139.270 Young Adult Fiction : Fountain Essays

Question:

Assessment 1: Close Reading

Task

Offer a close reading of one of the following excerpts from Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye:

“Anyway, it was December and all, and it was cold as a witch’s teat, especially on top of that stupid hill. I only had on my reversible and no gloves or anything. The week before that, somebody’d stolen my camel’s-hair coat right out of my room, with my fur-lined gloves right in the pocket and all. Pencey was full of crooks. Quite a few guys came from these very wealthy families, but it was full of crooks anyway. The more expensive a school is, the more crooks it has – I’m not kidding. Anyway, I kept standing next to that crazy cannon, looking down at the game and freezing my ass off. Only, I wasn’t watching the game too much. What I was really hanging around for, I was trying to feel some kind of a good-by. I mean I’ve left schools and places I didn’t even know I was leaving them. I hate that. I don’t care if it’s a sad good-by or a bad good-by, but when I leave a place I like to know I’m leaving it. If you don’t, you feel even worse” (Salinger 3-4).

“I was way early when I got there, so I just sat down on one of those leather couches right near the clock in the lobby and watched the girls. A lot of schools were home for vacation already, and there were about a million girls with terrific legs, girls with lousy legs, girls that looked like swell girls, girls that looked like they’d be bitches if you knew them. It was really nice, sightseeing, if you know what I mean. In a way, it was sort of depressing too, because you kept wondering what the hell would happen to all of them. When they got out of school and college, I mean. You figured most of them would probably marry dopey guys. Guys that always talk about how many miles they get to a gallon in their goddam cars. Guys that get sore and childish as hell if you beat them at golf, or even just some stupid game like ping- pong. Guys that are very mean. Guys that never read books” (Salinger 111).

Assessment 2: Essay

Task

Write a critical essay on one of the following topics related to Harry Potter:

  1. “Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense” (Rowling 1).

    What kind of reality are the Dursleys associated with, and how does the novel use magic in order to disrupt this reality?]

  2. “Hermione was now refusing to speak to Harry and Ron, but she was such a bossy know- it-all that they saw this as an added bonus” (Rowling 176).

    How is Hermione characterised in the novel and what is the role she plays?

  3. “‘There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it…’” (Rowling 313).

How are the forces of good and evil represented in the novel, and what is Harry’s role in the conflict between them?

Assessment 3: Review

Task

Write a book review of Gee’s The Fat Man, with a particular focus on your opinion regarding its suitability for a young reader.

Assessment 4: Reception Project

Task

Choose either The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian or Dreamhunter and write an essay considering its reception – how your chosen novel has been received by young readers, parents, educators, librarians, critics, etc – and the elements of your chosen novel that have informed this reception.

 

Answer:

The aim of this paper is to discuss the impact of the novel by Sherman Alexie named ‘The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian’ upon the contemporary young generation. This particular novel by Sherman Alexie is a semi-autobiographical writing that focuses the life of a Native American teenager staying in the Spokane Indian Reservation. This protagonist named Arnold Spirit Jr. is known as Junior to his friends. He is a 14 year old promising cartoonist and expresses his dreams, sorrows, happiness and every feeling through his art. Apparently, the book seems to be a first person narrative detailing the problems of an adolescent boy growing up in a society ripped off with racism, but in depth this novel is the representation of a boy’s life exploited by different factors marketing the ostracized section of the society. This is the reason why the novel received objections and marked to be one of the most challenged books since 2008 in spite of having high acclamation as well as several achievements. In this paper, the controversies and challenges regarding the context of this book will be first discussed and then how these contents are essential for the young readers to get the idea of the real world situation will be analysed.

This particular novel, sharing the experiences of the protagonist Arnold Spirit Jr. seem to be inappropriate for the young readers because of explicit reference of homosexuality, bullying, alcoholism and mental disabilities but as adolescence is the most important time to gain knowledge about reality therefore, the young readers must know the situation of the people in utter hopelessness.

 

The main problem of this book is mainly related to the content and the liberal views of different essence of the society which to some extend are not expected from the teenager like Junior. May be the protagonist has seen the rife more openly due to different disabilities he possess. However, the local parents of the reservation after the book was published criticised due to the reference of sensitive cultural topics, sexuality, alcoholism and many other crooked views of life (Kersulov, Hines and Rupert 171). The parents did not want their children to read this type of contents as through thought these contents can harm the healthy mental growth of their children. In addition to this, this type of language used in this book or for that matter the cartoons drawn by the protagonist to share his feelings directly hit the psychology of the teenagers which the critics do not feel to be needed. This harsh reality must not be affecting the innocence of this adolescence.

The sexual content of the book which include the instances of perversion, masturbation seem to be highly offensive for the young readers. The language used by the community members of Junior in the reservation under the influence of alcohol is not suited for the young readers as these are obscene, pornographic and vulgar. These are not appropriate for the successful development of the understanding of the young readers of adolescent age. The critics of this particular book have also referred to the anti-Christian and anti-religious languages that may offend the students in different religious and, missionary schools to think like an atheist. The threat of the anti-religious mentality among the students can never be supported by the society therefore; this book was challenged many times. To conclude the challenges faced by this book mainly relates therefore to the sensitive material including explicit sexual references, pictures drawn by the protagonist, encouraging pornography, religious irreverence, racism and strong language which are never be supported by the parents of the children even if this book is assigned in the school curriculum (Moon 166).

