Respond by Letter​ Please

RFLEEnglish 131 is required for all Lenoir-Rhyne students, usually as freshmen. In my case, I am taking it as a sophomore. Having taken higher level courses before this particular course my knowledge of writing is certainly more advanced than most of my freshman classmates. Throughout this course, many types of materials were incorporated into the assignments. Most assignments were to plan, draft and write critical analysis essays, pop quizzes and journal writings. While I expected to become a better writer and thinker with more practice on critical analysis essays, I found that letter writing and simply turning away from the screen to write longhand aided in my growth as a critical thinker.

The most significant work and the features of the course that have aided my development as a writer and critical thinker were the uncommon assignments required in class. In every English course, I would expect there to be papers involved including tons of reading and analyzing. What I did not expect was letter writing. The assignment was foreign to me. What I did not know was that I would come to enjoy this assignment. I even found myself wanting to write letters without being required to. The wise words of Professor Lucas keep ringing in my ears, “writing can be a form of therapy,” and I found that to be very true myself. This assignment helped me want to write leisurely – a quality that anyone would need to become a better thinker.

Knowing that someone will be reading your thoughts and knowing that no one ever will effects what is written. Simply turning away from the screen to write longhand also improved my ability to have the desire to write. The thought that someone would spend their leisure time writing when they were not required to was strange. Yet when I took the time to write about anything, I found myself writing about everything. I wrote letters to those that I missed and to those that I once loved and still love. Writing has become a form of therapy for me. I wrote to my dead pet cat, Henry. I wrote to my mom who passed away almost two years ago. Most oddly and crucial I wrote to my ex-boyfriend. Of course, these people and Henry will never receive these letters. Importantly, all of these letters helped me find closure with my regrets and wishes never granted. Like Guy Lucas wondered in his, “Loss of Unwelcome Burden Devastates Me,” I kept thinking myself, “[f]or years I have lamented the burdens of these [feelings]. I never wanted [these feelings] in the first place. When the hell will I stop crying?” Now I can. Jordan Makant and I had the exact same feelings about love: “no ‘it’s not alright’ ”, but as Bob Dylan sings in his song, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” I can now see past the hurt to see that it is indeed alright. I am now able to move on from things that were holding me back all this time. Makant resolves in his poem, “I see her months later and realize how only now she can fly.” In this case, that woman is me.

Surprisingly I find myself becoming a better writer and thinker with letter writing and simply turning away from the screen to write longhand. All writing does not have to be analytical or even academic content worthy, I have come to realize that writing can just simply be writing. My new found perspective of writing is abling me to write better, and think deeper because I am no longer restricted by what the guidelines call for; I can pour out my heart and soul onto the page because imagination has no limitations.

Works Cited

Lucas, Guy. “Loss of Unwelcome Burden Devastates Me.”, 5 Oct. 2017. Accessed 27 Nov. 2017.

Makant, Jordan. “Thought Twice; It’s Not Alright.” Impossible Angles. Main Street Rag, 2017. 18

Annotated Bibliography

Junod, Tom. “The Falling Man.” Esquire, Sept. 2003,, Accessed 27 Nov. 2017.

“The Falling Man” by Tom Junod describes the posture of a man falling to his death from jumping out of one of the Twin Towers during the attack of September 11, 2001. In contrast to others photographed jumping out of the buildings who flail with fear to their end, he is perfectly calm–not afraid of death. The second in which this picture was taken will last forever, and that is all thanks to the photographer who also photographed Bobby Kennedy the second after he was assassinated.

Larson, Erik. The Devil in the White City. Vintage, 2004.

The Devil in The White City by Erik Larson combines two distantly related stories which took place in the late 19th century. One storyline describes how Daniel Hudson Burnham and his team constructed the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, in honor of the four hundredth anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of America. The other follows an American serial killer who built and operated the World’s Fair Hotel, Herman Webster Mudgett or better known as H. H. Holmes. Burnham becomes a famous architect and Holmes is eventually sentenced to death for his crimes.

