Wednesday, October 25, 2006

“Two Scavengers in a Truck, Two Beautiful People in a Mercedes” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

After reading “Two Scavengers in a Truck, Two Beautiful People in a Mercedes” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, students were asked to prepare an informal talk on “Contrasts in Buenos Aires”. The talk was later changed into a short essay.

Photo by: Harry Redl (American, b. 1926) Lawrence Ferlinghetti in front of City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco, 1957 (Harry Redl)

Social commitment is necessary by Santiago R. (FCE level)

In my opinion the social contrast is the most important of all in a city like Buenos Aires. This kind of contrast appears everywhere you go so it is impossible not to realize it is there. But since we are getting used to seeing poverty all the time we will eventually stop paying attention to it. Nowadays our attention is more drawn to superficial things such as publicity instead of worrying about a person’s background and his possibilities of surviving in our competitive society. I believe we should fight this and to realize something is wrong is the first step. Someone recently told me that the situation was not like this in the past. There were problems as usual but there were not so many people living in the streets, begging for money and dying from hunger. What I mean is that if we convince ourselves that this social environment is acceptable we will never be able to change it.
In conclusion, denying what’s happening is not going to make the problem go away. A phony connection towards poverty with excessive sensibility that doesn’t continue in further actions won’t help either. Politicians ought to become aware of the problem in order to provide a solution so it’s our job to claim for better solutions when we consider something isn’t right.

Contrasts in Buenos Aires by Catalina R.
(FCE level)

There was the Universal Church of Jesus. Where people go for comfort, for understanding, for forgiveness. Sad, desperate people. Answering to a T.V. commercial in which a man with a Portuguese accent talks about the end off suffering. He said that they would give you a rose. Your suffering would be miraculously stopped.A woman came out the church’s doors. She was fully dressed in black, holding the promised rose in her right, aged hand. She wore a crucifix around her neck. Maybe she was mourning, she looked like she was.Leaning on the church wall was a couple, making out. They were passionate. The girl wore a mini skirt; she had her body covered with tattoos and piercing. Their bodies entwined. The boy was punk, his hair was green, he had an antireligious t-shirt on. He wore it there, right next to the church. It didn’t seem to worry him.The woman noticed them and froze; she gave them a look that showed her contempt and indignation. The couple realized her presence and laughed.She kept on walking, they kept on kissing.

Contrasts in Buenos Aires by "The Very Perfect Guy"

Contrasts are part of the essence of Buenos Aires. It is a city that, having been product of many different cultural influences along history, hosts people from all around the world, buildings of all sizes and styles, varied landscapes and more. Perhaps, one of the most notorious contrasts is the one between different social classes that coexist in the city, and this does not only refer to rich and poor people, but more complex and specific social groups.One element in which this is shown very clearly is in the eating habits and the places people choose to go to eat. On one side, we have reasonably wealthy people who consider going to eat as something recreative, who are offered a huge variety of restaurants and bars to go, located in particular areas in the city we could call fashion gastronomical centers. From typical Argentinean food to international dishes, people can choose where and when they want to eat, and take that as an opportunity to have fun with others like them.On the other hand, more humble people frequent other places; they don’t go to eat and have fun, but go to cheaper restaurants every day between working shifts as part of their everyday schedule. Therefore, they don’t have the variety of options rich people are used to in fancy places.These differences do not only show what different groups of people do or choose when they go out to eat, but, of course, are a mark of one kind of distinction between different social classes living in the same place, marks of which we could find a lot in Buenos Aires.

