A Fate Shaped by Time

        What time period an event takes place in has a great deal of influence on how that event transpires. From slavery, to segregation, to apartheid, to an equal society, the world's view on certain subjects is bound to be subject to change over time. The events that took place in the novels we read this year were certainly shaped by the era in which they took place. with John Proctor from The Crucible by Arthur Miller, fear of religion and the devil overcame common sense and logic. With Hester Prynne from The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, a society where women were insignificant and adultery was an unspeakable crime denied her of the life she deserved. and of course with Sethe from Beloved by Toni Morrison, a life of slavery that took away a person's chance at a free mind and a true personal identity. In all of these novels, the characters are defined by the time period in which they lived, and it made their trials and tribulations all the more terrible. 
         In Beloved by Toni Morrison, we are told the tale of an escaped slave name Sethe, who sought to create a new, better life for herself in Ohio after running away from her planation. The way that time defined Sethe was in the form of slavery. Slavery denied the slaves a sense of self, and for an escaped slave, one was never truly free. Even though Sethe was physically free she was living in constant fear of her past, blocking out all the horrible memories of Sweet Home. This kind of emotional and mental torture is not typical of a free woman. Because of the affect that slavery had had on Sethe, she could never allow her thoughts and conscious to be free gain. Morrison gives us an idea of just how humiliating and morally reducing slavery can be for someone when Paul D, on of Sethe's fellow slaves at Sweet Home, talks about feeling like he was less important, less free than a rooster. Paul D was being punished, and had a bit in his mouth as he watched the bird strut around proudly. "Mister, he looked so... free. Better than me. Stronger, tougher" (Morrison 89). The fact that a grown human man could feel reduced to less than a mere rooster is a telling example of how slavery can destroy someone's psyche. If Sethe had lived in a time period other than her own, she would have been a completely different woman; with a mind that was free to work at its full capacity. The same is true of all the characters in the over novels we read, namely Hester Prynne. 
         In The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, we are first introduced to Hester Prynne as she is being brought into the open after being kept in jail for some time. We learn that she has committed adultery, and is condemned to a life of wearing the letter "A" on her breast. The way that time period plays into Hester's punishment is in the fact that during this time period, women were held in much less esteem than men. It could be assumed that a woman would receive a much worse punishment for the same crime as a man. The other way that time period factors in is that in present day society, adultery is not as awful a crime. When someone cheats on their spouse in this day and age, sometimes the couple does not even separate. But at this time, adultery was one of the worst things that one could do to their significant other. One way that Hester separates herself from the other characters of these novels is that she does not let the stigmas and stereotypes of her time stop her from becoming a prominent member of her society. This is not to say that John Proctor was not a prominent member in his society, but Hester had to overcome a lot more to achieve her status. One example of how Hester is able to hold her own and be her own woman comes from the first scene in the book where we meet Hester. She is being brought out of the jail to face public humiliation, and as the guard put his hand on her shoulder, she "repelled him, by an action marked with the natural dignity and force of character, and stepped into the open air, as if by her own free will" (Hawthorne 47). Hester's defiance shows that she is willing to fight for what she thinks she deserves: Respect. But not all of the characters had as happy an ending as Hester. Even tough he fights to overcome what is opposing him, John Proctor does not have the same uplifting ending as Hester Prynne. 
        John Proctor faces a challenge that is different from both those of Hester and Sethe. John is a respected member of his community, and an important man. But just because his life starts off with less challenges than his literary counterparts, does not mean that he will not have to fight for what he believers in. The time period in which John Proctor lived was one dominated by religion and faith. Religion was so important to early societies like Salem that it often overshadowed basic logic and reason. When some local girls get themselves into great trouble by dancing in the woods, their "leader" takes it upon herself to shift the blame to the townspeople around them that had nothing to do with the proceedings by crying witch. Of course, in our present day society, this would be a preposterous claim, and no community would widely accept that the devil had come to their town to wreak havoc vicariously through the spirits of the townsfolk. But alas, in this period of time, that is exactly what happened. John stayed true to logic, and denied the existence of witches, which made him an outcast, and eventually led to his downfall. John expresses his frustration with all the talk of witchcraft early on in the book when he is speaking to Rev. Parris and Mr. Putnam. The men speak of witchcraft and the devil and hell, to which John replies "Can you speak for one minute without we land in Hell again? I am sick of Hell!" (Miller 30). John is the only one in his society that remains true to common sense, and it is that which leads to his eventual death at the end of the book. 
        All of these characters were in some drastic way affected by the time period they lived in. If any of these characters lived in our current society, they would not have faced the same opposition that they did in these books.  But in a way, it is because they suffered these oppressions that our society is as advanced as it is today. And we discuss these travesties of the past, the history of the future is busy writing itself now. Who knows what problems we face today will seem obsolete in the future. After all, tomorrow's history is today's present. All three of these characters faced time period based oppression in their own unique, yet almost similar way. But thanks to these characters who endured the pain of ignorance, these martyrs who gave way to a brighter future, we can now say that these problems that they faced, are no longer a thread to the structure of society. 

