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Exemplar: Spring 2021

The Exemplar publishes and showcases exemplary student writing completed in humanities courses at Dalton State

Editor's Note

This year, The Exemplar endeavored to highlight exemplary submissions from Dalton State students in Liberal Arts classes. The first section, "Pain and the Other," highlights works by Ashley Fann, Rochelle Holloway, and Alexis Eaves. These essays consider how pain, or the way we experience discomfort, is often inexplicably shaped by our notions of other, and, in turn, how different people and experiences also contribute to these notions of pain. The second section, "Technology and Personal Reflection” showcases essays from Kylie McGee and Jonathan Fleming, analyzing advances in technology, education, and personal reflection and fulfillment.

Spring 2021 Awards

Best Upper Division Paper: "Catalyzing Wartime Pain" by Ashley Fann

Runner-up for Best Upper Division Paper: “Critical Race Theory and Feminism in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Rochelle Holloway

Best 1000-Level Paper: “Alienation and Personification: Bradbury's 'There Will Come Soft Rains' " by Kylie McGee

Table of Contents


Pain and the Other

“Catalyzing Wartime Pain’” by Ashley Fann

(Best Upper Division Paper)

“Critical Race Theory and Feminism in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Rochelle Holloway

(Runner-up for Best Upper Division Paper)

“Structuralism & New Criticism for Emily" by Alexis Eaves



Technology and Personal Reflection

“Alienation and Personification: Bradbury's 'There Will Come Soft Rains' " by Kylie McGee

(Best 1000 Level Paper)

“Critical Memo Regarding the Effectiveness of No-Excuse Charter Schools" by Jonathan Fleming





Catalyzing Wartime Pain

by Ashley Fann

Best Upper Division Paper

When fire fell from the sky, the city silenced. Not only did destruction begin to plague homes, but all aspects of the lives of the people inside mutated in reaction to the impacts inflicted by an omnipotent force. Created to obliterate enemy forces, instruments of warfare fulfill their intended purpose by damaging both tangible and intangible entities. Physically and emotionally, tools of war wreak havoc on civilians and soldiers alike. East Asian works Grave of the Fireflies (1988) and Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths (1991) depict the Second World War; however, they do not focus on the physical or material destruction war produces. These works lack focus on the action-packed aspect of war and instead chose to characterize war as a catalyst for emotional turmoil and destruction. The creators use historical fiction to represent their post-experience trauma while detailing the past’s pain to evoke an emotional response from contemporary readers. Both pieces present historically based accounts with fictional modifications that amplify the audience’s emotional reaction to the events that unfolded during the Second World War in Japan. 

The literary element of milieu is heavily applicable to both works of unique mediums: anime and manga. This element of biographical and historical literary criticism analyzes the author’s total environment when they worked to produce their piece. Alistair Swale, Senior Lecturer for the School of Arts at the University of Waikato, New Zealand, describes these works as “manga and anime that dealt directly with the trauma of Japan’s wartime experience” (531). The milieu of each creator involved inspired the content of their work, and those personal connections enhance the impact left on their audience.

 Shigeru Mizuki, Akiuki Nosaka, and Isao Takahata had personal experience with the destructive nature of war’s violence, which inspired their historical fiction pieces. Historical fiction is a tool used to bring contemporary audiences closer to the past’s humanity and, in these works, the pain that comes with it. Author of historical fiction Susan Vreeland notes that by embarking on the journey of translating real accounts into fictionalized history, “it presents to [the audience] a truth more human than what history books present.” These creators worked to humanize the events long forgotten by those who did not experience them by presenting realistic stories and sympathetic characters rather than strictly reciting what has taken place. Humanizing history allows contemporary audiences to better understand the physical and emotional impact of past events. It is challenging to remove emotion or emotional response from history when developed characters provide opportunities for psychological attachment and reaction. 

Produced by two men with the traumatic experience of surviving air raids, the Japanese animated film and short-story of the same name, Grave of the Fireflies,displays warfare’s calamitous nature. The film tells the story of two siblings’ unsuccessful survival attempt as air raids continue to brutalize their home while the Second World War unfolds. Akiyuki Nosaka, author of Grave of the Fireflies, and Isao Takahata, director of the film adaptation, witnessed similar experiences leading to their collaboration. Professor of Japanese Literature and Cinema at Binghamton University, David C. Stahl describes Grave of the​ Fireflies as “the creative product of two Japanese survivor narrators” whose “distinctive traumatic experiences not only have significance to their respective representations but to the relationship of their audiences with them as well” (162). As a teenager, Nosaka was traumatized by “the American firebombing of Kobe,” in which he lost his foster father (Stahl 163). The starvation-induced death of his one-and-a-half-year-old adopted sister would go on to tragically inspire his character Setsuko who meets the same fate in the conclusion of his work (Stah, 164). Takahata’s experience draws parallels to Nosaka’s. At nine years old, Takahata survived a firebombing that destroyed his home (Stahl, 164). He recalls this as “his most horrifying experience” and expressed “that Grave of the Fireflieswas one of the most important projects of his life” (Stahl 164). Nosaka had no intention to adapt his 1967 semi-autobiographical short story into an animated film until he learned about Takahata’s experience with the horrors of war (Stahl 164). The team of Nosaka and Takahata uniquely used animation to tell a truth-based story depicting the realities of living during wartime conflict that connects present-day audiences to the pain they respectively experienced during the action of the Second World War. 