Lucas, Guy. “Loss of Unwelcome Burden Devastates Me.”, 5 Oct. 2017. Accessed 27 Nov. 2017.

“Loss of Unwelcome Burden Devastates Me” is by Guy Lucas and his cat. Opening with how he did not want the cat, and how his wife acquired their first cat; he tells the narrative of how he came upon the kitten when he was taking out the trash. He tells us about the hassle it was to litter train the kitten and when he had to go on the search for it when it ran away. Explaining that his new house is the perfect house for his cats, he mentions that his kittens are no longer kittens anymore and that they too age. Lucas ends stating that he never wanted the cat in the first place, but now that Percy is dead he cannot stop crying.

Makant, Jordan. “Thought Twice; It’s Not Alright.” Impossible Angles. Main Street Rag, 2017. 18

“Thought Twice; It’s Not Alright” is a variation on Ekphrastic Writing. Poet Jordan Makant responds to the song, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” by Bob Dylan. The song is about love and heartbreak. Dylan sings that he is moving on, he wishes things could change, he wishes that things could have worked out differently. He reassures, more himself, that it’s okay because at the end of it all you will someday have to move on. Makant responds simply, no; he answers that none of this is okay, but then he realizes that maybe it is okay after all. He resolves that it is alright in the end because now she is free. She can now become more than she was without him.

Schreck, Heidi. Creature. Samuel French, 2011

Author Heidi Schreck presents in her piece Creature how Margery Kempe intends to become a saint in England during the 1400’s. Margery is healed by a vision of Jesus Christ in purple robes, after being tormented by demons for the past six months on her deathbed. Eventually, she is forced to leave town after being threatened to be burned at the stake. We are left to wonder about the fate of Margery and her small family at the end when they are stranded on the outskirts of Lynn.

Whitehead, Colson. The Underground Railroad. Doubleday, 2016

Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad is about Cora’s escape from slavery. Cora’s grandmother, Ajarry, is kidnapped from Africa as a child and brought to America, where she is sold many times before ending up on Randall Plantation. The narrative begins with Cora’s adolescence—she is still living on Randall. Readers find out later that Mabel, Cora’s mother, dies due to a poisonous snake bit on her way back to the Randall Plantation to get Cora. Cora agrees to run away with a young man named Caesar; they travel to South Carolina where she and Cesar have undercover identities. Cora’s true identity as a runaway slave is revealed. Ridgeway, a notorious slave catcher is after her. Cora escapes to North Carolina where Ridgeway eventually captures and takes Cora with him through Tennessee. Cora is rescued by three African American men and lives on Valentine Farm, a free black community in Indiana. Ridgeway and a gang of white men ambush the community. Ridgeway captures Cora and demands that she lead him to the railroad station. Cora pushes Ridgeway downstairs leaving him there to die, as she gets on a handcar, eventually, she reaches the north.

Wilder, Thornton. Our Town. 1938. Harper Perennial, 2003.

Our Town is a play by Thornton Wilder about a small town named Grover’s Corners in New Hampshire. It is narrated by the Stage Manager, who takes part in the play as other characters, and breaks the fourth wall by speaking to the audience on multiple occasions. The Webb and Gibbs family are next door neighbors, their children Emily Webb, and George Gibbs eventually fall in love and get married. Emily dies due to childbirth with her second child. In the afterlife, Emily learns that she can return to live among the living, even though warned not to by others. She goes back to her twelfth birthday, where she observes how ignorant those living are to death. Returning to her grave Emily and the others watch as George cries on her grave, but she cannot sympathize with him because he does not understand what a gift it is to be alive.


Life is the Ultimate Gift


IMG_0588Thornton Wilder’s Our Town is simply a story of everyday life in a small town named Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire. Similarly, the film, It’s a Wonderful Life, by Frank Capra is also focused on daily life in a small town– Bedford Falls, New York. In the Foreward, Donald Margulies a professor from Yale University states that “It’s a Wonderful Life actually owes a great deal to Our Town”(xi). Wilder’s play Our Town had great influences on Frank Capra’s film, It’s a Wonderful Life; furthermore, both pieces of work reveal the groundbreaking truth of the pursuit of happiness, and bring a whole new meaning to life as it is.