Ben Upton ' 16

Nature Essay

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I am going to say this right off the bat: nature and I do not get along. Keeping that in mind, this story will probably be humorous to some of you.

It begins with an extremely long and tedious car ride through the backwoods of Maine, which, astonishingly, is not as exciting as one might think. After hearing the same four pop songs blaring on the radio and staring at blurry trees whisking by outside for three plus hours, you start to go a little crazy.

    I was already annoyed at my parents for having the brilliant idea of dragging our family up to Baxter State Park for a “fun filled weekend” of hiking, swimming and sitting by the fire, and this car ride was definitely not making matters any better. It was seriously cutting into the summer vacation I was attempting to enjoy.

    After what could only be estimated as the fiftieth time hearing “Someone Like You” by Adele through the constantly cutting out speakers, we arrived at the campground, which was nestled at the base of the mountain we would soon climb, or attempt to climb: Mount Doubletop.

    Walking towards our campsite, we stumbled upon a group of Park Rangers picking up several tipped over trash cans and their accompanying shredded plastic bags. My ever curious Father asked them what had happened, and a Ranger with perhaps the largest mustache I had ever seen responded with, “We’ve been having some black bear problems recently. Don’t worry though, they shouldn’t get in the way of your weekend.”

    Maintaining my unamused expression I turned on my heels and headed full throttle towards our minivan, only to be grabbed at the arm by my Mother and dragged towards our campsite. What seemed to be my only window for escape had vanished.

    After making it to the campsite and dumping our rainbow assortment of duffel bags onto the dusty ground, my Dad headed back to the van to get our tent. My sister trotted off towards the sound of running water just over a nearby hill, and I collapsed with a groan on our site’s picnic table. My Mom shot me a frustrated look, however we both looked up at the sound of my Dad’s fast-paced approaching footsteps. He was there all right, bald, sweaty, but empty handed. Right away my Mom and I both knew what happened.

“You FORGOT the tent?” the shriek from my Mother had never been louder.

I rolled my eyes as an argument erupted between them. My sister poked her head up from the hill next to our site, and I pointed to the bickering couple next to me. She nodded, understanding, and disappeared, continuing with whatever she was doing.

    Three hours later, after the sun had long set and our fire had died, I found myself wedged in the trunk of my minivan with my Mother, Father, Sister, and about five Pillow Pets. The thought of black bears running around made me uneasy enough, and my Father’s unnecessarily intense snoring didn’t help matters at all. Needless to say, I got no sleep that night. The next thing I knew I was standing at the base of Doubletop, backpack strapped on, baseball hat on head, sneakers tied, and feeling more indifferent to my current situation than I had the entire trip.

    As we started up the trail my Dad attempted to crack a few camping-themed jokes to lift our spirits, but all they made me want to do was go back to our site and jump down the roofed hole the State Park labeled bathroom.

