Monthly Archives: November 2019

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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Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilyich

 1. Why do you think Tolstoy begins his story with the announcement of Ivan Ilyich’s death, rather than organizing it chronologically?
2. “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” is full of French words. What purpose do they serve?
3. How does Ivan Ilyich’s family react to his illness? What do their reactions tell us about them?
4. On his deathbed, Ivan asks, “Why, and for what purpose, is there all this horror?” Does the text provide an answer to this weighty question?
5. Compare the attitude toward death we see in Ivan Ilyich’s family and social milieu to that of our own society. How do we treat illness and death?

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