Our Town is driven by Emily Webb; ultimately she carries most of the play’s meaning. In the opening scenes, Emily is entering womanhood. She is a bright young woman with charm and confidence, and like all young women, she is looking for romance. Emily falls in love with her next-door neighbor George Gibbs, they marry, and Emily dies due to childbirth with her second child. She then returns to the day of her twelfth birthday, where she learns just how ignorant those living are to death. Returning to her grave Emily and the others watch as George cries on her grave.

Bedford Falls, New York– the year is 1945, Christmas Eve, It’s a Wonderful Life surrounds the life of George Bailey who is suicidal. Clarence Odbody, an angel who is aided with flashbacks on George’s life, in which George is shown doing acts of good. The first is in 1919 when 12-year-old George saves his younger brother Harry, who falls through the ice on a frozen pond, from drowning; George loses his hearing in one ear as a result. While working after school at the local drug store, George sees that his employer, Mr. Gower, distraught over his son’s death from the flu, has accidentally added poison to a child’s prescription drug, and intervenes to stop it from causing harm. On Harry’s graduation night in 1928, George talks to Mary Hatch, who has had a crush on him from an early age. They are interrupted by news of his father’s death. George postpones his travel plans in order to sort out the family business, Bailey Brothers’ Building and Loan, a longtime competitor to Henry F. Potter, the local banker and the richest man in town. Potter wishes to take over its business. George convinces the board of directors to vote against Potter. They agree, on condition that George runs the business, along with his absent-minded uncle Billy. George and Mary get married. On their way to their honeymoon, they witness a run on the bank and use their honeymoon savings to lend financial support at the Building and Loan until the bank reopens. Over time George establishes Bailey Park, a housing development with small houses financed by loans from Bailey Building and Loan, which allows people to own their own homes rather than pay rent to live in Potter’s overpriced slums. Clarence descends to Earth in hopes to gain his angel wings by saving George’s life.

Both Our Town and It’s a Wonderful Life surround lives of those in small towns, and the lives lived in pursuit of happiness. In Our Town, we see the interactions between the Gibbs and Webb families. Like many small-town romances, these neighbors’ children fall in love, as seen with Emily and George. In It’s a Wonderful Life we see this small town romance with George and Mary Hatch. While George Bailey and Mary Hatch are not exactly next door neighbors, they exhibit the small town romance scenario. The pursuit of happiness presented in It’s a Wonderful Life is all seen in George’s life. In the process of doing what he believes in, in falling in love with his high school crush. Ultimately in having a family and wife who adore him, George has everything someone needs to be happy. Furthermore, because George is such a giving man everyone in town loves him, and because of his never-ending compassionate ways, when he needs to come up with eight-thousand dollars the townsmen come in throngs to his rescue. Clarence leaves a note behind stating, “Dear George, Remember no man is a failure who has friends.” In Our Town Emily’s chief function is reserved for Act III. She hesitantly joins the spirits in the cemetery and finds it hard to accept her position at first. Being new, she is able to comment on the relative difference between the living and dead. Of the living, she says: “They’re sort of shut up in little boxes ” Thus, part of her function is to note the irony that she, recently buried in a hillside grave, knows more freedom than the living, who are confined and unjoined to other living beings. Wilder’s philosophy concerning the meaning of life and living is seen during the day she realizes that the living is so involved in performing commonplace tasks that they take no time to gain a balanced perception of the acts that they perform. They are burdened with troubles and earthly concerns to the point that they miss the ecstasy of the moment. As Emily asks the Stage Manager, “Do human beings ever realize life while they live it?” Apparently, it is not until death that people comprehend that every moment of life is wonderful but that most people fail to relish the experience. In the final scene, Emily, who has loved George very deeply, has attained a detachment and serenity that the living does not possess. She can, therefore, observe George’s grief without any of the passion of the living. She simply comments that the living doesn’t understand. Thus, Wilder uses Emily as an example of how the average person can live, marry, and die before comprehending the potential of life.