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths author, Shigeru Mizuki, transformed his personal encounter with the outdated Japanese military practice of suicide missions into a manga tale. Novelist Deji Bryce Olukotun defines manga as “a Japanese story from falling somewhere between a graphic novel and a comic book, featuring extended plotlines and a distinct pictorial style” (24). Mizuki used the combination of historical fiction and manga to his advantage by altering his story’s ending to reflect the utmost tragic outcome imaginable. By doing so, he provided a complete commentary encompassing his thoughts and feelings regarding his experience. New York Timesreporter Jonathan Soble explained that Osaka-born Mizuki “was drafted into the army in 1943, just as the tide of the war was turning decisively against Japan.” His conscription occurred in the middle of World War II’s onslaught.​       

Mizuki’s talent to dissect “the monstrous side of humanity” may root in his experience in the Japanese army (Soble). During his time as a soldier, Mizuki “escaped an American machine-gun ambush” that killed most members of his platoon (Soble). Rather than returning to the relief of those around him, Mizuki returned to a commander who “accused him of dishonoring himself by not dying with his comrades” (Soble). This experience “surprised and disgusted him” and inspired his future works “that were deeply critical of the war,” such as Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths (Soble). Mizuki reflects on this specific account and provides commentary revealing his feeling toward what occurred through a recollection of his experience with an altered ending. 

The late Mizuki described his emotional journey while crafting this piece by saying, “Whenever I write a story about the war, I can’t help the blind rage that surges up in me. My guess is, this anger is inspired by the ghosts of all those fallen soldiers” (Mizuki 369). Mizuki presents an abundance of characters in his manga piece. Although readers have a key, Mizuki’s character illustrations are indistinguishable at times. Readers can interpret these characters as reflections of those ghosts Mizuki mentioned. While writing about producing a work of historical fiction, Vreeland explains that an author’s “real life involves too many people to include in a novel” (Vreeland). Perhaps this is the case; however, readers can interpret the lack of artistic individualization as a memorialization-based representation of the numerous lives Mizuki witnessed war claim. The face that stands out most in this piece is Sergent Honda, whose death receives a dedicated chapter. This lack of individual distinction parallels how the Japanese military viewed their soldiers during that time; lack of care for humanizing details of individuals.

 If his tale did not display this notion enough, the subconscious reminder through “his signature style of richly detailed backgrounds contrasted against cartoony” character illustrations may (Olukontun 24). Their status as a soldier revokes each character’s humanity, and Mizuki conveys this by depicting “the brutality of Japanese military officers toward their own troops” (Olukontun 24). A subtle theme throughout Mizuki’s Onward Towards Our​   Noble Deaths hints at the cognitive simplicity of soldiers. This theme can be interpreted as a criticism of the war, depicting soldiers questioning why it was taking place and exposing the wrongdoings of those such as the individuals who called for suicide missions to occur. An instance of questioning occurs in the chapter titled “The Death of Sergeant Honda” (Mizuki 204). Mizuki depicts a soldier asking, “What’re we doing fighting a war here?” to which Second Lieutenant Platoon Leader Mizumoto must reply, “I have no idea” (Mizuki 217). Although heavily inspired by his real-life experience, this is a work of historical fiction due to​           Mizuki’s modifications. The largest modification he makes is the ending of his retold experience. Doing so allows him to capture his range of emotions concerning what he had gone through during his time in the Japanese army. 

In both works, audiences can reflect upon the souls of the creators and their characters due to the personal aspect. Rather than merely reporting the events of the past, historical fiction provides insight about “the voice and attitudes of the characters” and “invites [the audience] into the privacies of a person’s soul” (Vreeland). By forgoing focus on war’s action and instead providing a more in-depth insight concerning the impact war has on humanity, both work’s audience gains a more accurate understanding of what it is like to carry and live with the weight of those experiences.  Although Mizuki ends his piece with images of corpses and skeletons, few explicitly graphic images of death or injury occur within the illustrations. Mizuki often implies instances of this type of tragedy occurring off-panel, such as in the section titled “Little Finger” (Mizuki 82). Pages 86 and 87 of this section lay out an air raid sequence without illustrating the resulting carnage. This minor but purposeful detail echoes the notion that rather than becoming preoccupied with war’s violence and action, Mizuki instead desired to bring attention to the humanity within the war, this desire fueled by his experiences. Humanity, in this case, would refer to the soldier, either individually or as a collective.  When writing upon the topic of producing a work of historical fiction, Vreeland explained that when an idea “presents itself,” a creator must ask, “Is it my story to tell?” This questioning process applies to Grave of the Fireflies​        and is answered by Isao Takahata’s influence from living through wartime experience. The inspiration from nonfiction accounts amplifies the emotional response evoked by this story. Realistic insight accompanied by sympathetic characters creates the opportunity for emotional attachment to the story. Two factors of the film that contribute to this emotional attachment opportunity are the bittersweet relationship of the sibling focal characters and the layer of personal reflection Takahata adds. 

Early in the film, a bone-chilling air raid scene unfolds, establishing the characters’ situation and setting the tragic tone for the remainder of the piece. Swiftly following siblings Seita and Setsuko’s introduction, the viewer is exposed to their horror as enemy planes soar over their homes. Fire proceeds to fall from the sky, marking the moment that establishes the loss of all they know and love. Stahl revealed, “many of the air raid scenes depicted in the film were based on Takahata’s personal experience,” making the scenes more tragic and chilling (165). This scene reveals Seita’s terror in response to the events suddenly unfolding around his family. Swale described firebombings as “an individual disaster but also part of a tapestry of a nation’s calamity” (522). His attempt to conceal his horror from his younger sister cements his chosen and unchosen care for her and is the first depiction of their familial bond’s importance. Seita is aware of the destruction that now surrounds him and knows that he is now all his younger sister has. Even without knowing their parents have passed, he is sure of this notion because she is also all he has left. Due to this knowledge, he understands he must provide for her. She is his last source of hope, and with her life goes both the conclusion of the film and Seita’s final reason to fight to conquer the hardship they must face.          

