As an exercise science major, I was honestly dreading taking this class. I did well in English in high school, I even took an advanced placement English course one year, but English just wasn’t something I enjoyed. I only took this class because I had to in order to graduate, but now that I have reached the end of it, I am very thankful for it.
The critical thinking aspect of this course started immediately, when my professor pretended to be a student on the first day of class. When she first walked in, everyone assumed, based on her appearance, that she was the professor. After she took a seat in a desk beside another student, we then assumed that she was just a non-traditional student. I, along with most of my classmates, resumed texting and scrolling through social media my phone, wondering why the professor was late on the first day of class and thinking about leaving if she didn’t show up soon. After a few minutes, she jumped up out of her seat and began asking the class who she could possibly be. I immediately knew that she was the professor, otherwise, she wouldn’t be asking us these questions, but she was relentless and continued to make us think about all possible scenarios. At the time, I thought the whole situation was odd, but now that I have went through this course, I realized that it really helped set up the class and introduce the process of critical thinking. As humans, we are quick to assume things, and this made me understand that I needed to think outside the box. This mentality helped me be more successful when completing the readings and analyses for this course.
Of the four pieces of literature that we read in this class, Our Town was my favorite. I appreciated the simple way that Thornton Wilder conveyed such a powerful message that almost everyone can relate to. Wilder uses his presentation of small-town American life to show his audience that most humans do not appreciate all that they have. As Emily says, human beings are just “blind people” (109). We are so busy rushing through life that we do not notice and appreciate many of the little things. Wilder also places an emphasis on time. When introducing act two, the stage manager notes that three years have passed and the “sun’s come up over a thousand times” (47). He says that “some babies that weren’t even born before have begun talking regular sentences already” (47). A lot can happen in three years, but most people are rushing through life so fast they don’t even realize everything that’s going on. As a college student, I can relate to this. I am constantly waiting for my class to be over, or trying to hurry and finish all my homework, instead of slowing down and enjoying each day.
My analysis, “Our Small Town Wonderful Life” looked at the similarities between Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town and Frank Capra’s film It’s a Wonderful Life. This was the most difficult piece of writing I completed in this class, but it also ended up being the piece I am most proud of and the one I learned the most from. I initially organized this piece by characteristic—going back and forth between the film and the play. Once I started revising the essay, I realized that the paper did not flow and read the way I wanted it to. I thought about other ways I could organize it and decided to discuss Our Town and It’s a Wonderful Life separately and bring them together by talking about their similar settings and messages at the end. This not only helped the paper flow better, but it also helped me pick out and think about the similarities between them. By changing my paper, I completely started over, keeping only my introduction. This was a frustrating process, but, doing this helped me notice a few key points that I wouldn’t have found if I didn’t redraft my paper. For example, one major point I realized was that the central characters of both the play and the film did not notice and appreciate all that they had until they were distanced from their lives. Emily was distanced by her death, and George was distanced when the angel took him to a life where he never existed. Although the process of changing my paper was time consuming, it was worth it in the end. It made my paper stronger and me a stronger writer.
This class was more than just an English class. It taught me not to assume and how to think on a deeper level. I feel that I have grown as a writer and critical thinker throughout this semester. These skills will help me in my future college classes and career. I didn’t think I was going to like English, but you never know if you’re going to like something until you try it. After all, I didn’t think I would like dance, but after taking a few classes I fell in love with it. Now, I couldn’t imagine my life without it. The next time I must take a course that I am not interested in, I am going to go into it with more of a positive outlook. I learned a lot from English. It wasn’t as bad as I expected, and there’s a good chance other classes won’t be either.
Capra, Frank, director. It’s a Wonderful Life. RKO, 1946.
Wilder, Thornton. Our Town. 1938. Harper Perennial, 2003.
Junod, Tom. “The Falling Man.” Esquire, Sept. 2003, http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a48031/the-falling-man-tom-junod, Accessed 8 Sept. 2017.
In an excerpt from “The Falling Man”, Tom Junod first describes a picture of a man falling from one of towers on September 11, 2001. Junod discusses the man’s posture, his clothing, and what is around him. He explains how the man, knowing his fate, decided to get on with it. Junod then goes on to discuss the photographer that took this picture. This photographer was the same one who photographed Bobby Kennedy’s assassination. He talks about how photographers are the witnesses who produce the evidence of history.
Larson, Erik. The Devil in the White City. Vintage, 2004.
