Author Archives: Gemanna

The Calm Before The Storm

I began reading “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel during the first week of the semester and it was so difficult for me to put down! Within the first pages of chapter 1, we are immediately catapulted into the Elgin Theatre of Toronto with a birds eye view of the tragic death that was to unfold.  During the theatrical performance of “King Lear” we begin to notice actor Arthur Leander’s approaching fate when his voice becomes “wheezy” and “barely audible”, (Mandel 3). As his condition grows more apparent, an audience member who was a training paramedic named Jeevan lunges at the stage to catch him just before his loss of consciousness. As Arthur’s final moments become the performance on stage, chaos and disorder soon erupts when the quiet theater performance turns into “a clamor of voices, flashes from cellphone cameras, indistinct exclamations in the dark”, (Mandel 4). Soon, the scene of Arthur Leander’s demise is described as “more like a terminal… a train station or an airport, everyone was passing quickly through”,(Mandel 5). Jeevan selflessly made it his mission to save Arthur, as he was the first to be aware of his condition yet he was forgotten and unacknowledged the moment paramedics arrived to the theater, ultimately failing to revive Arthur. Jeevan even takes action in comforting a young cast member, Kirsten Raymonde, who watches the scene alone and traumatized. What took me by surprise was the paramedic’s efforts to make Arthur’s corpse appear somewhat “stable” as his lifeless body is exited on a gurney with an oxygen mask strapped to his face, in attempt to hold off the hungry paparazzi that fed the public eyes fixed on Arthur. Jeevan’s efforts of aiding the situation disappointed him greatly being that he essentially didn’t save Arthur and being that his girlfriend, who was also present during the performance, had disappeared  after the unraveling of the tragedy, abandoning Jeevan in the cold wintry storm awaiting him outside.

Following such a disorder, the theater atmosphere transitioned to murmurs and small conversation regarding Arthur’s family and children. With death hanging heavily in the air, Kirsten is inconsolable until she is given a paperweight that she decides is “the most beautiful, the most wonderful, the strangest thing anyone had ever given her”, (Mandel 15). There is a hint of relief in the air as we read of stage crew members drinking tequila and conversing of the life lost in front of their own eyes; this to me felt like the calm before the storm.  Mandel  finishes the brief chapter by showing us the future of those remaining in the theater, which was death. “Of all of them there at the bar that night, the bartender was the one who survived the longest. He died three weeks later on the road out of the city”, (Mandel 15). A dark presence of foreshadowing is instantly casted with this line, revealing a sort of juxtaposition of the one death that took place that day with the many deaths that were to follow.

Jeevan had just calmed himself from the turmoil that unfolded at the theater when he is informed by “his closest friend” Hua that an outbreak of the Georgia Flu was unwinding, with the catalyst being an arriving flight from Moscow the previous night. Hua is extremely informative and stresses the intensity of this outbreak to Jeevan when he says, “You told me to call you if their was ever a real epidemic”, (Mandel 18). Jeevan’s paranoia and anxiety are heightened as he becomes aware of his surroundings and aware that Hua has been treating Georgia Flu patients all day, fully exposed to start of a catastrophe. Within the same page and only a few lines further, the urgency of this epidemic is now extremely life threatening when Hua calls Jeevan back coughing and demanding he leaves the city entirely. The seriousness of this flu is evident and and prompts Jeevan to realize that there wasn’t enough time, even for Hua who was being consumed by the flu himself. Hua’s call sort of saves his life in a way, even though we do not know yet if Jeevan completely  survives the epidemic that was unfolding. His instinct to survive and prepare is followed by shopping carts full of essentials like food and water on Mandel 21, in attempts to save his own life this time around.

My favorite chapter is the final chapter of Part 1, when Mandel goes on with an “incomplete list” of the things that would cease to exist following the eruption of this deadly outbreak among them. All of the efforts and footprints of mankind would be erased, all of our knowledge of life and civilization would be obliterated. Mandel writes,  “No more countries, all borders unmanned…” on page 31 to show how our separation of communities and ways of life are useless now that the human race was consumed by this flu. All of our precious technology wasn’t of importance anymore if the creators were gone, which rang a similar bell to Ray Bradbury’s “August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains”. There is no life as we remember it when we are wiped off the face of the Earth, only the desolate lands we once occupied and the sounds of nature regaining it confidence and solitude.

 

 

 

In the Wake of Our Death…

“August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains” by Ray Bradbury is now my new favorite dystopian, future-foretelling short story. My previous favorite was “The Veldt” which is also by Bradbury, and which he also happens to mention in this piece! I will leave a link to it below.

Bradbury shifts us forward in time and displays the wasted, electric junkyard that is the remains of what once was humanity before an apparent nuclear explosion, as we read that only one house remained intact in the “ruined” city that “gave off a radioactive glow which could be seen for miles”, (Bradbury 1). There was not a trace of human life left in this city of “Allendale, California”, and presumably not a single life left beyond the house that “stood alone in a city of rubble and ashes”, (Bradbury 1). Bradbury helps us visualize this eerie, mechanical ghost town as the permanent daily routines of the house persisted and catered to no one. We also see some very accurate predictions from Bradbury of a dishwasher when he describes the uneaten toast and eggs being scraped into the sink, “where hot water whirled them down a metal throat which digested and flushed them away to the distant sea. The dirty dishes were dropped into a hot washer and emerged twinkling dry”, (Bradbury 1).