The relationship between Seita and Setsuko is increasingly tragic as the film continues. No matter the viewer’s background, they are bound to recognize the love between the siblings and subsequently experience emotional pain alongside them. Swale noted, “the excruciatingly slow demise of the doomed brother and sister towards a pitiful end” makes it “difficult to imagine a more poignant and hard-hitting account of the tragedy and cruelty of war in either conventional cinema or animated formats” (525). Their struggle captures the “economic deprivation and hunger” that “coursed through Japan” during the chaos of the Second World War (Olukontun 24). Seita’s struggle continues as Setsuko’s comes to an end in the face of death. Her last words are a thank you addressed to her brother (Grave of the​           Fireflies). The depiction of a bond like Seita and Setsuko’s contrasts the lack of character-to-character bonds in Mizuki’s Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths; however, both works encourage considering humanity in the war despite the differing degrees of connection. Nosaka and Takahata show their audience heartbreaking images, while Mizuki silently addresses the lack of humanity and dehumanization war evokes in a society. 

The loss of Nosaka’s infant sister provided tragic inspiration for Setsuko’s character. Throughout the film, Setsuko serves as an example of the harm war inflicts on the most vulnerable members of society, adding another source of connection to humanity in the unfolding action for the audience. Her character’s addition enhances the film’s ability to portray war’s damaging alterations to what life as a civilian during wartime is. Setsuko’s age is representative of the loss of innocence and normalcy brought on by warfare. Nosaka and Takahata use images of Setsuko to shape their audiences’ malleable emotions into desired outcomes of defeat, suffering, and sorrow. The amount of intense hardship she experiences and eventually succumbs to makes her the most tragic character in Grave of the Fireflies​          . Her journey from cheerful child to a malnutrition-induced death encapsulates the damage war inflicts on the most vulnerable members of a population. Viewers can sympathize with a child, allowing her story to impact their emotions. The sheer focus on her character and the emotional reaction it evokes is evidence that the piece focuses on the individualized human experiences in war.

Mizuki, Nosaka, and Takahata manipulate the mediums of anime and manga, known for their association with magical tales, to paint painful and graphic pictures that provoke a deep emotional response and realization in contemporary audiences who do not have first-hand experience with wartime events. In their respective visual forms, Mizuki and Takahata include illustrated and animated scenes of gore. One instance of Mizuki’s illustrated gore occurs in his section titled “HQ’s Near Destruction” (173). During an enemy bombing, the character Kimimoto gets shot directly in the eye. To convey this image to the reader, Mizuki illustrates Kimimoto’s eyeball hanging from the socket (183). In this section, Mizuki also depicts the character Corporal Yoshida as he lay dying, bleeding from various wounds to the head (186). Takahata, on the other hand, reserved his gore for one shocking scene. Following the initial air raid that sparks the film’s motion, Takahata depicts Seita and Setsuko’s mother in bloody bandages, presumably dead (Grave of the Fireflies). The audience and her son are exposed to the sight simultaneously, an effective way to bring Seita’s emotions to the forefront of the viewer’s thoughts.  Although it is merely a caricature, it is still disturbing to some readers. By creating images of mangled humans or dead bodies, both creators provoke feelings of shock, disgust, fear, and sympathy in their audience members while manipulating the common uses of their artforms known for light-hearted stories involving magic and resolution. 

East Asian works Grave of the Firefliesand Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths depict the Second World War without only focusing on the physical or material destruction war produces. These works depict the effects warfare has on civilians and humanity as a collective. Both pieces present historically based accounts with fictional modifications that amplify the audience’s emotional reaction to the events that unfolded during the Second World War without focusing on the material destruction inflicted. The contents within each distinct piece catalyze the understanding of wartime pain and emotional turmoil for contemporary individuals. 




Works Cited

Grave of the Fireflies. Directed by Isao Takahata, Studio Ghibli, 1988. 

Stahl, David. “Victimization and “Response-ability”: Remembering, Representing, and 

Working Through Trauma in Grave of the Fireflies.” Imag(in)ing the War in Japan: 

Representing and Responding to Trauma in Postwar Literature and Film, edited by  David Stahl and Mark Williams, BRILL, 2010, 161-201. ProQuest Ebook Central,  https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/daltonstate/detail.action?docID=583768.

Mizuki, Shigeru. Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths. Translated by Jocelyne Allen, Drawn 

& Quarterly, Montreal, 2011. 

Olukontun, Deji Bryce. “The Showa Masterwork of Manga Pioneer Shigeru Mizuki.” World 

Literature Today, vol.89, no.3-4, 2015, EBSCOhost, DOI: 


Soble, Jonathan. "Shigeru Mizuki, 93, Japanese Cartoonist Known for Kitaro and War 

Stories." New York Times, 4 Dec. 2015, p. B10(L). Gale In Context: Opposing  Viewpoints,https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A436410272/OVIC?u=dalt32105&sid=OV IC&xid=745afb4b. Accessed 23 Oct. 2020. 

Swale, Alistair. “Memory and Forgetting: Examining the Treatment of Traumatic Historical  Memory in Grave of the Fireflies and The Wind Rises.” Japan Forum, vol. 29, no. 4,  Dec. 2017, EBSCOhost, DOI:10.1080/09555803.2017.1321570. 

