Backwards

At the end of the book, Oskar describes everything backwards. He starts thinking his father was the man who fell from the building. Then, Oskar imagines his father actually flying up from the ground. After that is a series of events that happened to Thomas but were told in a backward manner. Oskar ends the story with the line: “We would have been safe.”

This paragraph makes me wonder. I thought that Oskar was over his father’s death by finding out the truth about his key. He also “allows” his mother to fall in love again. So why does Oskar still reminisce about that “worst day.” I have come to a conclusion that rewinding the pain, the misery, and the suffering does not mean that Oskar doesn’t move on in life. It is actually a prime sign that he is ready to let this incident be his past. It is like when someone spills his coffee on his shirt, and there is no way to clean the shirt, so the only way for him to wipe off the stains is to rewinding everything “like it never happened.”

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Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close: Oskar and his mom

In the Schell family, I feel that both Oskar and his dad have “abnormal” personality, and his mom is the only character that is “close to real life” and “realistic”. After his dad dies, Oskar’s mom tries her best to fill his shoes. But her personality does not fit with Oskar’s. Oskar expects his mom to deal with Thomas’ death the same way he does. But as a realistic widow, she decides to move on. Oskar is offended by this idea. He constantly questions his mom if she really misses her husband, or the reason she laugh but not cry publicly.  This also leads to his hatred toward his mom’s friend, Ron. He believes his mom loves Ron and wants to date him after his father’s death (although this is a common thing for a young woman to do).

I think the love of his mom toward Oskar is not reciprocal. His fear is more than his love toward her. Oskar does not want his mom to get mad at him. One time, he gets very frustrated and says something that he later regrets: “If I could have chosen, I would have chosen you!” I think that is why Oskar does not mention his mom’s name (so far) in this novel. Nevertheless, understanding her son’s situation and personality, Oskar’s mom still loves him as her child. She is so used to his act and his father’s act (she sometimes mentions that Oskar reminds her of her husband) that she is not longer surprised by Oskar’s actions and always says to him “I always love you” or “I was never mad at you.”

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Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close: Oskar’s personality

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close tells a story about a nine-year-old kid named Oskar looking for a lock that fits a key inside his dad’s envelope. Although he is very young, his ability to think and to draw conclusions is amazing. We could see this through his calculation of how long it would take him to open every lock in New York, or how long it would take him to go through all of people with the name Black in New York. His ability is partly due to the education he has from his father. Oskar’s favorite game with his father is Reconnaissance Expedition. It is a game where his father gives him clues and Oskar has to go around to solve for those clues. The conversations that he has with his father are also very intellectual, unlike a normal conversation between a normal nine-year-old kid and his father.

Oskar is also very curious about things happening around him. That is probably why he has such a great imagination. In his head, Oskar always “invents” new things for the world. We could see this right in the first page, where he talks about a teakettle: “What about a teakettle? What if the spout opened and closed when the steam came out, so it would become a mouth, and it could whistle pretty melodies, or do Shakespeare, or just crack up with me?” Another example about Oskar’s wonderful imagination is when he talks to the limo driver: “Actually, if limousines were extremely long, they wouldn’t need drivers. You could just get in the back seat, walk through the limousine, and then get our of the front seat, which would be where you wanted to go.” Overall, Oskar is an interesting kid, and I would love to see how he figures out the “puzzle” about the key and the word “Black.”

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True War Story

When I was little, my teacher usually told us a story about a hero during the Vietnam war against France. The story goes like this: “There was a kid name Le Van Tam. He joined the Viet army when he was very young. On January 1st, 1946, somehow, he got inside a French gas station. He poured gasoline all over his body, burnt himself, and jumped into the closest gasoline container. The entire gas station was destroyed along with the sacrificed young boy.” When we heard this heoric story, we were so touched that we did not even question its authenticity, we believed that it was a true war story right away. Later on, after moving to America, I learned that the hero Le Van Tam has never existed. He was created by the Minister of  War Propaganda to encourage the people to fight against France.

And to think about it, the story makes absolutely no sense. First of all, how could a kid get through the security guards in order to be inside the gas station without any help. We only see this in Hollywood movies. Second, after burning himself, how could he still be strong enough to run to one of the gasoline container to make the explosion. Remember, he was just a kid. This is scientifically incorrect. And yet, Vietnamese people still believe in it. I believed in it. I thought it was a true war story because it had a great plot, a heroic character… So we believe it without any doubts. This story further convinces me about O’Brien’s argument about a true war story: whenever you hear about a heroic war story, don’t believe it.

