October 18

Tiger Eyes Critical Review

According to spiritanimal.info, Tigers are a symbol of courage, anger, and that “part of you that you would normally try to hide or reject.” With this knowledge, readers have a clear idea of what 15-year-old Davey Wexler is like once she introduces herself to Wolf as Tiger. In Tiger Eyes, Davey is coping with the fact that her father was murdered and has become the symbolic tiger.

The shadow she wants to deny is her father’s death. For most of the book, she’s not willing to deal with his death. Early in the book, when she’s alone, Davey begins to remember the night her father died. Before readers can get too far into the events of that night, she pulls herself out of the memory (61) . She immediately distracts herself by going home and writing her and wolf’s name together on several sheets of paper.

Davey not only avoids remembering her father’s death, she lies when forced to confront the fact, even briefly, that he died. A good example of this is on Davey’s first day of school in Los Alamos and is talking to classmate, Jane.

“Is your father a physicist?”
“No,” I say. “My father’s…dead.” It is the first time I have said that to anyone.
“Oh,” Jane says. “I’m sorry.”
“He died over the summer,” I tell her. “Of a heart attack.” Once I get started I can’t stop myself. “He died in his sleep. Everyone says it was a good way to go. That there was no pain. He was only thirty-four.” Why am I doing this? Why am I telling her this story?
“I don’t know what to say,” Jane tells me. “It sounds terrible (90).”

Despite avoiding the topic of her father’s death, she is still having to work through his death. Common knowledge states that one of the steps to the grieving process is anger and Davey is a very angry girl. This is seen angry best and for the first time, during her first encounter with Wolf. Even Wolf questions her about it.

“Who are you so pissed off at, anyway?”
“The world!” I tell him, without even thinking about it. I am surprised by my answer to his question and by the anger in my voice. It is the first time I realize I am not only sad about my father, but angry, too. Angry that he had to die. And angry at whoever killed him (49).

Later, readers also learn that she’s not only mad at her father for dying. She is mad at her mother for how she’s handling things, for how she’s living her life, for leaving her to feel all alone after her father’s death. This can be seen after her Aunt and Uncle tell her it’s too dangerous for her to take driver’s ed now and to wait until she’s a senior in high school. Her mother simply agrees to what her aunt and uncle say, as she has been.

“Since when…since when I’d like to know?” I explode now. I don’t care about logic or emotion or anything. “Can’t you think for yourself anymore? Do you have to let them decide everything?” I spin around. Jason is drinking a glass of mil and listening intently. I turn back to my mother and point my finger at her, accusingly. “You’re getting to be just like them…you know that…just like them (160)!”

Readers are allowed to wonder if Davey is correct in her accusations, and that her anger at her mother is justified, because it’s her uncle Walter who tries to take control of the situation when her mother is beside her.

Davey shows courage at the end of the book when she faces her fear and makes peace with her father’s death. She also has the courage to forgive her family for having different coping methods and for, in some ways, neglecting and abusing her.

Davey is the symbolic tiger. She shares the tiger’s anger, the tiger’s courage and she has a side she wishes she never had to acknowledge.

Works Cited
Blume, Judy. Tiger Eyes. New York: Dell Pub., 1982. Print.
“Tiger Spirit Animal.” Spirit Animal. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Oct. 2013.

 

October 16

Jane-Emily Critical Review

Reflective Ball Symbolizes Unobtainable Desires

Jane-Emily by Patricia Clapp is about two girls, Jane and Louisa, visiting their family and the long-deceased, malevolent twelve-year-old girl, Emily, that haunts the grounds. The reflective ball that Emily frequently uses is a symbol of her demand for the unattainable and her ability to get it, even after death.

Emily’s father was highly indulgent of his daughter. Emily’s mother, Lydia Canfield, and doctor both admit this to Louisa at different stages in the book. Emily’s doctor, Dr. Frost, even gives a great example of how her father overindulged her daughter.

In his eyes she was the most wonderful creature ever born, and when she asked for the moon he gave it to her!”
“The moon,” I repeated. “That silver ball in the garden. It’s rather the same he gave it to her!”
“It was the same. Jack took Emily outside one night to look at the moon. He told me she thought it was pretty, and she wanted it. Jack almost tore his hair out wondering what to do (95).”

The phrase “I’d give you the moon,” is popular because it is a nice way of saying “I’ll give you everything I can.” The moon is not something you can have, and Emily’s desire to own it, though understandable does not make it any less unattainable. However, this knowledge does not deter her father. He can’t give her the moon, but he does give her something that looks similar, something that can stand in its place. He gives her a silver reflective ball, which apparently was not enough for her.

When she’s about ten, Emily broke the reflective ball. Her father than asked what her why she broke the reflective ball.

…she said that when she looked into it she saw a face that wasn’t hers. It was an ugly face, she said, and she insisted that it must have been the face of someone else who had looked into the ball (59.)

Her father tried to explain things, but eventually he replaced the broken reflective ball. The replacement was a reaffirmation that he would still “give her the moon,” so long as he was capable, but he sweetened the lesson, put more value on the gift, when he “assured her that no one except Emily would ever look into it. That it was all hers (59).”

In doing so he gave the idea that if she wanted something, she could make it hers and hers alone.