Vreeland, Susan. “Dip Into the Riches of Historical Fiction: A Bestselling Author Offers an  Engaging Overview of the Genre and a Step-by-Step Approach to Getting Started.”  Writer (Kalmbach Publication Co.), vol. 124, no. 12, Dec. 2011, pp. 37-38.  EBSCOhost,search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,shib&db=fth


Critical Race Theory and Feminism in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn 

by Rochelle Holloway

Runner-up for Best Upper Division Paper

 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was published in 1884 and is the sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. This heartwarming story is the unlikely friendship between an abused teenager and a runaway slave. It is an adventure story about friendship and freedom. Huckleberry Finn wants to break free from the constraints of being “sivilized [sic]” (Twain 1), and Jim is fleeing from actual chains of slavery. This novel was banned almost immediately after it was published, and a thorough scrutinization from the perspective of critical race theory reveals a few of the reasons it was regarded as controversial. Furthermore, for years, feminism theory has been a source of content in this novel.

The author, Mark Twain, was notorious for having sympathy with black people and for his discontent with slavery. An article about Twain’s life summarizes tha,t as a young man, he witnessed a slaveowner throw a rock at his slave so hard that it killed him.  This upset Twain greatly, and he felt compelled to write about how slaves were treated and show a more realistic portrayal of African American people, instead of the stereotypes that were so often used (Lombardi).  During the time of slavery and segregation, people of color were not written about in a positive light. However, in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the secondary character is an African American man named Jim. Jim is a very well-developed character. Readers have a sense of who he is as a person, and their hearts break for him all at the same time.  He is proven to be intelligent and more of an adult than any other adult in the book.  Jim shows compassion and genuine love to Huck. In Chapter 9, the two of them find a dead body:  “It’s a dead man. Yes, indeedy; naked, too. He’s ben shot in de back. I reck’n he’s ben dead two er three days. Come in, Huck, but doan’ look at his face – it’s too gashly” (Twain 38).  Jim sees immediately that the corpse is Huck’s father. He tells him not to look at the face because it is too horrific. However, at the end of the book, Huck realizes that he must go back to St. Petersburg, and he is afraid to be around his father again. Jim says, he “aint’ a-comin’ back no mo’, Huck” (Twain 328). When Huck persists and says that he will, Jim says, “Doan’ you ‘member de house dat was flot’n down de river en dey wuz a man in dah, kivered up, en I went in en unkivered him en didn’ let you come in, kase dat wuz him” (Twain 220). It is then that Jim tells Huck that the body that they found previously was in fact Huck’s father. Jim says this so Huck will stop worrying about going back and if his money was still there.

The language that is used in the book is extremely important to the story that the author is wanting to tell. During the late 1800’s, African American people were not generally given a voice, let alone the opportunity to use their own words, in written novels or stories.  Twain uses the language that Jim would have used during this time period. At that time, African American people were thought of as unintelligent and really of no use other than to be slaves. However, Jim is shown to be compassionate, loving, trusting and a loyal friend.  In the book, How to Interpret Literature, Robert Parker writes about “the dehumanizing pain of racial labeling and generalizing, where African American men described how it felt when people reduced them to nothing more than a derogatory slur or a racial label” (Parker 303). Yes, there are many times that the “n-word” is used. Over 200 times.  Lombardi maintains that Twain wanted the book to be as authentic as possible and depict the culture and the verbiage of the time period (Lombardi). This book brought light to how slaves were treated and the effects that slavery had on people. Robert Dale Parker says, “White people push back against the concept of white privilege because they recall the hardships that they have suffered and think that therefore they have no advantages. But the concept of white privilege does not mean that white people never face hardship. It means that such hardships as they may face do not come from other people’s responses to their whiteness” (Parker 335). This excerpt is especially important when looking at The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and the role of Jim. Jim would not have had to go through all the horrible and degrading events in his life if it weren’t for the color of the skin.  This century-old story is more relevant now about how people should treat each other. Jim treats everyone with kindness. He is open-hearted and sensitive to the feelings of others. The rough language and the racial slurs of this book are what caused it to be banned, almost immediately after publication. However, the author did not intend for it to come across as racist or derogatory in any way towards African-American people. His intention was to shine a light on racism.

This book has been dragged through the mud in terms of how it relates to minorities, including women. Many critics say that the role of women in this book is minute and has been a hot topic for many college students and scholars.  While The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is mainly about two male characters and their adventure, females do play an integral part in the story. Feminism at its core, is simply a term that supports women’s rights. As Parker indicates, “At its most fundamental level, feminism is a simple concept.  It is about taking women seriously and respectfully.” (Parker 152) Mark Twain was notorious for his admiration of women. Most of the women in the novel are depicted better than the men. There are several minor female characters throughout the book. Mrs. Loftus, Aunt Polly and Aunt Sally are the main three female characters.

Towards the beginning of the book (Chapter XI), Huck dresses as a girl and goes into town. He does this to see if the townspeople are still looking for him and for Jim. Mrs. Loftus is the first woman he meets.  She is written as witty and intelligent. She says to him, “You do a girl tolerable poor, but you might fool men, maybe” (Twain 46) She gives him a few pointers about how to thread a needle how to sit properly. She never once degrades him or tries to embarrass him. She is sweet towards him and possibly feels sorry for him. However, she is bright and cunning. Huck eventually decides that he cannot follow all the rules of being a girl and decides to just be himself. For the three women, second-wave feminism is the theme, more specifically, difference feminism and cultural feminism.  Parker writes, “Second-wave feminism can sometimes be under such rubrics as cultural feminism, which claimed a women’s culture that was kinder, gentler and more peaceful than the dominant culture” (Parker 153).