    The way my Mother explained it, there were three sections of the trail. Damp, rocky, and woodsy. The rocky part was in the middle, and required the utmost hiking experience and finesse. Lucky for my family, I had neither of those things. The damp part mostly involved leaping over puddles and creeping around mud pits and other suspicious things on the ground. The puddles, I stepped in. The mud, I fell in. The suspicious things, I kicked out of the way, only to fall in another puddle seconds later.

    Then the rocky part came. Let’s just say I was pulled up that portion of the hike.

    When the woodsy part towards the peak came, I had a total of ten scrapes on my right arm, four on my left, and an unmeasurable amount on my legs. My sister had ripped her backpack, and my Mother’s water bottle had fallen off a cliff. Nevertheless, we trudged on through the towering pines.

    My family was already at the peak when I rounded the corner towards the top. I heard my Mother’s gasps and the clicking of my Father’s camera. The energy I had been lacking the entire hike suddenly came to me, and I sprinted up the last leg and joined my family at the peak.

    The view was absolutely breathtaking. The smaller peaks of the State Park looped around us like a jagged crown, and in the distance, Mount Katahdin loomed like the jewel on top. I took in a deep breath and smirked, appreciating the beauty that surrounded me as I tried my hardest not to let my family know how much I was actually enjoying the moment.

    After the even more precarious hike down and lots of marshmallow roasting, I found myself once again stuffed in the minivan trunk with my family and overabundance of stuffed animals. I sighed and looked out the sunroof above me. The deep purple sky was filled with more stars than I had ever seen, and my eyes widened as I attempted to take them all in. As my eyes darted from star to star, I realized this would be something I could never experience in the city, and maybe, just maybe, if I made amends with nature, the view would always be worth it.

Sophie Charest '16

The Hallmarks of Decay

       The main character in Maggie: A Girl on the Streets by Stephen Crane experiences the difficult life of growing up and easily falling in love. Stephen Crane had to pay to get this book published because no publishes would sign off with him. They thought no one wanted to read about this girl who grows up and becomes a prostitute. Maggie only becomes a prostitute at the very end and only for a short time before she dies. He doesn't even go into great detail about that part, mainly the book revolves on how Maggie got there in the first place. The three dance hall scenes reveal Maggie's downfall in character by having the first one be a happy, respectful place where Maggie is independent, and the last one being a filthy place where Maggie only depended on Pete.
      The green-hued hall, the first out of three halls, was the most respectful and beautiful one they went to. The people there were classy and respectful; "Men smoked their pipes contentedly" (31). This describes that the men were in a state of happiness while watching the performance. They were enjoying themselves while not bothering the other people, unlike the other two halls. There were many performances that occurred in this hall; from dancers to singers to a ventriloquist act, it was the most entertaining hall. Maggie loved it, "Her cheeks were blushing with excitement and her eyes were glistening. She drew deep breaths of pleasure. No thoughts of the atmosphere of the collar and cuff factory came to her" (34-35). She was so happy and content that she didn't have a single thought in her head about the horrid collar and cuff factory that made her miserable. Maggie is there to have fun with Pete and ends up forgetting all the bad memories. While in this first hall, Maggie is independent and doesn't need Pete by her side the whole time. Even when she arrives home, she rejects Pete's attempt for a kiss.  This changes about the second hall.
      The hall of irregular shape is a downgrade, in appearance and character, from the first hall. The men there are more filthy and inconsiderate with a large, heavy cloud of smoking coming from their pipes. In this second hall, Maggie shows a bit more of a need to be around Pete; "She leaned with a dependent air toward her companion" (57). In the first hall, the crowd and the performances were of a higher level and Maggie had more dignity and self-sufficiency. In this second one, she has become Pete's loyal companion. She doesn't want to leave Pete's side. Pete doesn't do anything about this, and Maggie starts to only breath because Pete breaths, Maggie's independence drops even lower in the last hall. 
        The hilarious hall is the last hall that represents Maggie's downfall. This hall is the most disgusting one, like the other two "The usual smoke was present, but so dense that heads and arms seemed entangled in it. The rumble of conversation was replaced by a roar" (64). As Maggie's character declines, the smoke in the halls incline; the men's level of matureness declines; the noise of conversation inclines. With Pete's "off-handedness and ease" towards Maggie, "her dependence had been magnified and showed its direct effect" on Pete (65). Pete didn't help Maggie by trying to make her independent, he just didn't care and let her do whatever she wanted; therefore, she became dependent on him and followed his every move. She was lost without him, not knowing what to do, or where to go. Pete wanted her gone and told her to "Go deh hel!" (76). He was tired of her and wanted a change, wanted a prettier, smarter girl. 
        Maggie started out as a strong, independent young girl; the hall started out as a beautiful, entertaining center for mannered men. The second hall was more filthy and smoke filled. The men were less mannered and were drinking beer, banging them on the table as they would in those old irish-folk movies; Maggie hated the date at the third hall. The smoke so dense that the people were "entangled in it," the noise so loud it was "replaced by a roar". It wasn't romantic or fun at all for Maggie, accounting for that Pete just left her there with "a mere boy" while he went to hang out with Nellie, "the woman of brilliance and audacity" (66). Pete got tired of Maggie. She became a helpless dog and lost her way when Pete left her. This is why she became a prostitute and ended up dying, because she didn't know how else to get by without Pete.