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Critical Analysis

Critical analysis is a way for the writer to express her or his opinion or interpretation about a text. Critical analysis requires critical thinking, which is essentially the process by which we make sense of all the information around us. Therefore, critical thinking guides us in recognizing, formulating, and examining arguments. There is another literature term: argument. All language use has an argumentative edge. For example: when you says “hi” to the someone, it seems like there is nothing argumentative about it, but you are actually convincing them that you are happy to see them. Even pictures have argumentative edge. When a newspaper puts a big picture in their front page, they are persuading that this is the picture of the day, that the readers should focus on it. Therefore, recognizing an argument in a text as well as constructing one’s own argument are very important for critical analysis.

For my upcoming critical analysis prezi presentation, I would like to focus on the way the authors tell their memoirs by analyzing Sapatri’s Persepolis and Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-five. One major difference that one could easily recognize about these texts is that one is a science fiction, and the other one is a graphic novel. Thus, these two novels are not the usual memoirs that we have seen. I would like to explore more about the effect that each method (science fiction and graphic novel) has on the writer’s way of telling their life story. For example, by using science fiction, Vonnegut is not constrained by the idea of time; his character is able to move freely through time. On the other hand, by using graphic novel, Sapatri could easily describe the way she perceived the world when she was a child; she cannot do this by using words.

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Persepolis’ pictorial effect

A comic book? In a college English class? It might sound like a joke at first, but I had no idea how much one could learn from reading a comic book, aka. a graphic novel. In fact, I believe that a comic book has a certain advantage over normal novel book, because it is also supported by the pictorial element. Instead of using words to describe a character’s emotion, the author could show it by drawing. For example, on page 189, at the beginning of the chapter named “The Vegetable”, Marjane Satrapi successfully describes the changes about her, and the effects that her hardships have had on her. The readers could easily recognize that her trip has had an apparent impact on her appearance. She looks more experienced, more mature; thus the readers could conclude that she has learned a lot from the trip; she is no longer the little girl in her parents’ arms.

The second panel I want to discuss about is the bottom panel on page 235. This is when Satrapi discovers that her boyfriend has been unfaithful to her, and decides to move out of Dr.Heller’s house. We could see that the panel is colored almost entirely in black; only the moon is still very bright. She sits on a chair, and looks up to the moon. So I think Satrapi is trying to tell us that it seems like she does not have a future at the moment; achieving her goals is similar to walking to the moon, it is impossible.

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Hitler – a kind old man or a ruthless tyrant?

Hitler has been known as a heartless dictator. In fact, when I typed “tyrant” into thesaurus.com, the first answer I got was “Hitler.” It is the proof that whenever someone hears the name “Hitler”, they think of cruelty, blood… So I was shocked when I watched Hitler’s youngest secretary Traudl Junge’s interview. She said that Hitler was very gentle. There was no sign of him being a dictator. She revealed how she was shocked when she first met him. He was very nice to the secretaries; she thought of him as her father. Was Traudl Junge lying? I do not think so. At the time of the interview, she was very old. She also told the story with great guilt; she felt guilty because she was a part of the regime, and she did not realize it until now. So if she was correct, what is the real Hitler: a kind old man or a ruthless tyrant?

Maybe it is both. I believe Hitler had a very interesting and complicated personality. To deal with public, he had to show that he was the right man for the job. So he tried to be as powerful as possible. However, behind the curtain, when he was back in his bunker, he was so tired with all the political issues so that he wanted to be as gentle as possible. According to Junge, he did not want to talk about politics at all. He was very human: talking about other issues with the secretary during his meals, playing with his dogs. He even got angry when someone asked him about the Jews during his visit.

I also think that Junge should not feel guilty. I understood her because I was in her shoes before. I lived in a communist country. During my first 14 years of life, I thought communism was the best way to rule a country; and I did not find Ho Chi Minh (I used to call him Uncle Ho, by the way) ruthless. I only knew about the truth when I got out of the shade. I saw Vietnamese people (elderly, children, men…) crying and hugging his coffin during his service. I do not blame them, because they were living under a shade like what  Traudl Junge did.

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