The next two women are Aunt Polly and Aunt Sally. The two women are sisters. They are both the aunts of Tom Sawyer.  Aunt Polly is Tom’s legal guardian. The readers were introduced to her in the previous novel. Towards the end of the book, Jim has been captured and sold for forty dollars to the Phelps farm. The Phelps farm is managed by Silas Phelps, who is married to Sally.  Huck finds out Jim’s location, and he sets out to the Phelps farm. As he is walking up to the farm, one of the servants starts to run out after him with a rolling pin. Just then, Sally Phelps comes out and says to Huck, (thinking he’s really Tom) “It’s you, at last! – Aint’ it?” (Twain 166). The whole family is very happy to see him, and Huck Finn is confused as to who they think he is. It isn’t until Sally decides to play a joke on her husband Silas that Huck finally figures out that the Phelps family thinks that he is Tom Sawyer. The next day, Huck tells the Phelps family that he must go into town, because that is where his luggage is. While in town, Huck finds the real Tom Sawyer. Tom is happy to see Huck because he thought that Huck had been murdered, but Huck explains how he faked his own death and that Jim was with him and now Jim has been sold to the Phelps. At this point, the real Tom Sawyer decides that he is going to say that he is his own brother, Sid, and help Huck get Jim back. So, they come up with an elaborate plan to help Jim escape.  While Huck and Tom are trying to free Jim, Tom is shot in the leg.  Jim makes a selfless decision to stay with Tom instead of running towards his freedom as the plan had originally been.  As the doctor comes to tend to Tom, he tells the townspeople that Jim never tried to run away or even lift an oar. Huck says, “I was mighty thankful to that old doctor for doing Jim that good turn; and I was glad it was according to my judgement of him, too; because I thought he had a good heart in him and he was a good man, the first time I see him” (Twain 215). This shows the compassion and the friendship that Huck and Jim have for each other. Huck considers Jim his friend. However, the happy time stops there. The townspeople lock Jim in heavy chains and put him back in the cabin with only bread and water.

Tom at this point, is very upset about the condition that Jim is in. Tom is furious when he hears about Jim being locked up again. He says, “They hain’t no right to shut him up! Shove!0 and don’t you lose a minute. Turn him loose! He ain’t no slave; he’s as free as any creetur that walks this earth!” (Twain 217). Aunt Sally doesn’t believe Tom and he continues, “I mean every word I say, Aunt Sally, and if somebody don’t go, I’ll go. I’ve knowed him all his life.  Miss Watson died two months ago and she was ashamed she was ever going to sell him down the river, and said so; and she set him free in his will” (Twain 217). Then, Aunt Sally says, “Then what on earth did you want to set him free for, seeing he was already free?” “Well, that is a question, I must say; and just like women! I wanted the adventure of it!” (Twain 217-218). Just then, Polly comes in. When Tom says, “just” like women” to Aunt Sally, it is another form of second-wave feminism, specifically difference feminism. He is capitalizing on her superiority and attempting to make her sound condescending towards him. Tom is frustrated with her because she isn’t listening to what he is saying, and then she asks him why he did something if he already knew the truth.

Tom and Huck both know that their scam has been brought to light when they see Aunt Polly standing at the door just then. “If she wasn’t standing there, just inside the door, looking as sweet and contented as an angel half-full of pie, I wish I may never!” (Twain 218). The two sisters hug, and Huck hides under the bed for fear of what will happen to him when Aunt Sally sees him. Well, Aunt Polly said that when Aunt Sally wrote to her that Tom and Sid had come, she says to herself: “Look at that, now! I might have expected it, letting him go off that way without anybody to watch him. So now I got to go and trapse all the way down the river, eleven hundred mile, and find out what that creetur’s up to, this time; as long as I couldn’t seem to get any answer out of you about it” (Twain 219). “Why, I never heard nothing from you, “ says Aunt Sally. “Well, I wonder! Why, I wrote to you twice, to ask you what you could mean by Sid being here.” “Well, I never got ‘em Sis”(Twain 219). Aunt Polly then turns around and looks at Tom and knows that he didn’t give her the letters. But, then, she says, “No, it come yesterday. I hain’t read it yet, but it’s all right, I’ve got that one” (Twain 219). Aunt Polly is showing her maternal side to Tom and not wanting him to get into too much trouble.

This correspondence is important to the feministic theory. In How to Interpret Literature, Parker speaks about the Bechdel test. “Alison Bechdel proposes the following three criteria for judging a film worth watching, or a book worth reading. One, the book/film must have two women. Two, the women must talk to each other. Lastly, the women must talk about something other than a man” (Parker 157). Therefore, the interaction between the two sisters indeed passes the Bechdel test. They not only wrote letters to each other, but they also have an in-person conversation with each other.

Aunt Polly hears Tom pleading with Sally about Jim when she comes into the house. She confirms that Tom is, indeed, correct. She goes on to say that old Miss Watson did set Jim free in her will. Tom has taken all that trouble and bother to free a free man. Aunt Polly is the hero of the story because she proves that Tom is telling the truth, and everyone immediately runs and unchains Jim. When Uncle Silas and Aunt Sally find out the truth about how Jim helped the doctor, they make a “heap of fuss over him, and fixed him up prime, and give him all he wanted to eat, and a good time, and nothing to do” (Twain 220). Aunt Polly is the sole reason that Jim is freed. She proves herself to be a fine aunt, woman and a reliable source of information.