 

As an argument, of this traditional mentality of the critics and parents who do not want they children to know the actual reality of life and society, it can be stated that this book is a progressive view of disability and depression originated from the poverty, discrimination and exploitation of the native Americans in the country. This book is written in an episodic diary style narrated by the protagonist in first person. All the situations are seen from the point of view of Junior who narrates his life by going to the past and present. From his narrative, the readers can understand that he was born with physical deformity and suffers from poor eye sight, lisp, stuttering and seizures. He describes himself “I’d been walking around like a zombie, I might have been scary” (Alexie and Forney 69). From the point of view of this boy the readers get to know about the family background and how the community is suffering from the pressure of racism. The protagonist here directly communicates with the readers and shares how unimportant he feels with his lisps but when he takes his pen and starts to draw, a worthy feeling comes upon him. This is a life of an individual who feels poverty to be a curse but finds his own way to flourish. From the very beginning of adolescence, Junior has taken his own decisions. This is worthy to learn for the young readers that details how a teenager can develop his goals without being curbed by any extreme situations.

In his life Junior has seen the negative impact of alcoholism, racism and bullying, he is overpowered with his physical disabilities. He has faced domination of the higher class here the white Americans upon the natives. He says, “Those white kids did not talk to me. They barely looked at me” (Alexie and Forney 69). He has suffered due to his birth in the reservation area where the mental and economic poverty never allow the bright students to go out of this ditch of poverty, frustration, violence and hopelessness. In this type of situation, it is quite expected that a child will develop loathe towards everything around him, including his poor parents (Davis 36). This questioning of the teenager to this division in the society on the basis of race and discrimination among the children also in the education process is important for the young readers to get the perfect knowledge about the real face of society which will make them matured enough for not to support this type of system in their lives. 

Despite the fact that Junior has faced different situations of bullying and violence due his physical deformity and effect of alcoholism of his parents, but he is never going to submit to these challenges but remains steady with this mental strength and determination. This is the reason why he ignores the pressure of the community in the reservation and the uteri poverty of the family but leaves to attain the better school. This determination to achieve the goal by going out of the small sphere of the reservation, he has overcome his physical inabilities. Junior says, “You fought off those seizures, you fought off all the drunks and drug addicts. You kept your hope. And now, you have to take your hope and go somewhere Sere other people have hope” (Alexie and Forney 36). This is educational for the young readers as they can be the victim of disabilities and situations but they must have the hope that never dies and allow their mental strait to empower them to overcome any negativity in life. 

 

According to the review of this book by Diane Samuels in The Guardian, the protagonist Junior has been termed as brave (Samuels). This is completely opposite of his inabilities and helplessness in the reservation area. It is completely unthinkable that how a disable boy comes out of his shell and wins the heart of the young readers along with the matured adults (Arizpe and Hodges 130). To this review, the life of Junior has been referred to be combination of drawings, struggle to cope up in the different situations and social belonging and determination which relate the tragedy of life, despair and hope. All of these are present in the novel has made this book more entertaining to the young adults. This is not due to the fact that the process of sharing the incidents are interesting but bears the engaging story of a North American Indian kid trying to balance his dreams and reality without losing his own root under the influence of poverty and dead end background. It is important to note, despite facing several harsh blows from the real world, he never forgets who he is and where he belongs. According to this review of Alexei’s novel, the author has captured the uplifting of a Native American boy from the darkness and shows others the light through a humane and authentic way.

‘The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian’ has shared grieving reality covered in the wrap of happiness, bonding, love, respect and brevity of a teenager and it is impossible to overlook the fact that the young students show much love the characters just like them. They find much happiness and dependence upon the characters like Junior as they find that the character shares the same feeling like them. Most of the young adults associate themselves with the protagonist of this book and see the world through the eyes of the protagonist. It is easier to make them understand the real situation of the society and how it is ripped off and divided in the name of cultural difference and origin. This is effective to learn that the young adults learn the actual situation of the people residing in the reservation area and their sufferings. The meaning of social outcast and the pain of being associated with an isolated community has manipulated many a teenagers. The already existing settings or frameworks in which they have been grown are broken when they read this book. The cover and support of the parents is seen to be impeccable and valuable to them. They can realise that in spite of being poor rather bankrupt, the parents of Junior gave full freedom to their child and put trust upon the capacities of their disables son.

 

Finally, the search for identity which is the most haunting theme of this novel where the protagonist comes out of all the secured yet filthy community surroundings, influence the young readers in a great deal. They realise it is the search for identity which differentiate an individual from the rest, must be their goal and only following this process, they will be achieving success in life.

Therefore, it can be concluded that this novel has a perfect amalgamation of tradition, reality, friendship, success, hope, completion, hatred and all the essential feelings of the human being expressed through one teenage disable boy who proved his brevity through his decision and determination. There are factors of obscenity in the content of this novel but these can be overlooked if the young readers have the understanding of righteousness and reality of life.

 

References:

Alexie, Sherman, and Ellen Forney. The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian. Recorded Books, 2008.

Arizpe, Evelyn, and Gabrielle Cliff Hodges. “‘I think I was born with a suitcase’: Blackfoot adolescent readers’ responses to Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Erin Spring.” Young People Reading. Routledge, 2018. 122-136.

Davis, Taylor. “A Critical Approach to Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Taylor Davis Bethel College.” 23rd Annual Clement S. Stacy Memorial Undergraduate Research Conference Proceedings. 2015.

Kersulov, Michael L., Mary Beth Hines, and Rebecca Rupert. “When Young Writers Draw TheirVoices: Creating Hybrid Comic Memoirs with The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.” Graphic Novels for Children and Young Adults: A Collection of Critical Essays (2017): 171.

Moon, Set-Byul. “Superheroes do not live on the Rez: the nomadic identity for native Indian young adults in Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.” Trans-Humanities Journal 9.1 (2016): 151-170.

Samuels, Diane. “Review: The Absolutely True Diary Of A Part-Time Indian By Sherman Alexie”. The Guardian, 2008, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2008/oct/04/teenage.sherman.alexie.

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