This mindset, these lessons, brought about Emily’s death. While sick with a cold, Emily wanted the son of her Doctor, Adam Frost, to play with her. He refused, using his father as an excuse to leave the house. Believing getting Doctor Frost would bring her son back to her, she told her mother she felt even worse and that she should call Doctor Frost back. When Lydia Canfield told her she would not call Doctor Frost, Emily asked if Doctor Frost would come if she’d get sicker. Her mother said yes. As a result, Emily, when alone, opened her window in the middle of winter and poured water over her body. She made herself as cold as possible. She contracted pneumonia and died.

Even death did not keep her from getting what she wanted. During one of many conversations Louisa shared with Lydia Canfield, she learned that Emily’s father and brother–both precious to Emily, died under circumstances that are mysterious and were unexplainable. Lydia Canfield wonders if Emily somehow took them so they’d be with her. The one other person Emily was attached to was Adam Frost, the boy she killed herself over and the boy she made perfectly clear, she intended to marry.

Adam Frost is now a doctor and he’s proposed to Louisa. Readers, like Louisa, can imagine Emily’s thinking: she is the only one allowed to marry Adam. Thus, Louisa hesitates to accept his proposal. She explains her fears, that Emily took her brother and father and that she would do whatever she could to stop her and Adam getting married. She tells him: “If Emily reached Jane-if she hurt her in any way, any way–I couldn’t marry you! You know I couldn’t. And Emily knows it too (117).” Despite her fears, Adam convinces Louisa to accept her proposal.

That night reflective ball glows and Jane is certain she hears Emily crying. The nine-year-old goes outside in the rain to investigate to get trapped outdoors. The next night she contracts pneumonia and seems to be following in Emily’s footsteps. Lydia Canfield recognizes this, believes Emily is about to take Jane away, and a fit of protective rage, she charges outside and destroys the reflective ball.-In destroying Emily’s father’s testament that she can always have the attainable, Emily loses her powers, her strength and her greed. It symbolizes the end to Emily receiving the unattainable.

Work Cited
Clapp, Patricia, and Patricia Clapp. Jane-Emily and Witches’ Children. New York: HarperPaperbacks, 2007. Print.
October 14

NorthAnger Abbey: Critical Review

Northanger Abbey is an example of Impaired Judgement

Northanger Abbey is about seventeen-year-old Catherine Morland, who is finds love and romance in the books she reads and at Northanger Abbey. Most of Catherine’s problems and misunderstandings in the book is due to her ineptness at reading people.

Early on the story Catherine’s brother, James, meets Catherine’s friend, Isabella and a relationship develops between the two. Catherine does not think much about their relationship and has no clue what Isabella is referring to when they meet one sunny day:

Isabella, embracing Catherine thus began “Yes, my dear Catherine, it is so indeed; your penetration has not deceived you. – Oh! That arch eye of yours! It sees through everything.”
Catherine replied only by a look of wondering ignorance (123).

This demonstrates Catherine’s inability to judge people or situations. She did not recognize the relationship between James and Isabella, or even consider a marriage offer may be made between them but once told of the proposal, Catherine is ecstatic for her friend and assures her that her parents would approve of the match.

Later, Isabella gets a letter from John stating that they would receive a living of 400 pounds a year and could marry in 2 and a half years. Isabella does not take this news well. Catherine tries to assure her and Isabella replies with:

“It is not my own account I wish for more; but I cannot bear to be the means of injuring my dear Morland, making him sit down upon an income hardly enough to find one in the common necessaries of life. For myself, it is nothing; I never think of myself (138).”

Instead of recognizing Isabella’s disappointment for what it is—not getting the money she thought she’d get through marrying her brother—Catherine accepts her reason for why she isn’t happy. If Catherine had figured out the true reason for her unhappiness, she would not have been so confused when she see’s Isabella dancing with Fredrick when she’s engaged to James. She also could have warned her brother to try to prevent him the heartache he inevitably feels.

In that same scene, Catherine further demonstrates her ineptness at judging and understanding people when she talks to Isabella’s brother, John Thorpe:

“I am glad you are no enemy to matrimony however. Did you ever hear the old song, ‘Going to one wedding brings on another’? I say, you will come to Belle’s wedding, I hope.”

“Yes; I have promised your sister to be with her, if possible.”
“And then you know”–twisting himself about and forcing a foolish laugh–”I say, then you know, we may try the truth of the same old song.”
“May we?–But I never sing. Well, I wish you a good journey.” (128-9)

Catherine does not catch on to the fact that John is actually asking her hand. She does not even realize he is interested in her as a potential bride. Instead she is thinking he is speaking of singing a song together with him. Because of this, Catherine does not understand Isabella’s teasing over her ‘engagement’ with John, and is horrified when she realizes John believes them engaged. She also doesn’t understand how she gave him that impression. She has no interest in marrying Isabella’s brother.

Her inability to judge people and relationships does mean she is caught by surprise and often embarrassed when she realizes the true intentions of those she interacts with. Her ineptness however is realistic, creates intrigue and suspense in the story and some much-needed drama that otherwise wouldn’t occur.
October 13

Jane Eyre Critical Review

Jane Eyre Burns With Fire

Jane Eyre is the story of a governess who falls in love with the master of Thornfield Hall. Charlotte Bronte’s story is filled with symbolism, though none so powerful or prevalent as fire. In Jane Eyre fire represents passion, anger and sexual attraction.