The women in book are kind to Huckleberry Finn. They give him excellent advice and provide motherly figures as well. The women are written to be intelligent and well-spoken for the time period. During this time, women were viewed as inferior to men. Women were not commonly given their own voice. These qualities all depict second-wave feminism and the kinder, gentler notion of women. It also represents difference feminism which according to Parker, “was less interested in equal rights than in establishing women’s difference and superiority. Second-wave feminism often focused on a sense of sisterhood and shared identity among all women” (Parker 153). Polly and Sally are actual sisters and thus the sense of solidarity is shown. However, there is a shared identity among the women and how they treat Huck. The women also treat Jim kindly at the end as well.  Jim is finally treated the way that he should have been all along.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a wonderful book that highlights the positive characteristics of otherwise misrepresented minorities. The author, Mark Twain, exposes hypocrisy in the social classes and the racial injustices of that time period. Twain also gives a voice to the people that normally would not be allowed to speak. “For most of Twain's life, he railed against enslavement in letters, essays, and novels as an evil manifestation of man's inhumanity to man. He eventually became a crusader against the thinking that sought to justify it” (Lombardi).


Works Cited

Lombardi, Esther. "Mark Twain's Views on Enslavement." ThoughtCo. 26 Aug 2020. https://thoughtco.com/mark-twain-write-about-slavery-740681. Accessed 25 Feb      2021.

Parker, Robert. How to Interpret Literature. Fourth Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019.

Twain, Mark. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Dover Thrift Editions. Mineola, New York:
            Dover Publications, Inc, 1994.


Structuralism & New Criticism for Emily

by Alexis Eaves


While personages may mistake codes for only mathematical and scientific purposes, the most desirable works of literature follow a set of theories that serve the reader. Author William Faulkner wrote, "WHEN Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house, which no one save an old man-servant-a combined gardener and cook – had seen in at least ten years" (1). These words inform the reader of the story-line ahead surrounding "A Rose for Emily." Every story has a list of ingredients which are essential to the telling, and "[t]he first sentence places the novel into a set of cultural codes" (Parker 69). William Faulkner's tale of Emily Grierson exemplifies how structuralism and new criticism enhance the reader’s journey.

In a neighborhood that was once occupied by the august names, the viewers acknowledge a woman named Emily through the townsfolk's perspective. Within this anecdote, the audience is introduced to structuralism, which understands concepts through their relation to other concepts. Emily was once a symbol of status; however, her status soon diminished when her father passed. The public paints Emily as an outcast who believes she's more significant than everyone else. The narratology provides insight into the individual narrative, which identifies as a telling. The telling explains a sequence of events in the order they are told, not necessarily chronological, thus leaving gaps within the timeline.

Upon further explanation, narration has four frequently discussed categories that help magnify Faulkner's telling: embedding, reliability, focalization, and disclosure. Embedding, also known as nesting, is referred to as stories within a story. While Faulkner assembles Emily's tale, there are steppingstones buried within from other characters along the way. For instance, the argument among Judge Steven and the town lady as well as the older people's gossip about 'poor Emily' are mini stories within to guide the tale along.

On another note, reliability allows the audience to associate with the character and feel an emotional response. As mentioned, Emily is illustrated as an outcast. Anyone who has ever been isolated can relate to that feeling of loneliness as well as the gossip that may follow. Also, falling in love is a common theme. In this scenario, Emily falls in love with Homer who does not return her feelings. Many can relate when the desired person doesn't share the same sentiment. Focalization often refers to the point of view. Who or what is being focalized? In this case, the spotlight falls on Emily Grierson. Meanwhile, discourse is the style of narration. "A Rose for Emily" shares a free indirect discourse due to its mysterious ambiance. There is no straightforward answer; the audience is kept wondering until the very end. Most free indirect discourse is told in the third person, which Emily's tale is narrated. In short, Faulkner structures Emily's story through the telling of the townsfolk while using the four narration such as embedding, reliability, focalization, and free indirect discourse.

While the first sentence of the narrative introduces the aesthetic codes, the remainder of the piece refines the literature through structuralism as well as new criticism. "Close reading, evidence from the text, pay attention to the text itself, pay attention to the words on the page, unpack the words" (Parker 11); all these phrases play a role in new criticism. Literature is full of crafty terms that evolve collectively to make readers think about the author's work of fiction. When interpreting a systematic approach, there are four critical overlapping concepts: paradox, ambiguity, tension, and irony.

At the beginning of Emily's tale, Faulkner utilizes irony to introduce Emily's persona. In this case, irony is a rhetorical device in which the situation appears to be expected yet differs from what it truly is. Emily is presented as a woman who accepts no charity. However, Major Colonel Sartoris, a friend to her deceased father, invented a tale that her father had loaned money to the town. Meanwhile, to pay it forward, Emily would not have to pay taxes. The author portrays Emily as this high-end woman who can fend for herself, but yet she accepts charity. Whether she takes it knowingly or not, the mystery remains. The Board of Aldermen came years later to address the scandal, but Emily persisted, "I have no taxes in Jefferson" (Faulkner 1). Ironically, her charity died with Colonel Sartoris.

In part two, the author proceeds with the concept of ambiguity- the quality of being open to more than one interpretation. Out of the five senses, one could argue smell is the most durable. "So SHE vanquished them, horse and foot, just as she had vanquished their fathers thirty years before about the smell" (Faulkner 2). The townsfolk provided multiple explanations for the smell that developed around Emily's house. Perhaps, the servant couldn't cook properly, or the servant killed a varmint and failed to dispose of it. Readers can develop theories too; however, referring to the free indirect discourse, they'll never know for sure, especially as to why precisely, after a week or two, the smell suddenly went away. Did the lime that the men sprinkled among the house help, or did Emily do something? In the same sense, one could dispute the smell is a cry for help concerning the victim locked away inside. Of course, the smell could be a comforting feeling for dear Emily to know her loved one is there to stay.