The Devil in the White City is a very detailed non-fiction piece by Erik Larson. It has two focal points: Daniel Burnham, the architect behind the Chicago World’s Fair, and serial killer, Herman Webster Mudgett. Burnham faces many obstacles from the time Chicago wins the bid for the 1893 World’s Fair, until the end of the fair. Burnham’s partner, John Root, passes away, building drafts continually arrive late, and there are union strikes, construction injuries, and even death. Despite all this, Burnham and his crew eventually open the fair. As the fair is being created, the story of Herman Webster Mudgett, known as H.H. Holmes simultaneously unfolds. Holmes comes to Chicago in 1886 searching for work as a pharmacist or doctor. Little does everyone know, Holmes is actually a serial killer who will use the fair and his charming personality to commit his murders. Holmes eventually buys the lot across the street from his pharmacy and decides to turn it into the World’s Fair Hotel. He remodels it to fit his needs as a serial killer. He lures women in using the hotel and his warm, charming demeanor. Then, he kills them and disposes their bodies using the kiln he had installed in the basement. Holmes is eventually arrested for insurance fraud, and after doing some digging, a detective uncovers many of Holmes’s murders. Holmes receives the death penalty for his crimes.
Lucas, Guy. “Loss of Unwelcome Burden Devastates Me.” Guylucas.com/2017/10/05/percy/, 5 Oct. 2017. Accessed 6 Oct. 2017
In his memoir “Loss of Unwelcome Burden Devastates Me”, Guy Lucas reflects on how he never wanted the cat that he now cannot stop crying over. He discusses how his wife saved the little kitten when it was climbing on the stairs outside their apartment building. He did not want the kitten, but he blamed himself because he is the one who told his wife about the kitten in the first place. The kitten, named Percy, was paper trained, and Lucas and his wife would find him relieving himself on magazines and books. To stop this, they removed all the paper from the room where they kept Percy, and placed a piece of newspaper in the litter box. Lucas then reflects on a time Percy disappeared for over three days before he finally found him and brought him home. Percy eventually developed an autoimmune disorder, diabetes, and then a severe sinus infection. He stopped eating, and Lucas and his wife decided it was best to put him down. Lucas never wanted Percy in the first place, but now that he’s gone, he can’t stop crying.
Ritchel, Matt. “Blogs vs. Term Papers.” New York Times, 20 January 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/22/education/edlife/muscling-in-on-the-term-paper-tradition.html, Accessed 8 August 2017.
In his article “Blogs vs. Term Papers”, Matt Ritchel discusses the debate about the best way to teach writing in today’s digital age. Ritchel explains how some professors want to replace the term paper with the blog. Blogs are often more fun than term papers, and they give writers an audience. Ritchel also discusses how defenders of the term paper feel about blogs. They argue that blogs do not teach thinking and writing as effectively. Term papers teach students critical thinking and argumentation. Ritchel then goes on to talk about an English professor at Stanford. This professor believes that her students seem to benefit from both the traditional paper and new media. Instead of choosing to teach using either blogs or term papers, teachers can simply use both.
Shrek, Heidi. Creature. Samuel French, 2011.
Heidi Shrek’s Creature is a play focused on Margery Kempe, a new mother who claims the devil is inside her. One day, she has a vision of Christ in purple robes and is healed. Now, she devotes her life to God and wants to become a saint. At first, Margery’s husband, John, is glad she’s healed, but, as time went on, he becomes frustrated with her because she spends all her time with God. She is constantly praying and fasting and weeping. There is no time left for John. Margery begins to fall in love with a man named Jacob, who is actually the devil. At the end of the play, Margery, John, and their baby walk into the fire towards Jacob.
Whitehead, Colson. The Underground Railroad. Doubleday, 2016.
Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad is a novel about slavery in the antebellum south. Although it contains chapters devoted to many characters, it mainly focuses on runaway slave, Cora. Cora was born into slavery. It is the only life she has ever known. After her mother ran away without her, Cora is left all alone. She eventually decides to run away with a fellow slave. Cora faces many obstacles during her journey to freedom. She was even captured by one of the most notorious slave catchers, Ridgeway, not once, but twice. Cora’s strong will helped her escape from Ridgeway and make it to freedom.
Wilder, Thornton. Our Town. 1938. Harper Perennial, 2003.
The three-act play Our Town by Thornton Wilder focuses on small town American life in the twentieth century. It is set in a small town called Grover’s Corners. In Grover’s Corners, everybody knows everybody, and life is simple. Two of the main characters are George and Emily. They get married and have two children, but Emily passes away giving birth to the second. After Emily passes, she looks back on her twelfth birthday as a ghost. She learns that human beings are “blind” and fail to notice many of the things going on throughout the day. Although it is a seemingly simple play, Our Town holds the powerful message of appreciating all you have. Humans don’t often realize what they have until they lose it.