Sunday, January 11, 2009

"I...was born to be my own destroyer"

My senior level elective class on the development of the novel will be blogging throughout this semester about the various "classic" novels that we read together. They have blogged in my class and for other teachers before, but we are trying to make the experience more meaningful by giving less specific direction for each blog post and more choice in what they choose to write about. The first criticism that they had about blogging was that blog posts were tied to specific reading selections and weren't worth commenting on later when we had gotten further in our understanding of the novel. We were really using blogs just as a record of the readings completed and a place for reading response. This did not create any kind of conversation and certainly didn't invite any readers outside of our school.

The goal for each blog post now is simply to write about some aspect of the novel, especially including personal reactions and connections. Well, week one is over and the first blog post was due on Friday. Only three out of eight students completed the assignment. Quite disappointing. This was the best one this week. Here's my response to the opening chapters of Robinson Crusoe:

While the adventure novel is not favorite genre, I was pleasantly surprised by many of the events in the first 58 pages of the novel. After 50 pages, he only just got stranded on the mysterious island somewhere in the Caribbean. Movies, which continue to popularize this 17th century novel, don't even touch on what really happens before the island. For anyone who enjoys action, this is the novel for you. Despite the 17th century language, readers will not be disappointed in the drama that unfolds. And, as I read I began to question Robinson in so many different ways: why do you disregard advice from your parents and mentors so readily? why leave the secure yet exotic life that you set up in Brazil? why do you seem to only look out for yourself?

My favorite quote of the novel so far is "I...was born to be my own destroyer." This really hit me when I was reading because I can certainly relate, and I think that everyone can relate to this at some point in their lives. Why do we do the things we do when we just KNOW it's going to turn out badly for us? Why do I always procrastinate grading papers? Why didn't my students just write that first blog post on time-after we had such a long discussion about it in class this week? Maybe one of the timeless qualities about this novel is that we are all Robinson Crusoe a little bit sometime in our lives: our own worst enemy.

How can we "do better next time" and how can we help each other? Because we are not so bad off as Crusoe and can rely on each other to help us with this very human flaw.

9 comments:

Susanne Nobles said...

Your and the students' points about how to make the blogs more "comment-able" are really great. They got me thinking a lot -- I think ideas like these are what we need to consider deeply as we apporach launching "FA blogs" more widely.

SCMorgan said...

Oops, I posted my comment to the other post:)

Lauren Garay said...

Wow your blog is great Mrs. Clark Evans! This quote that you picked out really does stand out – in fact I believe that this was one of the things I underlined in my book! I believe we can ALL relate to this quote for so many reasons (however I can’t go into all of them because I have to remember to do my Physics homework ) In a sense we all are our own destroyer – we make our own decisions, we decide on our actions which ends up as a domino effect…one decision has effects on several things. You bring up a great point, “Why do we do the things we do when we just KNOW it’s going to turn out badly for us?” This is a GREAT question it can be related many aspects of life –school, work, friends, relationships…. I was trying to give my friend advice over the weekend and we actually asked the same question. I guess we just have this goal in our mind that we WANT to achieve and will do anything to get to it OR we have this perfect picture painted in our mind…. That we often ignore reality or the negative strings that may be attached to it. Some of us just have to learn the hard way, from negative first-hand experiences.

J. Clark Evans said...

Thanks for the great comment, Lauren. I really enjoyed reading your post on this first reading as well: http://laurengaray.blogspot.com/
Maybe this aspect of human nature is a reason why some cultures don't give their citizens choices (as in "A Thousand Splendid Suns" that we read last semester). Do you think that there are any benefits to having the freedom to make these mistakes? As I write the question, the answer seems obvious, but what are those benefits and do they outweigh the potential negative consequences?

Megred09 said...

After reading your blog for one i feel bad about forgetting to do mine and secondly i think i have been doing the blogs wrong, or at least not as well i would have liked but after reading yours i see what i can do with it and i plan to improve. I really like what you had to say about the quote. It's an awesome quote and I agree that it relates to everyone.

ActivistKelsey said...

I liked that quote a lot too. I think its true. Also as you mentioned, the "17th century language" dosent make the book less enjoyable. In fact, i think the fact that this book was written with that language makes it even more fascinating. Besides re-reading a few parts of the book helps when we have a test or quiz. And the 17th century language helps encourage re-reading. :)im really looking forward to the end of this book. I want to know what happens!

NTenenbaum said...

I agree with this article =) i would just add that we maybe create our own problems, but we are not often our own "destroyer", which has a really bad meaning. As long as the action due are completed in time, there is no real problem. Procrastinating a little bit is, to my mind, a human characteristic. People research of happiness is probably not by doing everything right after it's asked. Besides, sometimes, time is inappropriate. Why should we do our homework from 5 to 7 pm and after, not being able to do an outside activity after, whereas we can begin to go outside and after, still having time for the homework.
Above all, each person has different priorities for his life.

Jonathan Lewis Hinie said...

Ain't it the truth?! I think we are all ultimately responsible for our own destruction. Robinson Crusoe is in a position where he must survive on his own. Only his mistakes can lead to his downfall. We can all say that society was born to be its own destructor.

Kris said...

Mrs. Clark-Evans you wrote why do we do things when we know it will turn out badly. I was trying to reflect on some of the things I have done even though I knew it was going to have a bad outcome. Most of my choices are based on trying to avoid conflict or hurting someone's feeling initially and although I put off the conflict to begin with/hurt feelings I end up making the situation much worse! I think what is frustrating is that at my age i continue to make these mistakes! Maybe I think just this once I will avoid the hurt feeling/conflict. It's like winning the lottery right? Even though odds are impossibly against us to win people continue to buy tickets, because someone has to win.