As the story-line progresses, the tension swells. From the night she sat in the window watching the men sprinkle the lime to buying rat poison, the tension continues to build, evoking the reader's emotion. The audience gets lured into Emily's narrative, much like the townsfolk. "Poor Emily" (Faulkner 3). These two words, spoken by the townspeople, hold a cluster of meaning. The people of the town use these words to describe Emily after her affiliation with Homer Barron, who identifies as homosexual. It's ambiguous because they pity 'poor Emily.' While she has status and money, she falters in securing a love of her own. It's ironic because Emily is from a high-class family, which is why it can also be classified under a paradox, for the statement contradicts itself. A paradox is an absurd proposition that, when investigated, may be proven correct. The end of the story promotes multiple contradictions when describing a decomposed Homer. For instance, "profound and fleshless grin," "now the long sleep that outlasts love," and "even the grimace of love, had cuckolded him" (Faulkner 6) all sound like disturbing visuals when love is meant to have the opposite effect. However, poor Emily pulled the short straw. Instead of experiencing love, she underwent this hope of being loved. The outcome- not likely, much like Homer ever leaving Emily’s house again. It is through paradox, irony, ambiguity, and tension that new criticism complements the telling.

In conclusion, structuralism and new criticism are key ingredients in enhancing the reader's experience, as demonstrated in "A Rose for Emily." The audience learns about Emily through the townspeople’s perspectives. Embedding, reliability, focalization, and free indirect disclosure are the sugar in the cake that the audience wouldn’t notice until they’re in mid bite. In the second bite, the viewers become aware of the irony, ambiguity, tension, and paradox that balance the literature much like icing on a cake. It is the ingredients in the theories that allow readers to reflect on the details that inspire a great story.


Works Cited

Faulkner, William, and M T. Inge. A Rose for Emily. Columbus, Ohio: Merrill, 1970.

Parker, Robert D. How to Interpret Literature: Critical Theory for Literary and Cultural Studies.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2020.

Alienation and Personification: Bradbury’s 'There Will Come Soft Rains'

by Kylie McGee

“There Will Come Soft Rains” by Ray Bradbury relies upon personification as it is utilized to demonstrate two distinct themes within the story. These themes include the ever-present theme of alienation as well as a particularly peculiar twist on the theme of the American dream and nightmare. 

Bradbury seems to consistently allude to the fact that the house is the only remaining semblance of life after an atomic bomb destroyed everything in its wake. The house goes on about the regular schedule of events as if nothing has happened. It continues to perform as if it is not completely and utterly alone on earth. This is the start of the feeling of alienation for the reader as the house alone remains after the family has obviously perished. Throughout the short story, Bradbury is continually using personification to make the house seem as if it is truly alive, which only makes the feeling of alienation that much more vivid for the reader. There was a reference to the sink in relation to the cleanup of the untouched breakfast where the reader is led to see human characteristics where they ought not exist. This quote states,

“an aluminum wedge scraped them into the sink, where hot water whirled them down a metal throat which digested and flushed them away” (Bradbury). This quote leads the reader to not only see the house performing a sad and lonely task of clearing an untouched meal, but, simultaneously, encourages the idea that it is like a person that has a throat and can digest. At times, the reader can see its lack of purpose now that it has no people to serve. However, the residence itself seems oblivious to this fact, and continues about its schedule of duties as if nothing has changed which further illuminates the alienation of the house.  

 The author guides us through the day-to-day life, which starts with the clock letting everyone know it’s time to get up while the breakfast making begins. There is no reply to the clocks’ alarm, and the breakfast goes untouched, only to be trashed later. This lonely morning routine further emphasizes the feeling of the empty world. Bradbury may have been trying to show how the very technology that was built by humans could ultimately outlive humanity one day. He also shows a bit of a twist on the theme of alienation by using an inanimate object to project the feelings of alienation and loneliness to the reader. However, he implements personification in order to give the house more human-like characteristics, so the reader has a way to better relate to the otherwise cold and emotionless home.  When Bradbury wrote, “The house stood alone in a city of rubble and ashes” (Bradbury), it served to provide the reader with a sense of loneliness which can also be seen throughout the story. 

The author is also quite adept at painting the picture of the American dream with his depiction of a very technologically advanced house that would appear to be a dream home for most people today, given how it would undoubtedly make life easier. This is a home that would take on the menial daily chores as well as prepare and clean up after dinner, which would certainly free up a great deal of time for families to spend more leisure time together. This is probably why the family belonging to this home was caught outside together during the moment the bomb went off. On the other hand, the house seems to be the grand orchestrator of these people's daily lives during every waking moment. This has the possibility of becoming something concerning if the people ever were made aware that they had lost a great deal of control over their own lives.

It is interesting how Bradbury continues to push the idea that the home is very humanlike, even though it clearly still lacks the capability for feelings and emotions. The author delves deeper into this as he mentions each individual component of the structure as if it is an integral living part of the whole being that makes up the house. This is clear to the reader in the way the author wrote, “Eight-one, tick-tock, eight-one o’clock, off to school, off to work, run, run, eightone" (Bradbury), as if the clock is acting as a mother would do with ushering her children and husband out the door to keep them from being late. This knowledge of the daily schedule – coupled with other intimate information the house seems to know about the family’s preferences for food, poetry and music – could give one the feeling of technology knowing too much and having too much control over humans' lives. Some people may feel a house that can predict what one needs and wants would be an incredible blessing, but not all would agree. Many people worry about technology becoming too aware.  Therefore, the house could be viewed as something that poses a threat. This is especially so, given the fact that it survived when humans could not. The house, although many times likened to humans’ characteristics, shows no emotional loss of the family. The fact that the house is not capable of feeling any emotional connection to its people may seem somewhat cold and unfeeling to the reader. This appears to merely deepen the pit of isolation created by Bradbury. 