One of the most memorable scenes in the book is when Jane Eyre finds that Mr. Rochester’s bedclothes have been set on fire with Mr. Rochester still in the bed. Jane is quick to extinguish the flames and wake Edward Rochester.

The symbolism in this scene is rampant. Although the fire is originally blamed on a servant named Grace Poole, Jane and readers later learn the true firestarter is Bertha Mason, Edward Rochester’s Wife.

According to Rochester, his marriage to Bertha did not come about after long conversations and courting. He married Bertha without knowing much about her because of his sexual attraction to her. Upon marriage though Rochester states that:

Bertha Mason, the true daughter of an infamous mother, dragged me through agonies which must attend a man bound to a wife at once intemperate and unchaste (771).

In other words, she cheated on him numerous times and everyone knew it. Her cheating, her passion for sex, supposedly increased the speed of her descent into madness. Bertha was passionate but locked in a society that demanded her passions be hidden, repressed or reserved solely to be shared with her husband. She is the equivalent of fire, because at one point what Rochester felt for her set his bed on fire. She was later locked away as a madwoman, but her intensity or power are never questioned.

When Jane faces the prospect of marriage to missionary St. John, she gets a sense of what Bertha Mason had potentially experienced:

But as his wife — at his side always, always restrained, and always checked — forced to keep the fire of my nature continually low, to compel it to burn inwardly and never utter a cry, though the imprisoned flame consumed vital after vital — this would be unendurable (1032).

In that way, Jane may become like Bertha Mason, locked up because her passions cannot be released. However, it is unlikely Jane thought that deeply into it.

So when Bertha Mason sets fire to Rochester’s bed she could easily be objecting to Rochester’s attraction to Jane, making it clear she is still around, and foreshadows Rochester’s possible future—burning in hell for the sake of passion. It also foreshadows the anger Jane and Edward both feel, when it is revealed that Rochester is already married, though their anger is for very different reasons. In a way she also transfers her nature to Jane in the few minutes it takes Jane to extinguish the real flames and the metaphorical ones between Bertha and Rochester. As she extinguishes those flames, she kindles new, metaphorical flames between herself and Rochester.

The second fire scene is when Bertha catches Thornfield Hall on fire. As Jane is told by a former butler that worked for Edward Rochester’s father, Bertha “made her way to the chamber that had been the governess’s–(she was like as if she knew somehow how matters had gone on, and had a spite at her)–and she kindled the bed there; (1084)”

The fire destroys Thornfield Hall. Bertha commits suicide by jumping off the roof. Mr. Rochester lost his sight and one hand in the fire, but he lives.

This fire, like the last, is full of symbolism. This fire is a symbol of how sex ruined a home. Should Rochester not have married Bertha, he could have married Jane. If Jane hadn’t found out about Bertha, she wouldn’t have left and ripped their hearts asunder. The fire leaves the house and the lives who lived in it, a ruin, much like the passion shared between Bertha and Edward and Edward and Jane did. It’s a symbol of Jane’s abandonment of Rochester, their broken relationship and the passion that continues to burn even after Jane leaves.

Fire is a symbol of passion, anger and sexual attraction in Jane Eyre. The passion and the anger felt between three people trapped in a painful love triangle that has become a classic novel. Charlotte Bronte uses the symbolism of fire to tell a great story about a governess who falls in love with the master of Thornfield Hall.

September 8

Stranger with My Face Critical Review

Cliché’s Are Not A Stranger

Stranger With My Face is about seventeen-year-old Laurie who learns she has an evil twin sister bent on taking her place in life. The book is laden with clichés that make the book predictable but Lois Duncan uses those same clichés to hold the readers attention.

The first of the major clichés encountered in the story is that of a good and evil twin. The concept is first introduced when Laurie learns she was adopted and has a twin Laurie asks her parents why they adopted her instead of her sister Lia.

“You weren’t alike,” Mother said. “You looked just alike—both of you so beautiful with big, solemn eyes and all that thick, dark hair. The people at the agency wanted us to take you both, and despite what Dad says, I really think we might have done it. It seemed wrong to separate twin sisters. I picked you up and cuddled you, and I knew I never wanted to let you go. It was as though you were meant to be ours. Then I handed you to Dad to hold and picked up the other baby, and—and–”
“And what?” I prodded.
“I wanted to put her down.”
“Why did you want to do that?” I asked in bewilderment.
“That’s what Dad kept asking me. I couldn’t explain it to him then, and I can’t to you now. It was instinctive. She felt alien in my arms. I knew I would not be able to love her.” (73)

However, the way Lia acts around Laurie makes readers wonder if her mother’s feeling was incorrect. After all, Lia hasn’t done anything evil. Laurie’s friends think they see her when they really see Lia, but that’s not necessarily because Lia is being malicious. One could argue she’s exploring her sister’s world when she’s seen. The only other person to claim Lia was evil was Laurie’s friend, Helen. And her basis for the claim was how Lia was looking at her when she woke up in Laurie’s pitch black room. And Laurie seems to enjoy her time with Lia.