Contrasts in Buenos Aires. Corrientes Street by Victoria A. (FCE level)

I have chosen a clearly visual contrast in Buenos Aires. It is the one you can find on Corrientes Street. The great majority of the buildings there are antique ones, old buildings that are charged with lots of years and history.Also the many theaters you can find there have years of tradition, just as the bookstores of the area; even the books available on those stores are second-hand, so they also contain history and the marks of previous owners.Right beside this, you can see the great opposite of this. Gigantic advertisements of all kinds of products, which cover these buildings and this history they all contain. Technology and modernism, big and full of light advertisements seem to steal the attention from the history and lives of the buildings and those who live in them.In addition, in the traditional theatres you can hardly ever find traditional or classic plays, or even good and intelligent ones, the ones that are usually played are modern and empty ones.It really gives one the feeling that fashion and market in Corrientes Street are given more importance than the history and years of tradition that same street contains. These last things seem even ignored.

The texts published here have been written by secondary school students from "Colegio Paideia" (Buenos Aires, Argentina). They have been uploaded without the teacher's corrections.

Monday, October 23, 2006

"Sunflower Sutra" by Allen Ginsberg

We've read and listened to Sunflower Sutra by Allen Ginsberg.

The poem was conceived while the writer and Kerouac were sitting by a San Francisco canal full of litter and Ginsberg discovered a dead, grime-covered sunflower.
In an answer* to a previous letter written to him by his friend Stella Sampas, Kerouac paraphrases Ginsberg’s poem to comfort Stella; “the grime isnt ours, the grime is man-made”.

Students imagined and wrote Stella’s letter.

*Kerouac: Selected Letters (1940-1956) edited by Ann Charters; Viking, Penguin Books, 1995; page 528

Stella's letter by Santiago R.

Dear Jack,
You are my last hope. I have never felt like this before in my life. The smile that my face once wore is now gone forever. Everything has changed. My kindness is slowly turning into bitterness and hostility towards people. I have lost the capacity to forgive and be forgiven. Life is all around me and yet I can not see it. I feel exhausted. My body is bruised. I can not find peace even when I sleep. Night after nigh I keep having the most horrible dreams. A black shadow haunts me and chases me until I fall into a deep well. I never hit bottom. I just continue falling. Then I wake up and everything seems to be covered by a painful mantle. I can not go on. My heart won’t resist another night. However, I don’t think anybody would mourn after me. Not for what I have become. Death is after me and I am not afraid anymore. That’s why I need your help Jack. You are the only one who can save me. Help me to get up again. I need to feel alive again or else… everything will be over for me. I believe there’s still chance. Come and help me Jack. But O Jack, hurry! Hurry before it’s too late!
I am looking forward to seeing you.


Stella's letter by Victoria A.

Dear Jack,
I’m so glad to receive news from you, and hearing that you are doing so well; I would love to say the same thing about me, and write to you a letter full of joy and positive ness, but I must admit that I can’t. I feel hopeless, everything around is surely beautiful, people are great, everyday I can only get out of bed because of them; but I feel so sorry for them, all that beauty they have, and all that bright they hold in their souls is covered by the shadow of this world; wars everywhere, evil everywhere, money all around us, and controlling all we do, and shutting us down…and we do nothing about it! I can’t believe I’m doing nothing about it, I feel horrible whit myself, I stand still watching life go by, and though I’m completely aware of all the injustice that is upon every single one of us, I do nothing. It disheartens me so to think about this reality, that I end up shutting my eyes and walking through life accepting things as they are, as if it were inevitable, and as it nothing could be done to accomplish a positive change. And that’s not true, everyone can do something to change this world, is this stillness we are all victims of, that lets injustice continue to be in our lives.
I’m so sorry I’ve made you listen this, my grieves…It’s just that I can’t think of anything else.
I hope we can get together soon, I can’t wait to see you, and maybe we can talk about this face to face.