Our Town and It’s a Wonderful Life both have omniscient characters. In Our Town, the Stage Manager- turned-character who also narrates the play. The Stage Manager tells us the fates of characters, in which the characters themselves have yet to find out. With small facts like the “first automobile is going to come along in about five years–belonged to Banker Cartwright, our richest citizen”(5). He tells us that the paperboy in Act 1, Joe Crowell will “graduated from high school here, head of his class. So he got a scholarship to Massachusetts Tech. Graduated head of his class there too. . . But the war broke out and he died in France”(9). The Stage manager even has the power to pause time and rewind it. Which he does in Act II to show us the day that George and Emily knew they were in love. He can even see and communicate with Emily as a spirit when he confirms that she has the ability to return to the living. With It’s a Wonderful Life this omniscient character is Clarence, George’s guardian angel. When George wishes that he were never born, Clarence decides to grant that wish. Clarence shows George what life would be like in Bedford Falls if he were never born– except without George Bedford Falls would be named Pottersville.

Our Town and It’s a Wonderful Life highlight the joy of living and the wonders and downfalls of God’s greatest gift. We are often blinded by daily life that we forget an end is coming one day. Yet with the knowledge that we are mortal, we should pursue happiness like George Bailey did so. God’s greatest gift may have both pros and cons, but it is up to us to live out the lives we want. Our Town addresses the ignorance of those who live without the realization that they are truly living. Similarly, It’s a Wonderful Life reveals what we would be losing if we threw away life. Both pieces are similar in multiple ways, and I would agree that It’s a Wonderful Life owns a great deal to Our Town.


Works Cited

It’s a Wonderful Life. Dir. Frank Capra. Perf. Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore,

Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers. RKO, 1946.


Margulies, Donald. Foreword. Our Town by Thornton Wilder. Harper Perennial, 2003, pp. Xi-xx.

Wilder, Thornton. Our Town. 1938. Harper Perennial, 2003.


The Obscurity of Modern Life

IMG_2765.JPGThe Devil in The White City by Erik Larson combines two distantly related stories which took place in the late 19th century. One storyline describes how Daniel Hudson Burnham and his team constructed the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, in honor of the four hundredth anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of America. The other follows an American serial killer who built and operated the World’s Fair Hotel, Herman Webster Mudgett or better known as H. H. Holmes. The prologue: “Aboard the Olympic” reveals the continuing theme that ignorance may be an inescapable part of modern life.

Larson begins The Devil in The White City at the chronological end of April 14, 1912, with Burnham’s story– the world-famous architect whose “name was familiar throughout the world” (3). Now sixty-five years old, in bad health and with his physical abilities now failing him, he is on a ship going from America to Europe with his wife, Margaret, on the R.M.S Olympic. He learns that the telegram he wants to send to a close friend and former colleague during the World Fair, Francis Millet, who is on the Titanic going in the opposite direction, cannot be sent because the ship that he is on is experiencing an accident. This accident is the result of a famous disaster at sea: the sinking of the Titanic. Burnham and Millet were two of the planners of the Chicago World’s Fair. Over the course of six months, more than 27 million people visited The White City which the World’s Fair was nicknamed. He and Millet are some of the only designers of the World’s Fair still alive. Soon, no one will remember the Chicago World’s Fair– The White City that wowed Americans and the site of many tragedies– firsthand. The idea that all humans eventually pay for what they do is extremely important.  

The World’s Fair helped Chicago boom. At the time of the World’s Fair, Chicago modernized at a rapid pace. The city limits kept increasing, workers built huge technologically advanced structures like the Ferris Wheel, and trains connect far-away parts of the city to one another. Some came looking for employment and success, some came to admire the World’s Fair, but both of these groups were responding to Chicago’s reputation as a “modern” city. One consequence of the rapid modernization in Chicago was that people moved to Chicago from across the country, and even the world. In the first chapter “The Black City” Larson opens with  ”how easy it was to disappear” (11). The rapid influx of people from all across the world made Chicago more crowded and impersonal. With so many people all of the citizens of Chicago went their own ways and rarely paid any attention to one another. People from the city are less emotionally connected to one another; therefore, when guests went missing from Holmes’s building, the other residents do not do anything other than express little interest. Larson says this is because they don’t trust the police, and generally because the new inhabitants of Chicago do not feel any deep connection with each other. The worst consequence of the influx of people is that crime rates also raised, luckily for Holmes his crimes just added in with all of the other crimes taking place in the city without notice. Everyone is so excited and preoccupied with the World’s Fair that they do not realize a serial killer lives among them. As Chicago grew bigger and more prosperous with the help of modernization and with new technological advances it also grew anonymous and individual lives began to matter less.