Megan Long '16

Nature

        I stroll along the dirt path, treading up dust and examining the clouds of earth in awe. The cadaverous gray of the sky made a distinct horizon with the vibrant green of the plain, which stretched endlessly before me. Sprinkled with wild chrysanthemum, the field reminds me of a head full of dandruffs. As the wind swooped in, flacks of white swayed along with the grass, some fluttering into the emerald hair. The boredom is bringing out the best of my imagination as I stare intently at the scene, trying to ferment enough emotions to write a sentimental entry. In fact, the only reason we came to somewhere so rural is to experience the quiet contemplation and desolation away from society, and our teacher was not going to let us leave without recording our every movement and emotion. Other students are already settling down or have already started writing already, and here I am, perplexed that I'm not feeling the emotions that my fellow pupils are already transcribing on paper. 
       Suddenly, I feel the impulse to run; and I did. I sprint through the clusters of students, under my teacher's outreached hands, and past everything and anything. I don't know whether it is adrenaline or the fear of being caught, but I keep going until my lungs burst from lack of oxygen. Tripping face down into the soil, I lay there still and wait for the feeling of nausea to leave. My heart thuds against the ground, and if felt as if the earth has a pounding heart of its own. The ringing in my ears gradually increase until it sounds more like a constant shrieking, but it did not break the peace. Serenity envelopes me, and I tune out the shouts of concern, the flickering of insects' wings, the rustling of grass. This moment feel like an extract from the movies, usually when the protagonist feels too stressed and consults nature for relief. I imagine myself as an escaped convict. The grass pillows me, giving me a sense of security, and the wild flowers soften the edges of my anxiety. 
        I hear sounds of rustling and open my eyes to worried-looking faces. A few hands reached down, and I grab them and pull myself back to my feet. The illusion fades and I'm back to reality, where the earth can't actually soak up my stress nor can the wind blow away my worries. All my distress swell back up inside me, and the only proof of the serenity I've felt is the grass stained shirt.