The texts published here have been written by secondary school students from "Colegio Paideia" (Buenos Aires, Argentina). They have been uploaded without the teacher's corrections.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

VICTORIA A.,On Faulkner's 'The Sound and the Fury'

Essay on The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner

Throughout the whole novel, in the speech of all the narrators (Benjy, Jason, Quentin and the last one supposed to be Dilsey) the focus of the retelling is located on Caddy.
Each brother has a different view about Caddy and most of all about her sexuality. Caddy is the one that, while living in the family house, takes most care of Benjy, and whose absence - caused by her sleeping with a man and having to get married - fills his adult life with a sense of loss. In the present (1928), time when Caddy no longer lives with them, Benjy is constantly remembered about her and the time they spent together, these memories are waken up by smells and words like “golf caddie” that make him think about his sister. Benjy relates with his reality, which has no sense of time, and presents its better times in the past, through sensibility. The memories that Benjy recalls the most are his grandmother’s funeral and Caddy's wedding, both related to the lost of tradition. The first one, because of Damuddy being the oldest member of the family, and the second one because of being caused by Caddy’s lost of virginity and pregnancy before marriage.
To Quentin, Caddy's sexuality goes against every principle and habit that represent the southern family tradition and honor. Quentin prefers telling his father Caddy and him had committed incest, than confessing she has lost her virginity with a man. Although, this does not talk about a real desire of sleeping with his sister; he really wants to turn the situation into a much more horrible thing as incest, to make the real happening no as terrible, so as not to be so harmed about Caddy having slept with another man.
Both this first characters are deeply concerned about their sister’s sexuality, and this is shown in the episode narrated by Benjy when Caddy wets and moods her dress in the water of the branch, and then takes off her dress; this makes Quentin mad and slap her. This angry and embarrassed reaction to taking off her dress here reveals the jealous protectiveness he feels for her sexuality. Benjy, too, is traumatized by the muddying of Caddy's dress: "Caddy was all wet and muddy behind, and I started to cry and she came and squatted in the water", just as he is going to be traumatized later on when Caddy looses her virginity and leaves. And these to happenings are both signs of sexuality and rupture of tradition.
Jason hates Caddy, she should have gotten him a job, but getting pregnant and having to get married and leave the family house ruined Jason’s plans. Jason doesn’t talk much about Caddy, for her name is refused to be mention for having betrayed family tradition. Many years have passed since Caddy left and lost him his job opportunity, and yet he remains as angry with her as he ever was. The obsession Jason has with Caddy is more related to money than to sexuality as it is present in the other brothers, but Caddy’s daughter, who has inherited her personality and role in the family, is the character that most obsesses Jason, and her role in Jason’s speech is the one related with sexuality and the lost of tradition. He is in charge of her, and she is the one that runs away with a man, and Jason is always accusing of being a bitch.
On the whole, it can be said that the novel revolves around the absent center of Caddy and her story, all of the brothers, Benjy, Quentin and Jason, have the figure of their sister constantly present, and haunting them. Memories and thoughts about her are constantly appearing in the three of the speeches; and their decisions and acts are dependent of how they feel about Caddy.
Most of the memories Quentin relates in the chapter narrated by this character are centered on Caddy and her precocious sexuality. He is also disturbed about time and lost of tradition, this being shown in the first episode retold when he breaks the watch his father had given to him and that had belong to his grandfather, so as not to hear the pass of time. And is also obsessed with Dalton Ames, who is the one that slept with Caddy, and he has a strong purpose of beating him up.
The last chapter is narrated in third person, but it can be said to be narrated by Dilsey. She is a sort of witness in the story of the Compson family, and it works as a sort of balance to understand the story and the characters, which are the first three narrators, because the rest of the story is deeply conditioned by subjectivity and disorder.
Probably the reason that Caddy hasn’t got a voice is that she, in the way in which is described, does not present a conflict with the lost of tradition. In fact, she shows a desire to break with the south family tradition. She is the one that has sex with a man before getting married, and the one that wishes to leave her family house, behavior that is also present in her daughter. The argument and story appears when her actions get in conflict and disturb the other characters (Benjy, Quentin and Jason). The three of them are damaged by Caddy’s lost of virginity and her decision of leaving the family house. Caddy is the principal point of the story, and the whole argument revolves around her. This is why she can’t have a voice, for her narration wouldn’t present any conflict, and it would weaken the speech of the other narrators, in which the character of Caddy is discussed and put in dispute.