Early in The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson writes that it is easy to disappear in Chicago in the late 19th century. Only after the fair ended did Burnham and the press learn about the murders Holmes more than likely committed. The atmosphere of excitement and rapid change at the Fair made it easier for the Holmes to get away with his crimes. When Holmes was brought to justice, he claimed that he was the Devil. For instance, strange accidents happened to the people involved in his trial; the foreman on the jury that sentenced him, for instance, died suddenly.

In the prologue, Larson established the principle storylines of his book, the story of how Burnham helped design the Fair, and the story of the young, handsome serial killer. The implication is that these stories are closely linked, and not just because they happened at the same time, in a way, the implication is that the World’s Fair may have caused the deaths of the young women. Eventually coming to a full circle at the end of The Devil in the White City Larson shows us that the world we live in is dominated by our surroundings. Like much of history modernization causes society to make something so big and important like the World’s Fair become forgotten.


Work Cited

Larson, Erik. The Devil in the White City. Vintage, 2004.

Visiting Writers​ Series Amor Towles

Amor Towles c. David Jacobs_rev

While I have not read any of Towles’ works I find myself wanting to after I attended his interview on September 29, 2017. Towles seems like a down to earth, comfortable in his skin type of person, so it is only obvious that he is the author of  A Gentleman in Moscow, which was chosen by NPR, Washington Post, and Chicago Tribune as the best book of the year for 2016. He spoke about his book a bit, but I have not read his book so I could not make any connections.


He says that as a child and all throughout his life he was interested in fiction. He took a break in his twenties to work in the investment field, but returned to writing around his thirties. He remarked, “I would have been bitter and a drinker if I didn’t start writing again.”


A Gentleman in Moscow

On Friday morning he spoke about his writing process, writing style in general, and opened up about his road to becoming who he is today. Towles explained that his writing process begins with ideas that he has collected in a box over the years. His ideas are “stories that [he] found interesting to tell at some point in time in the future”, the ideas usually came to him during free time. For example, Towles says that the idea behind most of the stories in his books comes from an experience that he had while viewing a catalog on the Great Depression published by MOMA. He said that as he looked at the pictures he wondered what if someone who had been at the exhibit recognized someone in the photos. He wondered that if they knew one person would they know their story? Would they also know someone else among those photos? He imagined what it would have been like to live then, he wondered what their story was.

An audience member asked how he was able to understand women so well because of the way he builds women characters in his books. The lady said, “the women in your books are dynamic, they are strong yet insecure, how do you capture the persona of women so perfectly?” Most importantly Towles replied that in order to develop dynamic characters to put yourself in their shoes. Take into consideration their race, their gender, what era it is, what it was like to live like one lived. Ask yourself who exactly– precisely is the right person to tell the story. His advice was to, “master the ability to capture a personality that is not your own.”

Love is Hell

Margery Kempe is healed by a vision of Jesus Christ in purple robes, after being tormented by demons for the past six months on her deathbed. Author Heidi Schreck presents in her piece Creature how Margery intends to become a servant of God; therefore, reigning hell upon the ones who love her and herself. The theme love is the highest hell is presented in the epigraph, “[h]e has seen her comings and goings knows that love is the highest name of hell” (6). Creature demonstrates a central theme that Love is the highest hell in the events that centralize around three characters, Margery Kempe, John Kempe, and Father Thomas. 