Lily Cheng '16

Bar Hopping Down a Spiral Staircase

       Often times in relationships one person loves the other more than that person loves the first. This is a common problem, and it often leads to the disinterest of the one being loved too much. In the work, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane, as Pete gets more used to Maggie's presence, he realizes that he does not have to try hard to win her over, so the qualities of the bars that they visit decrease over time. Evidence of the decay in scenery can be seen by Cranes description of the smoke, audience and music in each of the three bars portrayed.
        The first bar to which Pete takes Maggie is elegant, and never having seen such an astonishing place, it sweeps Maggie off her feet. One of the first things she sees in the Rum Alley bar is the smoke. Maggie notices that the "clouds of tobacco smoke rolled and wavered high in the air about the dull gilt of chandeliers" (Crane 31). During this time period smoking inside was common. Mentioning the smoke entangled in the chandeliers gives the presence of tobacco a glamorous tone. The audience is rough and nothing special but they are not rowdy. Maggie observes that "the great body of the crowd was composed of people who showed that all the day they strove with their hands" (Crane 31). Most of bar dwellers are blue-collar workers that just want beer. These average people comprised an audience that watched a classy performance. On the stage "an orchestra of yellow silk women and bald-headed men on an elevated stage near the centre of a great green hued hall, played a popular waltz" (Crane 31). Certain elements such as "silk", "elevated stage," and the "great green hued hall" show the amount of class this venue has. The  men of the orchestra are bald; this shows an aspect of cleanliness and maturity. These clean-cut men along with the women dressed in silk are playing a "popular waltz."  This kind of music would not be seen in a dive bar; however, this extravagant setting does not last.'
        The second bar is clearly not as astonishing as the first. Maggie noticed the music that "drifted to her ears through the smoke-filled atmosphere, made the girl dream. She thought of the former Rum Alley environment" (Crane 58).  The smoke is described as thicker and lower. The music has to "drift" through the smoke to reach her ears. Just this early she is nostalgic about the first bar in Rum Alley. The rowdy crowd of this bar does not help: "men seated at the tables near the front applauded loudly pounding the polished wood with their beer glasses" (Crane 57). This behavior seems reminiscent of vikings after a successful pillage. The entertainment these men are applauding is described with less glamour: "A submissive orchestra dictated to by a spectacled man with frowsy hair and a dress suit, industriously followed the bobs of his head and the waves of his baton" (Crane 57). The conductor is described as having "frowsy hair" as opposed to the bald men in the previous bar. Frowsy hair does not project an image of cleanliness or order. The orchestra as a whole is "submissive," a term which doesn't usually suggest enthusiasm. It is as if they are held captive there. Despite its downfalls the second bar is still better than the third. 
        The third bar is the worst that Pete takes Maggie to. At this point, Pete realizes that he does not have to try to win Maggie; he already has her love and he is growing uninterested in it. The smoke in this bar is yet thicker and lower than it was in the last: "the usual smoke cloud was present, but so dense that arms seemed entangled in it" (Crane 64). Smoke was common in bars, but this magnitude was not normal. The word "entangled" gives it a distasteful tone. The crowd producing this smoke is even more rowdy than the prior. This bar requires a bouncer to keep things in line: "a bouncer, with an immense load of business upon his hands, plunged about in the crowd, dragging bashful strangers to prominent chairs" (Crane 64). The bouncer isn't simply for intimidation, he has an "immense load" of people to control so that the bar does not become a crime scene. The crowd at this bar is so thick that the bouncer "plunges" into it. The quality of entertainment reflects that of the crowd. It is simply "a woman was singing and smiling upon the stage, but no one took notice of her" (Crane 64).  This bar, unlike the previous two, does not have an orchestra.  They hire a single woman to entertain upon the stage. The performance is so plain that no one even notices her. This third and final bar is by far the least favorable. 
       Over the time that Pete dates Maggie, the quality of the bars decrease. The amount of smoke increases noticeably with each new surrounding. The people producing the smoke continually get more undesirable, finally needing a bouncer to control them. The entertainment starts out with a great spectacle: an impressive orchestra playing popular waltzes dominates the stage, but in the last bar a single singer goes unnoticed smiling on stage. The reason for this decline in extravagance is because Pete begins to lose interest in Maggie due to that she does not make him work for her. Crane had identified and written about a recurring issue in many relationship which most of the time cannot be changed or fixed.

Nate Bennett '16