Victoria A.
The texts published here have been written by secondary school students from "Colegio Paideia" (Buenos Aires, Argentina). They have been uploaded without the teacher's corrections.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

JUAN E., On Faulkner's 'The Sound and the Fury'

Essay on The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner
“If I could say it in so many words, do you think I
should take the very great trouble of dancing it?”

William Faulkner

The absence of a section narrated by Caddy is explained only by an artistic decision of the author. Each part of the book has a particular function in the global narration, which describes a portrait of the fall of the Compson family, illustrated in the book with Caddy’s story, maybe the focus of the conflict and the axis the tragedy rotates around.
Benjy’s section is, of course, the most difficult to understand, and through a first reading the only thing we can get from it is a very general impression of the story as a whole. However, we recognize his passionate but still tender devotion to Caddy. This is not too far away from what happens with Quentin, even though his reaction to events (and therefore, we could say Caddy’s influence upon him also) is dramatically different due to the pressure over him and his obsession with his sister. Possibly, the purpose of the second part is to show us the result of Caddy’s behaviour over Quentin’s character.
Jason has, evidently, a completely different position. Even though he ends up being the head of a run-downed family, disintegrated and with almost no signs left of tradition, we see Quentin (Caddy’s daughter) symbolizing the remains and consequence of Caddy’s effect on the flow of events. There is still conflict inside the family, and Quentin is the main source of disorder against Jason’s control.
Knowing that Caddy is (if we had to name one) the main character of the story, and considering that there is a section narrated by each of her siblings, we may find Faulkner’s decision of not giving her a voice strange at first . We must admit, however, that the different narrators and ways of experiencing the decline we have explained are not there just to inform us about the story, but to show us the complexity of Caddy’s character and the fall of the family. Reading the four sections several times gives the reader different impressions each time, and I think here is where the beauty of the book is held. It is not a question of telling the story of a girl whose growth triggered the disintegration of a family; the process of building the story from such varied points of view (with the technical excellence with which these are written) contributes to a book in which impressions can be more important than just knowing what is going on. We could say that if the author had decided to include a section narrated by Caddy, the whole book would be reduced to a first person retelling a story, decorated by additional narrations that would not be as efficient as they actually are.

Juan E.(FCE level)
The texts published here have been written by secondary school students from "Colegio Paideia" (Buenos Aires, Argentina). They have been uploaded without the teacher's corrections.

SEBASTIÁN W., On Faulkner's 'The Sound and the Fury'

Essay on “The Sound and the Fury”

The greatness of this book lies not only in the precise construction of the story and the admirable use of language; the original and sometimes confusing style implies a hard work of concentration from the reader, who penetrates so deeply in the text that can finally understand the feelings of all characters. The construction process of each one of them shows us a complete human being perspective, in all its angles. Even a despiteful character as Jason, the youngest of the children, can be seen as a lonely person who has an enormous responsibility: taking care of a family which is abruptly decaying.
Most of the characters are from the same family, so it is evident that they all have a direct relationship. However, the story focuses on some of them. Benjy, Quentin and Jason are the ones the author chooses to tell us this story, all through their personal feelings (we will leave aside the last chapter for a later comment). We can say Caddy is one of the most relevant characters, because of the influence she has on her brothers. She represents the lost motherly figure; they seem to be obsessed with her. Due to this attraction she becomes a nucleus around which the action spins. The reflections of her brothers, any reflection, often end in her. So a question that comes from the reading of this book is: why doesn’t Caddy have a voice, if she is so important for the story? Why doesn’t she have her own chapter? Wouldn’t it have made the story clearer?
The first answer that comes to our mind is that this omission is a narrative effect which makes the story more interesting. There is no doubt about this; it makes it much more ambiguous and suggestive. But this seems to be only a secondary effect, as we realize that in fact there is a Caddy´s chapter. The difference is that it is not formally written but it is fragmented among all the other chapters. Caddy has a voice, a voice that is spoken from Benjy, from Quentin, from Jason (although he hates her). Her voice is in her acts. As she is mentioned in all chapters we get to know a lot of things about her and her brothers seem to understand and reflect her feelings and moods. The last chapter gives us some more information about all other chapters so we can make an almost complete image of Caddy´s situation. It was not necessary for the author to write Caddy´s chapter as it is fragmented in the book. Caddy´s voice is heard in descriptions made by her brothers, in their feelings, in dialogues, in italic flashbacks, she is everywhere in the book; maybe because, whether they want it or not, she meant everything to them.