For Margery her love for God causes her to live in the highest hell. Margery’s vision sparks a light in her heart that calls her to become a follower of God. While the event of her visions about demons and God are repeatedly questioned one thing remains certain; Margery is consumed by her call to follow God, as she often weeps because of his almighty. To be a saint one is continually tormented by temptations set by the Devil in attempts to pull one father from God; who sinners have a burning love for. For that reason, one will find themselves in another living hell because one will never be able to express their all-consuming love for God. For characters like Father Thomas and Saint Juliana in Creature, they will never truly understand what their vision of God means. They will forever question their intended purpose set by God. Father Thomas understands the pains that Margery must endure because they both share an all-consuming love for God.  

Father Thomas struggles to understand his revelation, and he also endures Hell from Margery. In an attempt to pursue her calling to belong to God solely, Margery seeks a teacher. Father Thomas loves Margery as one of God’s children. While all priests in Lynn have abandoned Margery, Father Thomas has stayed near listening to Margery’s concerns and guiding her forward on her road to sainthood. While Father Thomas knows that Margery cannot become a saint, and wear white, as she insists, he lets her do as she wishes. He teaches her from the work of Saint Juliana, a saint who Margery has come to admire. Father Thomas remains because he wants Margery to “know divine love” (13). As said in the epigraph Father Thomas “has seen her comings and goings knows that love is the highest name of hell”(6) Ultimately, he wants the best for Margery and her family.  


Margery’s husband, John Kempe, is forced to endure hell because his wife seems to have become a crazy lady as rumored in Lynn. John is concerned about the safety of his wife, and frankly her sanity. Margery exits her room of occupation for the last six months proclaiming that she has returned from “[t]he mouth of Hell”(17). John is relieved to see his wife healthy again; however, he soon realizes that Margery refuses to belong to him anymore, body and soul because she now belongs to God. John figuratively goes through hell enduring Margery’s Jesus talk, and mainly her refusal to have sex with him. He expresses his concerns to Father Thomas when he hears rumors about Margery saying that she is a Lollard. During their conversation, he states that “[he] work[s] taking care of [his] son because his wife is too busy loving to God to love her family”(49). John thinks that Margery’s talk about visions is absurd and he does not believe her. He wants her to stop acting so insane because she could be burned at the stake as many others have been. John leaves Father Thomas remarking “I love her, Father. You care about her eternal soul, but I love her here on earth”(53). In the end, Margery is forced to flee Lynn because she is being prosecuted, John follows with their baby. 

Margery is headstrong; she never backed down from what she believed and wanted. On her journey to become a saint, Margery caused the ones around her to suffer the wrath of her constant weeping, and devotion as an ambassador of God’s word. She also endured her slice of Hell as expressed with her verbal actions, and ultimately the threat of death in the end. There are people who love Margery as she is, and because of this divine love, Margery has people who will always support her. Sometimes we endure Hell because of the ones we love. In the end, Love will always win no matter the consequences.  

Works Cited 

Saltz, Rachel. “Faith and the Tempted Woman of a Certain Middle Age.” The New York Times,, 5 Nov. 2009, Accesses 18 Sept. 2017. 

Schreck, Heidi. Creature. Samuel French, 2011 

I Know Yer Looking for an Adventure

There is nothing as exhilarating as the first-person experience of culture shock. It is the moment you realize that you have stepped out of your comfort zone— maybe just a little too far out this time.


Trip to Potsdam

Standing on an overly crowded bus, I found myself with two large bags of luggage. We had just gotten off of a nine-hour flight, and landed in Munich. It was there on that bus that I was being yelled at, in German, to get out of the way. Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one being yelled at, and they only stared at us for an uncomfortable amount of time. Following that extremely awkward moment, some of us exited the bus to let them out, and then re-enter the bus to be on our merry way. The first time that I had flown outside of the United States— standing on the firm group for approximately thirty minutes, there was the shock.

While in Germany that was the only encounter I had with culture shock. All of the following events were not very shocking on the “Culture Shock Scale.” Although they were defiantly an eleven on a scale of 1-10 regarding the “Amazingly Awesome Scale.”

I cannot wait to go on such an amazing adventure again.