 Ultimately, this short story leads one to wonder if society, in general, realizes the true cost of the American dream.  Has smart technology been allowed to rule people’s lives in pursuit of the American dream of having the world at one’s fingertips? Has technology gone too far by causing people to feel more isolated and alone, much like a house that can function normally even when the world has literally crumbled around it? The house  continued to exist without people. Do people need other people like they once did now that they can live in a dream world where real interaction and connection is quickly becoming a thing of the past?  At first, advancing technology was a dream, much like it was for this family, no doubt. However, what many may fear about technology ruling the world has already become somewhat of a reality in so many ways. Where is the line drawn when it comes to the people having control? It is evident the dream is rapidly changing, as it did in Bradbury’s story when the bomb detonated. At some point, it becomes a scary and unpleasant state of mind, a kind of nightmare that one cannot awaken from unscathed. And, once awake, will there be anyone there to provide any real emotional comfort? Or, like the house, will people be forced to ultimately await the soft rains alone? 



Work Cited

Bradbury, R., Auden, W. H., & Blume, C. (2012). There will come soft rains. Braunschweig:




Critical Memo Regarding the Effectiveness of No-Excuse Charter Schools

by Jonathan Fleming

            For quite some time, there has been a debate about how to close the racial educational gap between white and black students. This gap is a lingering scar created by the racially divisive laws enacted before the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Many would argue that the gap is held in place by racially motivated rules and policies still today. This gap is further held in place by directly tying school funding to local property taxes, an approach that ensures that schools within impoverished communities remain underfunded. These national and local policies have a negative effect on the achievement of students attending public schools in urban and disadvantaged communities. While there have been many solutions proposed to narrow this gap, one of the most controversial, though arguably most significant, policies is the No-Excuse perspective used in many charter schools.

            The No-Excuse perspective stems from the viewpoints expressed in a 2003 book by Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom called No excuses: Closing the racial gap in learning. This perspective seeks to reduce the educational gap between urban, impoverished, and mostly black communities and their suburban, wealthy, and mostly white counterparts. Many charter schools within these rural communities have adopted the No-Excuse model to improve the quality of education.

            No-Excuse charter schools focus predominately on raising the math and literacy of their students. They are often characterized as having stringent behavioral codes and high academic expectations for their students. Charter schools that operate under this perspective focus on college preparation and, in this way, create a college-going culture that places college attendance as a priority over other career possibilities.

            The efficacy and ethicality of the No-Excuse perspective is hotly debated. While some see the increase in literacy and math levels, as well as the increase in college attendance as evidence that the perspective as a whole has a positive impact, others argue that the punitive nature and rigorous and inflexible expectations can harm the psychological wellbeing of the students served by No-Excuse charter schools.

             A meta-analysis of No-Excuse charter schools conducted by the University of Arkansas outlined several positive effects that these charter schools had on narrowing the educational gap between white and black students. The study found that No-Excuse charter schools positively impacted student achievement in both math and literacy levels. No-Excuse charter school students’ achievement was 0.25 standard deviations higher in math and 0.15 standard deviations higher on literature than traditional public-school students (Cheng et al.). The study further concluded that “A straightforward extrapolation of these results suggests that attending a No Excuses charter school for four to five years could eliminate the achievement gap” (Cheng et al.). These findings offer a compelling argument about the efficacy of the No-Excuse perspective in closing the educational gap between white and black students.

            Opponents of the No-Excuse perspective believe that utilizing such a perspective will cause lasting psychological harm in the students being educated. They think that the punitive nature of the philosophy, along with its unwavering expectations, will place excessive stress upon the students, which will cause them to develop low self-esteem. They further argue that the expectation to attend a college or university does not allow the students to pursue different career paths that would not require post-secondary education.

            Given how effective the No-Excuse perspective is in narrowing the educational gap for black and impoverished students, such a system has its place in the American education system. Such a perspective’s rigorous expectations can have a lasting impact on the mental health of the students. Therefore, any school district leader that is considering adopting the No-Excuse perspective should firstly take their student’s needs and demographics into account. They must ascertain whether their students are victims of the racial/economic educational gap and if other alternatives would not be sufficient. If it is believed that the No-Excuse perspective would be most beneficial for the students and necessary to reduce the educational gap they are experiencing, then a robust mental health awareness and assistance policy should be adopted and integrated within that school system at the same time to offset any psychological harm that the perspective may cause.

            The legacy of harmful, racially motivated policies in our past has left lasting, diverse challenges that our educational system still faces to this day. And overcoming those challenges will be difficult and complicated. Any solution that will be presented will also present new challenges as it seeks to solve existing ones. Given how necessary it is to address the racial educational gap in this nation, the No-Excuse perspective, with its triumphs and failings, is a potential solution to this problem that we have faced for generations. But this perspective cannot stand alone, and its negative consequences must be addressed in its implementation through sound and intentional mental health education and assistance.


Works Cited

Cheng, A., Hitt, C., Kisida, B. (2015) No Excuses Charter Schools: A Meta-Analysis of the Experimental Evidence of Student Achievement. Fayetteville, Arkansas: University of Arkansas.