Perhaps I could say that it was a bit like falling in love. When I first started going with Gordon, he was all I could think about. I got up in the morning with his name on my lips–“Gordon–Gordon–today I will see Gordon!”–and I fell asleep at night with his face superimposed upon the inside of my closed lids. Now it was Lia’s face—my face—that filled my consciousness. What I was experiencing was, in a way, like falling in love with myself. (102-03)

During that time, Laurie learns a lot about her biological mother and the hard-knock life her sister grew up in.

Eventually, Laurie finds out her mother was right about Lia after she and her friend Jeff get trapped in a cave because of Lia. She and Jeff discuss the incident and Lia once they’re rescued. During the conversation, Jeff interprets something Lia said and Laurie quotes.

“I don’t understand why she hates me,” I told him helplessly. “’We’re are the two sides of the a coin—’”
“The dark and the light side.”
“Coins aren’t that way,” I said.
“But people are.” (177-78)

Laurie had interpreted the quote “We’re are the two sides of a coin” as another way of saying they were twins. The new interpretation only reinforces what Laurie, Jeff and the readers now know: Lia is evil. As the story progresses, readers learn that Lia is a murderer several times over, not someone who is only beginning her evil reign.

At one point Meg, Laurie’s eight-year-old adopted sister, asks Laurie about Lia’s motivation in teaching Laurie how to astral project.

“What I don’t understand, though, is why she wanted so much for you to learn how to go away.”
“Why, because—because–” To my surprise, I found that I was unable to come up with an answer. I had accepted Lia’s insistence without questioning it. (217)

Immediately readers see Laurie try to figure out Lia’s the motivation. And readers get a chance to hope that Laurie will figure it out, as many readers already had and prevent Lia from fulfilling her plan. Laurie doesn’t figure it out until after Lia has taken over her body.

Lois Duncan has clichés spilling over in Stranger With My Face. These clichés make the book predictable but she tells the story in a way that allows readers to believe she’ll subvert them and create a completely different story. Although she doesn’t, she manages to keep readers attention to the end.

Work Cited
Duncan, Lois. Stranger with My Face. New York: Dell Pub., 1982. Print.
September 5

Young Adult: A Movie Critical Review

In Young Adult, anti-heroine Mavis Gary returns home to reconnect with old flame Buddy Slade, despite knowing he’s married and a new Dad. As disgusted as views are with Mavis’ homewrecking goals, they cannot help sympathizing with her.

Audiences feel a mixture of disgust and pity for her from the beginning. They’re disgusted with how she lives: she neglects her dog Dolce, ignores calls from her editor and drinks a lot. And yet we pity her situation: she’s lonely, which is demonstrated by the fact she sleeps with a guy she doesn’t connect with, her email and a phone message reveals she’s only one book away from ending a series she’s been writing for years and not by her choice. Then she gets an email from Buddy Slade announcing the birth of his daughter. The photo of a baby, audiences later learn, that could have been hers and Buddies almost two decades earlier if she hadn’t miscarried, and probably spurs her decision to get Buddy back.

Mavis doesn’t delay once she’s made her decision. She packs and leaves with her lover still asleep in her room. Once she’s checked into her hotel, she calls Buddy and leaves a message that lets him know she’s in town and would like to meet up. She then goes to a bar, where she runs into former classmate Matt, whom she’d never given the time of day to in High school. She confides her plan to Matt and the following conversation ensues:

MAVIS. Buddy Slade and I are meant to be together and I’m here to get him back.

Matt laughs, assuming this is a joke.

MATT. Really? Awesome. Buddy Slade, huh?I’m pretty sure Buddy’s married. With a kid on the way.

MAVIS. No, the kid’s here. She had the baby. I don’t care though. I have baggage, too, you know?

MATT. Wait, are you not joking?

MAVIS. I know people won’t understand, but things like this happen. They do happen. Usually they happen in slow-motion. Like, two people are meant to be together and then they slowly get rid of what’s keeping them apart. They get divorced, they reconfigure. And everyone’s cool with that, right?Society’s okay with that–if you take your time like a god damned emotional glacier.

Again audiences are disgusted with Mavis but must admire her ability to go after what she wants and sticks to her guns when someone tries to discourage her. How many times has an audience member given up on a goal because of an obstacle or discouraging word and envies Mavis’ fortitude?

Another trait Mavis has that audiences admire is that she doesn’t get flustered. This is beautifully shown when Mavis is checking into her hotel. Instead of getting flustered when she gets caught in a lie, she remains unaffected.

FRONT DESK GIRL. Is that a dog in your bag?

MAVIS. Nope.

She’s surprised by her own lie.

FRONT DESK GIRL. We actually allow small pets with a cleaning deposit.

MAVIS. In fact,I do have a dog, but he’s in my vehicle.

The bag wriggles wildly, betraying Mavis instantly.

FRONT DESK GIRL. Okay. I’ll put that you have a dog.

We see her calm again when she’s caught writing in a book at a bookstore.

ASSOCIATE. Are you writing in there?

MAVIS. I’m the author. I’m signing it.

The associate still looks concerned that his merchandise is being

vandalized.

ASSOCIATE. You’re Jane MacMurray?

MAVIS. No. Jane MacMurray just created the series. I wrote the book. I’m Mavis Gary. Crane. See?

She points to the flyleaf, which does indeed read: “Story by Jane MacMurray. Written by Mavis Gary-Crane.”

