent Sudan? What’s the relationship between the government and the villagers?

–Explain the shift in narratorial perspective in the final passages of the story? How does it change our own view of the text

–At the end of the story, the old man refers to his own son and says, “it is my hope that he will stay where his is and not return.” How do you explain this?

–What do you think this story’s ultimate perspective is on the issue of tradition vs. modernity?

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Borowski, “This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen”

— What did you learn from this story that you did not previously know about life in Nazi concentration camps?

–This story can be described as a kind of “initiation story” for the narrator. How is he changed or transformed by the events of the narrative?

–A tall, grey-haired woman who has just arrived on the “transport” whispers, “My poor boy,” to our narrator. What does she mean?

–“Are we good people?” asks our narrator. What is this exchange about? What do you think?

–Explain the significance of the story’s title, “This Way to the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen.” What seems strange about it?

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Kafka, “The Metamorphosis”

–Do you think that Gregor is more powerful BEFORE or AFTER his metamorphosis? Explain your response.

–How is Gregor’s family transformed in the wake of his metamorphosis?

–At the end of the second section of the story, Gregor’s father pelts him with apples. What do you think this episode is about?

–Gregor emerges from his room one last time when he hears his sister playing her violin for the lodgers. What is the significance of this? What meaning does music hold for Gregor here?

–Ultimately, what do you think Gregor’s metamorphosis means? What does it mean to be transformed into a giant bug?

–Explain your understanding of Gregor’s death. How/why does he ultimately die?

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Lu Xun, “In the Wineshop”

–The story’s narrator is revisiting a place he once lived. Explain the significance that this “revisiting” has in relation to the themes of the story.

–What is the connection between our narrator and Weifu? Why do you think so much of the story is spent on Weifu’s life, while the narrator shares very little about his own life experiences?

–Explain the significance of the story about reburying Weifu’s little brother?

–Weifu recalls when he and the narrator used to pull the beards off religious statues in the Temple when they were younger. What is the significance of this memory?

–Describe an instance of filial piety in the story. What is its significance?

–What aspects of this short story seem to you to be particularly modernist?

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Text To Self with T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

It is evident that in the poem, Prufrock is putting something off because of fear of rejection. The poem states,” Time for you and time for me, and time yet for a hundred indecisions, and for a hundred visions and revisions before the taking of the toast and tea.” This shows that he is already rethinking choices and possibly changing his mind. Prufrock wants to tell the girl something, but something is standing in his way. It seems like the only obstacle he has to overcome is himself. This portrays a weak sense of self-confidence. He keeps putting off what he wants to say because he does not think that it is valuable enough or worthy of her time, but ultimately he runs out of time. He keeps putting it off and putting himself down and is scared of the results that he does not even want to attempt to tell her. This shows how he doesn’t think that he is good enough. He is standing in his way in terms of his chances with her, and that is what I tend to do with a lot of decisions as well. If he had just told her what he wanted to say, he could have gotten it over with and either been very happy or moved on with his life. The thought of “what if” continually consumes him now because he does not ever want to try to express how he feels. Thus, this “what if” feeling will always linger on with him, and he will never actually know what would have happened if he just took a shot. In most cases, taking a chance is way better than never knowing where you stand with a person and always having a doubt in your mind.
Recently, I saw something that I do very commonly that is very similar to what he does. I noticed that a lot of the time, when I am telling a story or am asked a question, I tend to start with “mine isn’t as good as theirs but…” There is always a thought in my mind of how what I have to say is inferior to everything else that was said and that I will look dumb in front of people. This is similar to the mindset Prufrock has. In life, we can be so hard on ourselves when we don’t even realize it. We don’t always have to hold ourselves up to a very high standard. Sometimes it is okay to fail and try again or recognize that it’s not for you. You’re the way you are, and you feel a certain way, so embrace it. The important thing is though that a lesson can only be learned if you try and challenge yourself and do things you are not necessarily comfortable with. Playing it safe can often lead to a very dull and unfulfilling life. It can be hard to come to terms with that sometimes, and that is why this behavior is widespread in most people.
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T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

–The poem opens, “Let us go then, you and I….” Whom do you think the speaker is addressing here?
–What is Prufrock’s relationship to time?
–Look at the description of the yellow smoke in the second and third stanzas of the poem. What do you make of this description?
–“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons,” laments Prufrock. What do you think this line means?
–Describe the overall mood of the poem. What feelings does it leave you with?
–In the final lines of the poem, the speaker shifts from “I” to “We.” How do we explain this shift?

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Tagore, “Punishment”

–How does justice work in the world of “Punishment”?  What happens when one tells the truth? What happens when one lies?

–What do we make of Chandara’s choice to take responsibility for the death of her sister-in-law? Do you see her as a hero or as a victim?

–Explain the significance of the details Tagore offers about the marriage between Chandara and Chidam.  How do they help us understand the events of the story?

–How do you understand the title of the story?

–As she approaches death, Chandara both says, “to hell with him,” and maintains that she loves her husband.  How do you reconcile these two apparently contradictory statements?

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The Death of Ivan Ilyich Text to self

In The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Tolstoy emphasizes the importance of authentic relationships and a clear self-reflections. He also brings up the question of mortality and that everyone’s life eventually has to come to an end. Throughout his life, Ivan has been living his life in the eyes of others, such as getting married because it seems like the right thing to do according to the people from higher places. But, he doesn’t put much care in his family except for providing them with the prosperous “high class” lives. Ivan stresses maintaining propriety, decorum in his life but this leads him to the “wrong direction”.

In our society, where the pursuit of wealth is important people start losing the authentic connections between one another. In the text, the gentlemen from Ivan’s work are even anticipating to get promotions after his death. People care a lot about what people perceive of them but barely any self-reflection upon themselves. This text serves as a reminder for me not to fall in the blind pursuit of what other people view as success. As Ivan is dying he reaches a level of self-realization that what he has done his whole life is wrong and regrets his choices in life. It is very easy to lose oneself especially in the Business industry, where the temptation of pursuing more wealth is at reach but with the sacrificing of one’s moral or other elements of one’s life. No matter how rich or prosperous you are, if you are not healthy mentally or physically you won’t have genuine pleasure in life. This text reminds me that death is inevitable so it is important to live life to the fullest and to be true to myself.




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