by Sebastián W.(FCE level)
The texts published here have been written by secondary school students from "Colegio Paideia" (Buenos Aires, Argentina). They have been uploaded without the teacher's corrections.

MAILÉN B., On Faulkner's 'The Sound and the Fury'

Essay on The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner
Why doesn’t Caddy have a voice?

The book is divided in four parts and each one is told by a different person: the first one, is narrated by Benjy; the second one, by Quentin; the third one by Jason and the fourth one by, we can speculate, Dilsey. Bejny, Quentin and Jason are brothers, Dilsey is their family slave (and a women).
In the first three parts, that are the longest and more important ones, Caddy appears almost all of the time: her issues, her personality, her virginity, her sexuality, her role in the family. Each brother feels different things about Caddy, and their relationship with her is also different. Benjy and Caddy had a strong relationship because she was very close to him and took care of him constantly (before she run away, of course), her role in this case is a protective one, she was like the mother Benjy didn’t have. Benjy had very strong feelings towards Caddy, although he was an idiot, and he doesn’t think clearly, he loves Caddy and we can also see that because he didn’t like her being with another boy, kissing him, and it was worse when she losses her virginity. When he sees her with Charlie: “The one in the swing got up and came, and I cried and pulled Caddy’s dressed” Benjy’s part is mostly dedicated to Caddy, he is constantly remembering situations where she is, this shows the important role Caddy has in Benjy’s life.
Quentin is also obsessed with Caddy, but at a different level and in a different way that Benjy is. Quentin is extremely organized and traditional and he can’t bear the fact that Caddy losses her virginity before marriage, this is a thing that chases him through the entire novel and narration. Both of them (Quentin and Benjy) remember the day that Caddy stop being a virgin, of course each one with different reactions and points of view. Quentin couldn’t stand the fact that Caddy slept with a man before marriage and got pregnant so he preferred to tell his father that he had committed incest. His relationship with Caddy was very close, but less than Benjy, they were almost equals (almost because he was amused by her). They shared things like brothers do but when that lead to the point that he saw the man that kissed her and took her virginity he couldn’t stand it, he wanted to killed him. When she appears like a sexual person (before she’s even married) he cannot bear it. Along to other problems, Caddy’s lack of tradition is what lead him to suicide.
Jason hates Caddy, he thinks she is a bitch. She hates her for leaving, but not because he had ever loved her, because he is more selfish than the other brothers. Caddy’s husband had promised him a job, and since she split out with him now he has to find other ways of supporting the family (at least, what is left). Jason hates Caddy for leaving, for breaking the tradition, and makes her guilty of the family break. Such as their mother didn’t care about Caddy and Caddy didn’t worried much about her mother (and the opposite thing happened with her father) Jason, who is very close to her mother (or at least her mother is very close to him), only hates Caddy. And that anger remains among the years.
Caddy’s sexuality is a main theme in all of the book, it is, in a great part, what destroys her family. Caddy itself is a character that appears a lot in the story narrative, maybe because of that reason, to give Caddy a voice will ruin all the constructions made of her, showing the “real” Caddy the other Caddy’s (Benjy’s, Quentin’s and Jason’s) loose credibility or strength.

by Mailén B. (FCE level)

The texts published here have been written by secondary school students from "Colegio Paideia" (Buenos Aires, Argentina). They have been uploaded without the teacher's corrections.