Although audiences may not use her nonchalance for different reasons than Mavis, they can imagine how much embarrassment they could have saved themselves if they’d had Mavis’ ability to remain unflustered.

As the story progresses, the audience sees evidence that Mavis may be mentally ill. In one scene Mavis tells Matt about her date with Buddy:

MAVIS. Good, good. It was eye-opening though. Buddy–he’s clearly not happy.

MATT. He told you that?

MAVIS. He implied it. You can tell he’s suffering. He looks completely exhausted. He told me he feels like a zombie.

Mavis takes in Matt’s childhood bedroom. A twin bed.A record collection. A desk strewn with Testor’s hobby glue, paint, and disembodied toy figurines.

MATT. I was there, and I suspect he was being flip.

MAVIS. It’s a pretty strong statement to make. A zombie is a dead person, Matt.

The audience can assume she’s purposely misconstruing what he said to further her belief that she and Buddy could get back together. A more aware audience member may suspect something else is going on or that she didn’t misconstrue but simply doesn’t understand the true meaning of the saying. Either way, the former suggests an obsession with Buddy. The latter suggest a lack of societal awareness. In another scene, Mavis is at Buddy’s house, visiting his wife Beth. During the visit Mavis asks about a chart with various expressions on it:

MAVIS. What’s that chart?

BUDDY. Beth teaches special needs kids.

MAVIS. Ah.

BETH. A lot of my kids learn emotions cognitively. It doesn’t come naturally to them the way it does for you or me.So we need to show them: This is what happy looks like. This is what

anxious looks like. And so on.

Mavis is fascinated with the chart.

MAVIS. How about, like, neutral? What if you don’t feel anything?

BETH. That’s kind of how they are a lot of the time, so. Yeah. Don’t need to teach it.

This allows the audience to infer that Mavis frequently feels neutral and that is like the children Beth teaches. This revelation in no way excuses Mavis’ behavior but it does deepen her character in a way that softens her, especially when she confesses to her parents that “I think I’m an alcoholic” and confesses to Matt, “I’m depressed,” and both parties disregard it. At one point, Matt even jokingly tells her “You’re mentally ill.”

Despite the implications in such scenes, author Diablo Cody do not make excuses for what Mavis says and does. Their is no apology presented when Mavis asks her mother mother, “Have you seen it? Up close?” The it being Buddy Slade’s daughter or when Mavis tells the Macy’s employee she needs an outfit to make an impression on the wife of her “former flame.” They show Mavis how she truly is, which is part of her appeal.

Mavis Gary is unlikable and her goals despicable. Their is no reason to like Young Adult. However, due to some admirable traits in the character, some hints in the story and a blunt characterization, audiences can sympathize with anti-heroine Mavis Gary.

August 6

Perks of Being A wallflower

The Perks of Being A Wallflower is about a teenage boy, Charlie, experiencing high school. Although Charlie experiences a lot of “typical” teenage experiences throughout the book, Charlie is not the typical teenager.  Throughout Stephen Chbosky’s Young Adult novel, Charlie shows signs of being on the autistic spectrum.  Specifically, he shows a lot of signs of having Asperger’s. Asperger’s according to Medical News Today is “a developmental disorder that impacts on the individual’s ability to communicate and socialize, among other things.”

According to myAsperger’schild.com, teenagers “may be uncomfortably blunt.”  We see this with Charlie, when, Within a week of meeting a high school senior, Sam, Charlie writes to his unknown friend: “I told Sam that I dreamt that she and I were naked on the sofa, and I started crying because I felt bad, and do you know what she said? She laughed (21 -2).”

To say he’s blunt is an understatement. To say he lacks finesse isn’t quite right either. He has the social understanding of a seven-year-old, blurting out anything that comes to mind, appropriate to mention or not.  This also matches up with what myAsperger’schild.com says:  teenagers with Asperger’s “may be immature for their age and be naive and too trusting, which can lead to teasing and bullying.”

Charlie also demonstrates a lack of control and understanding of his own emotions.  He cries at the drop of the hat for seemingly no reason.  One example of this is when he’s at a party with Patrick and Sam.

I was sitting on the floor of a basement of my first real party between Sam and Patrick, and I remembered that Sam introduced me as her friend to Bob. And I remembered that Patrick had done the same for Brad. And I started to cry. And nobody in that room looked at me weird for doing it. And then I really started to cry (38).

Again this is another Asperger’s trait.  As, according to Asperger Syndrome Behavior, “Individuals with Asperger syndrome have trouble recognizing their own emotions and especially expressing them in a proper way.”

Despite his social and emotional skills being that of a seven-year-old, Charlie proves to be quite intelligent. We see this whenever he mentions his Advance English Class.

My advanced English teacher asked me to call him “Bill” when we’re not in class, and he gave me another book to read. He says that I have a great skill at reading and understanding language, and he wanted me to write an essay about To Kill A Mockingbird.

I mentioned this to my mom, and she asked why Bill didn’t recommend that I just take a sophomore or junior English class. And I told her that Bill said that these were basically the same classes with more complicated books, and that it wouldn’t help me.  (9-10)

“Bill” continually gives Charlie books and essays to write outside of normal class assignments to challenge him, proving that Charlie may be too advanced for even the advance class when it comes to literature.  But this is not necessarily unusual in children with Asperger’s.

