“What is the meaning of beauty?” This is one of the many complex and deep questions that we have been asked this year in Mr. G’s senior honors English class. When one of these deep questions would come up I would often sit there, realizing that I myself had never really answered this question. This year I have tried more and more to answer deep questions such as these. Obviously there is no exact answer, but pondering these questions has helped shape my beliefs and has helped me discover what my purpose is. Writing has always been something that I have enjoyed. Growing up I loved to write stories and poetry, but not until this year’s English class did I realize my full potential as a writer. I became extremely interested in many of the topics that we read about and I felt that I could apply them to my life. Learning about tragic heroes and destiny allowed me to analyze my life and others around me. Also, I absolutely loved reading feminist and psychoanalytical criticisms because they were filled with new ideas and theories that I had never learned. During this year’s class I feel that I learned how to write with style and how to use literature to analyze these “deep questions” that were addressed during discussions. Although I love this class and what it has taught me the beginning started out a bit rough, but as things started to pick up I started to catch on.
The first assignment of the year was to write an essay which analyzed the poem “Red Shift” by Ted Berrigan. I was very excited and interested because I loved poetry, but I was also nervous because my English class my previous year did not include any writing. I remember receiving my grade, which was a 70. I was furious, mostly because writing is something I love and I did not wanted to be good at it. I returned to Mr. Gallagher for help on my next paper and I suddenly realized what it meant to write a paper and a complete thesis. I realized that I needed to be specific when writing a paper and needed to be consistent with my thesis throughout. On my next paper I received a 95 and I was so happy. I now understood the writing process a little bit better and found that it allowed me to express my ideas and opinions more clearly. After we completed a few more writing assignments we began to have discussions and started to analyze literature on a deeper level.
One of the most memorable parts of the year was when we read and had discussions on A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. I really found his writing style unique and while reading this book I realized how many things in this world are connected. I also enjoyed when we analyzed what Stephen Deadulus and his artistic theories of the world. Stephen is an artist and he believed that he must isolate himself in order to truly be an “artist”. This got me thinking because I am also an artist, a vocalist. I have often wondered if pursuing music and music alone would be the best thing as Stephen had suggested. But, as I continued to read I realized that if one wants to be an artist than they must be immersed in many ideas and learn from many different areas. Also, when we read the Stranger by Albert Camus I began to analyze my life along with Monsieur Meursault. I tried to find what purpose I serve in this world as well as others. Whenever I need to make a decision I always think back to the myth of Icarus which we read after reading the Stranger. I constantly think about Icarus and how his father told him to “choose a middle path in life”. This quotation always remains in the back of my head and reminds me to stay grounded yet to not be afraid to take risks when necessary.
I also enjoyed reading Hamlet by Shakespeare. I specially enjoyed analyzing the character Ophelia. I became interested in this idea that a woman is either a whore or a virgin. I wanted to know why this idea even exists and I was so intrigued by it. This encouraged me to study a female artist for my research paper and helped me form my thesis and develop my ideas. In my final research paper I felt not only that I was writing but that I was creating a work of art. I really enjoyed writing that paper and feel that it represents my progress as a writer.
This year’s English class has been one of the most memorable ones in my entire high school career. I learned more than I probably realize and I enjoyed every single lecture and discussion. When I go on to college I will continue to ponder these “deep questions” which helped me analyze life and literature. I also will never forget those moments of silence right after Mr. G asked the class one of these “deep questions”. Those moments were so peaceful and beautiful. It was amazing that we were all an energetic group of teenagers, but suddenly a question would be asked and the whole mood would change. In this class we were not only taught to read and analyze literature but were forced to realize our purpose in life and the decisions that we must make in order to be happy.