According to myAsperger’schild.com , autistic  “adolescents may be extremely smart in specific areas, such as writing, math, or some form of the arts.”

A lot of Charlie’s behaviors and “symptoms” can be very off-putting to the reader, especially the frequency of how much he cries.  But to discover there is a reason for these eccentricitieswould make these annoying quirks forgivable to most readers. However, Chbosky never reveals the reason behind these idiosyncrasies. He lets readers know Charlie was molested as a child. And boys who were molested are not likely, according to what I could find on boys who are molested, to behave the way Charlie does in The Perks of Being A Wallflower, leaving readers to wonder if Charlie has Asperger’s and was molested…or if something entirely different is going on with him.

In the movie, Charlie doesn’t have these oddities in his behavior. He doesn’t cry at a drop of a hat. He’s smart. He makes jokes. He isn’t blunt.  He has the awareness of a neurotypical person his age. The only real oddity in him is the one or two times he blacks out in the movie. And that fits better with Charlie having been molested, as he could have easily been in a fugue state at the time.

Chbosky had a great opportunity and did a great job setting up a story about a character who is on the Autistic spectrum but undiagnosed. Unfortunately, he fumbles it by not following through, or perhaps, simply deciding to go with the ‘shock value’ of a molestation.

Works Cited

“Asperger Syndrome Behavior.” Asperger Syndrome Behavior. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 July 2013.
Chbosky, Stephen. The Perks of Being a Wallflower. New York: Gallery, 1999. Print.

Hutten, Mark. “My Aspergers Child: Problems Experienced by Teens with Aspergers.” My Aspergers Child: Problems Experienced by Teens with Aspergers. Mark Hutten, n.d. Web. 20 July 2013.

Nordqvist, Christian. “What Is Asperger’s Syndrome?” Medical News Today. MediLexicon International, 09 Mar. 2012. Web. 20 July 2013.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Dir. STEPHEN CHBOSKY and JOHN MALKOVICH. Prod. LIANNE HALFON and Russell SMITH. Perf. Emma Watson,, Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller. Roadshow, 2013. DVD.

August 4

Let The Right One In Critical Review

Vampire Eli is Let In The Hearts of Audiences

John Ajvide Lindqvist’s “Let The Right One In” is a story about a bullied twelve-year-old boy who happens to meet a vampire.

The book gets into a lot of heads and offers a lot of different POVs: Tommy’s, Håkan’s, Oskar’s, Jonny Forsberg’s, a squirrel’s. There are even chapters from an omniscient point of view, illustrating things going on in the larger world, like the fear over a Soviet sub that runs aground on the shoreline, and the ongoing reaction to Håkan’s—Eli’s caretaker—murders. Although some segments are written from Eli’s point of view, little is revealed about her. Despite that, Eli is easily humanized in both the book and the movies.

The third time Eli and Oskar meet in the book Eli is hungry, needing blood. Oskar and she are alone in the courtyard playground, and he is easy prey, trusting he’s safe with her. The scene shows that Eli is prepared to kill him however.

His voice was not even a whisper. Only an exhalation. The girl’s face was close. His gaze was drawn to her butter-knife cheek. That was why he didn’t see her eyes change, how they narrowed, took on another expression. He didn’t see how her upper lip drew back and revealed a pair of small, dirty white fangs. He only saw her cheek and while her mouth was nearing his throat he drew up his hand and stroked her face.

The girl froze for a moment, then pulled back. Her eyes resumed their former shape; the city of light was back. (70)

The fact Eli could kill someone she has met, spoken with twice before shows that she doesn’t think like a human. The interactions they had are not enough for her to hesitate, like a human normally would. After all, it’s one thing to kill a complete stranger, another to kill someone you’ve met.

In both movies, Let The Right One In and Let Me In, this doesn’t happen. Eli seems to recognize Oskar as a kindred spirit from the first meeting. She instead bonds with him, gives him advice on how to handle the school bullies Oskar is tormented by.  A few pages later, we even see their deepening bond when Oskar and Eli start walking home from a candy store:

They walked back. Before Oscar had even had any himself he held the bag out to Eli. She shook her head.
“No thanks.”
“Don’t you eat candy?”
“I can’t.”
“No candy?”
“Nope.”
“What a drag.”
“Yes, no. I don’t know what it tastes like.”
“You haven’t even tasted it.”
“No.”
“Then how do you know that…”
“I just know, that’s all.” (123)

Eli doesn’t give into Oskar, because she knows nothing good would come of her eating the candy.  However, her interaction with Oskar also manages to humanize her, because most people know what it’s like to want to try something that they can’t have, be deprived of experiences, whether due to a health issue, circumstance or something else. At the same time, viewers know the reason she can’t eat the candy, is because she’s not human.

In both movies however, the scene plays out differently.  In Let Me In, Eli, known as Abby, gives into Oskar, known as Owen:

Abby watches as Owen collects his candy, trying to hide his disappointment. She feels bad.
ABBY: Well… maybe I could try just one…!
Owen looks up, suddenly excited. He opens a package, gives her a piece. She puts it in her mouth. He watches for her reaction. She smiles for him, nods. He grins, so pleased — (42)

Both movies show Abby throwing up after she eats the candy.   The movies allow readers to see Abby trying to please Owen, which is a very human urge. The effect humanizes Eli to viewers more than the book does, but at the same time, since she can’t digest the candy, reminds viewers she is in not human.

In traditional vampire books and movies, vampires are clean, efficient killers, the ultimate predators. Vampires are written differently in Let The Right One In and the movies. In them, Eli and her adult companion make sloppy and sometimes ineffective attempts at killing people. These slipshod attempts make the attacks seem more realistic, more possible, more frightening, and at the same time, humanizes Eli.  We see her not as the efficient killing machine we expect from vampire lore. She doesn’t have the practice of a skilled predator. And the fact audiences know that like an animal, she has to kill to eat, makes her sympathetic to readers, even as she murders someone.

Although the different mediums often use different techniques, both the movies and the books, remind audiences that Elli/Abby is a vampire even as she is efficiently humanized. The result is a well-told story that can easily stand up to Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Work Cited
Ajvide, Lindqvist John. Let the Right One in. Trans. Ebba Segerberg. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin/Thomas Dunne, 2008. Print.
Reeves, Matt. Let Me IN. N.d. MS. Http://screenplayexplorer.com/wp-content/scripts/Let-Me-In.pdf. Http://screenplayexplorer.com/. Web. 29 June 2013.
July 10

Princess Bride Critical Review

Whose Who In The Princess Bride

For most people the terms main character, protagonist and hero are interchangeable and belong to the same character.  However there are intricacies to the terms that do cause them to be different.  In fact, in The Princess Bride, a story about Westley fighting to be with his true love Buttercup, the terms belong to different characters.

The term ‘Main Character’ usually refers to who the story is mainly about. By this definition it is possible to have over thirty main characters in a story. In this case, however, the true main character would be Westley.

Westley is who drives home the plot, the character who the story circles around.  He gives Princess Buttercup hope and a reason to stand up for herself.  He gives Prince Humperdinck someone to fear and ruins his plans. Westley is the reason Inigo Montoya gets revenge on Count Rugen for his father.  Without Westley, we would have a different story.  However, if you removed a different character, the story would change but multiple plot lines would remain the same.  Although Westley is the spider that weaves the story together, he is not the hero.

According to John August, the hero “is the character who you hope to see ‘win.’” As noble as Westley’s goal is—fighting for true love—audience members already know that Buttercup loves Westley, so half his battle is already won.  All he needs is to defeat the bad guy and with the level of skill he demonstrates throughout the movie, we know it’ll be inevitable that he will.  This leaves Inigo to fill the role of hero.

Early on, Inigo reveals he studied sword fighting until he believed himself skilled enough to defeat the six-fingered man that killed his father.  In the book, Inigo comes to believe that he obtains the skill level of wizard, which is the level above a master swordsman. After acquiring that level of skill and believing himself the only living wizard in existence, he searched for his Father’s , murderer.  Eventually he works for Vizzini ‘to pay the bills.’  It’s while working for Vizzini that he meets the ‘man in black,’ later to be revealed as Westley.

Westley beats Inigo in a sword fight which makes the audience wonder if Inigo truly has the skill to defeat the six-fingered man, especially since Westley has had significantly less time to study fencing than Inigo. This question is juxtaposed with another when Inigo finally learns that the six-fingered man is Count Rugen: How would he be able to get close enough to his father’s killer?

The uncertainty raised in the audiences minds make the audience more invested in Inigo’s goals than in the certainty that Westley will succeed.

Despite the importance of their roles in the story, neither Inigo nor Westley can technically be called a protagonist.  According to John August the protagonist is “The character who changes over the course of the story.”

There really is no such character in the book The Princess Bride. None of the characters really change or learn anything new. However, a protagonist can be found in the movie/screenplay.  The protagonist is never named, but in the screenplay he’s identified as The Kid.

Although the kid has very little screen time, his presence is felt throughout the movie.  The story, Princess Bride, is interrupted by the grandfather telling the story or the boy himself.Sections of the story are skipped at the boys insistence. The grandfather also narrates part of the story, reminding the audience that the story is being told to the boy. The boys persistent presence and the fact he is the reason the story is being told, makes him a lead character.

The boy also changes. At the beginning of the movie he dreads his grandfather’s arrival.  He asks his mother: “Mom, can’t you tell him that I’m sick? (p.1).” And he’s not too interested in the book his grandfather gives him as a get well gift.  However he grows more interested in the book as his grandfather reads it. By the end of the movie, however, he appreciates the book and asks his grandfather, “Maybe you could come over and read it again to me tomorrow (p. 124).” As such, he fits the protagonist role best.

In The Princess Bride, Westley is the main character, Inigo is the hero, and the kid is the protagonist.  Not one character in the book or movie fits the definition of all three terms. But the terminology that one may use doesn’t affect the quality of the story.  It simply brings better understanding to the characters roles.

Works Cited
August, John. “Johnaugust.com.” Johnaugustcom RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 June 2013.
Goldman, William. The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure. Orlando: Harcourt, 2007. 37-358. Print.
Goldman, William. “Princess Bride, The (1987) Movie Script.” – Screenplays for You. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 June 2013.
The Princess Bride. Dir. Rob Reiner. ACT III Communications, 25 September 1987. DVD

July 8

Stardust Critical Review

In-depth or Faster-Pace in Stardust 

Stardust is a coming-of-age tale about Tristran Thorne, who to prove his love to a girl by crossing into a new world and bring back a shooting star.  During the course of the plot, he finds his true love, his self-confidence, and where he belongs. Neil Gaiman’s book has been adapted into a screenplay by writers Jane Goldman, and Matthew Vaughn. As many know, there will be differences between the book and the movie, when Goldman and Vaughn adapted Stardust to film; they sacrificed some of the clarity the book provided for scenes with higher tension. 

The sacrifice can be seen immediately.  Seconds within the movie, the voice over narrator mentions a boy sending a letter to ask a question. 

Our story really begins here, 150 years ago at the Royal Academy of Science in London, England, where a letter arrived, containing a very strange inquiry. It had come from a country boy and the scientist who read it thought it might be a practical joke of some kind. But he duly wrote a reply politely explaining that the query was nonsense. And posted it to the boy who lived in a village called Wall, so named, the boy had said, for the wall that ran alongside it–a wall that, according to local folklore, hid an extraordinary secret. 

However, seemingly unsatisfied with the answer he receives, the boy, Dunstan, decides to investigate and cross the wall that borders his town. Here the book and movie converge, because Dunstan meets a girl later identified as Una, and nine months later Tristran, the hero, is born and left in Dunstan’s care. Although viewers are okay with the vague explanation as to how and why they met, better clarity is found in the book. 

In the novel, there is a sort of festival on both sides of the wall that occurs every nine years.  During this festival, Dustan crosses over the wall, doing so is forbidden any other time. While checking out the various stalls, looking for a gift for his soon-to-be fiancée, he meets Una.  Instead of revealing this, which would have required a decent amount of set-up time, Goodman and Vaughn use a single vague explanation to get the story started quicker. 

In the book, Tristran encounters, Charmed, a hairy but extremely fast creature in the woods after managing to get over the wall.  They become traveling companions for a while, looking out for each other and sharing what they have.  At one point, Tristran saves both their lives by instinctively knowing where a trail is.  This instinct is brought up in conversation: 

“Where’s the village of Wall?” he asked.  Tristran pointed.  “Where are the Debatable Hills?” Tristran pointed once more without hesitation.  “Where’s the Catavarian Isles? Tristran pointed to the southwest. He had not known there were Debatable Hills, or Catalvarian Isles until the little man had mentioned them, but he was as certain in himself of their location as he was of the whereabouts of his own left foot or the nose on his face.”  114-15 

Readers infer from the conversation that Tristran can instinctively tell where he’s going so long as he’s in the land of fairy thanks to his mother. Nothing like this happens in the movie. In the movie, Tristran lights a Babylon candle—a gift from his mother—in his father’s attic. He’s engulfed by light and lands on the star he seeks. The movie completely bypasses Charmed and Tristran’s interactions.  However, the story moves on quicker for it.  The only hint we get that Tristran is truly directionally challenged is a scene where Yvainequestions Tristran on how he knows they’re heading the right way. 

Yvaine. Oh, right. So let me get this straight. You think you know we’re going the right way because… And I quote, “I just do.”
Tristran. I do, though. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s my love for Victoria guiding me home.

 

The lines can easily be interpreted as part of the “Men insist they know where they’re going even when completely lost” trope.  As both Yvaine and Tristran are foreigners, neither are able to have the in-depth conversation that Tristran and Charmed had.
In the movie, a unicorn appears after Tristran leaves Yvaine chained to a tree in the forest.  It uses its horn to break the chain and carries Yvaine away.  Audiences don’t question it because the scene takes place in a mystical forest and animals do not, traditionally, need a clear-cut motivation. The scene is short, simple and moves the plot along quickly. 

However in the book, the unicorn is fighting a lion when Tristran and Yvaine first meet it.  Tristran stops the fight, thereby saving the unicorn’s life, by presenting the lion with its crown.  The unicorn than becomes Tristran’s and Yvaine’s traveling companion for a while.  The scene gives the unicorn a motivation for helping Tristan and Yvaine that the movie lacks, outside the one Yvaine reveals.  Unicorns are the Moon’s creatures, and, in the book, Yvaine is the moon’s daughter.  The moon asked the unicorn to help Yvaine.  As the movie demonstrates, the information isn’t necessary but the knowledge deepens the characters and the audiences understanding of the world. 

Movie audiences demand a faster-paced movie, especially when they’re watching fantasy. Readers are more willing to enjoy a slower-paced story, so long as it holds attention. So it is understandable why Goodman and Vaughn would not keep exactly to the book when they adapted STARDUST into a screenplay. And, although Goodman and Vaughn removed details that would bring more insight and deepen the characters, they did not remove anything that devastated the plot. In fact, Vaughn and Goodman probably stayed closer to the actual storyline than Gaiman did.  Seeing the differences between the book and the movie, in this case, is a great way to see how what you put in or take out of a story can affect how it reads.  Whether one reads Gaiman’s more detailed story or one watches the fast-paced movie, either variation of the story is entertaining. 

Works Cited 

Gaiman, Neil. Stardust. New York: HarperCollins, 1999. Print. 

Stardust. Dir. Matthew Vaughn. Paramount Pictures, 10 August 2007. DVD.