This abandoned, resilient home that stood in the wake of the end of mankind was still alive, with each segment of ones day blaring from automated voices in the ceilings, reminding no one that it was “eight-one, run, run, …off to school, off to work!”, (Bradbury 1). Allendale, California and perhaps the entire world is predicted as a society run strictly on machines that utterly replace human action. As we inevitably grow and innovate technologically, our advances will ultimately serve to comfort and assist any human action possible, much like the tiny robot mice that diligently went after any dirt or mud in the home on cue. The absence of humans in this story becomes even more evident on Bradbury 3 when it hit nine o’clock and as “the beds warmed their hidden circuits” in preparation for the cool night ahead, the automated ceiling voice summoned a Mrs. McClellan in regards to the poem of the evening. With no response or command, the voice chooses a poem by Sara Teasdale. The poem’s title and overall visceral point correlates perfectly with Bradbury’s piece in saying that these machines we perpetually create and improve will outlive us with no life to tend to, but it is nature that will continuously flourish beyond the ending of the civilization we know. As this singular standing house begins to “die” from Bradbury 3-4, we see nature reclaim the last manmade machine when “a falling tree bough crashed through the kitchen window”, later igniting a inextinguishable fire that consumes and stifles every last automated voice. I vividly visualize the demise of this electric home when Bradbury describes the wall sprays that “let down showers of mechanical rain”, (Bradbury 3). The robot mice still going at the last bits of ash and dust before failing and joining the fire that had now swallowed the home whole until “all the film spools burned, until all the wires withered and the circuits cracked”, (Bradbury 4).

Ray Bradbury is not a new author for me so I need to say that this short story, as well as his many other dystopian pieces serve as warnings of the result of our endless technological progressions and its dwindling effect on our emotions and actions. These machines take the place of  human involvement, which erase the purpose of any activity we once did physically. With machines to make every move for you, there is no space for humans to lift a finger in such a effortless, mechanical world. Our precious technology that we will constantly evolve will outrun us all, and nature will eventually swallow up the remaining evidence of whats left.

I also thought i’d add that Bradbury connects this story to another piece written by him, (also in 1950), called “The Veldt” when he mentions the nurseries that displayed glowing realistic images that made the walls come alive at “four-thirty” on Bradbury 2. These nurseries served as entertainment for children to visualize their inner thoughts, hence Bradbury calling it “the children’s hour” on Bradbury 3.

Link to “The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury if you’re interested:

https://www.juhsd.net/cms/lib010/CA01902464/Centricity/Domain/256/2016_The%20Veldt.pdf

Underneath the City of Omelas

“The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursla Le Guin is a very eye opening and awakening piece that mirrors our very own society and the underlying issues suppressed for the sake of our lifestyles. I actually read this piece in my previous English class and remembered how immediately I compared “Omelas” to the United States when the city is described as “bright-towered by the sea”, (Le Guin 1). The city of Omelas seems to be a complete utopia as the reader is given vivid imagery of how “joyous” and nearly perfect Omelas is, with “a cheerful sweetness of the air that from time to time trembled and gathered together and broke out into the great joyous clanging of the bells”, (Le Guin 1). Similar to us modern day American citizens, the people of Omelas “were not a simple folk”, (Le Guin 2). Le Guin stresses multiple times in the story that though these people had very few laws and “did without monarchy, slavery… the stock exchange, the advertisement, the secret police and the bomb”, (Le Guin 2), they were not simple folk; they were not “dulcet shepherds… bland utopians”. Le Guin also  gives off the impression that Omelas is a magical golden city, and then takes it back by recommending the reader “add an orgy”, (Le Guin 3), in efforts to help us taint the perfect image we’ve conjured in our heads as we imagine Omelas.

Like a well oiled machine, the city of Omelas and its happy citizens thrive and survive because of the suffering and brutal neglect of a nameless child described by Le Guin from page 4 to 5. This poor child and his/ her suffering is the very fuel to the livelihood and happiness of the people of Omelas, and these terms were “strict and absolute” or “all the prosperity and beauty and delight of Omelas would wither and be destroyed”, (Le Guin 5). The most shocking part of it all is that the people of Omelas were completely aware of this child living beneath them! Some were “outraged” and “disgusted” as described on Le Guin 5, while others felt helpless in knowing the essence of the child’s pain to their lives. A reader can interpret the child’s anguish and suffering as a symbol of America’s middle working class, or Laborers who dedicate themselves to working and serving as pillars to support the upper class. This dystopian society created by Le Guin is in fact painted as a Utopian world to represent the hidden reality of what keeps us up and running. Everything from the clothes we wear to the food we eat, most sourced and created by under compensated workers in poor work conditions. The happiness of these citizens of Omelas depended wholly on this child’s tormented life beneath the beautiful streets of the city.

I really enjoy how Le Guin leaves us space to infer on our own and conclude with several possible connections and messages with our own interpretations. She paints such a vibrant and realistic image of a seemingly perfect city and then flips the mood to show the inner workings of how such a happiness and lifestyle could be possible. While a child is living in complete squalor under absolute gruesome conditions, the city of Omelas still shines by the sea while the happiness in the air radiates and warmth seeps through the cracks in the boards on the window of that basement.

The Woman Trapped in the Walls

“The Yellow Wallpaper” was truly a short horror film on paper! Charlotte Perkins Gilman brings us into the scene immediately in the first few lines as “a colonial mansion” is brought into the picture. We see a little foreshadowing when the narrator, who is a wife and a mother, says “I would say a haunted house, and reach the height of romantic felicity — but that would be asking too much of fate!” (Gilman 1). The text is written as entries in the narrators personal journal, as we see her several times cease writing when someone was approaching the nursery in which she stayed. The narrator mentions many times that she suffers from “nervous depression”, and her husband John  is a physician who deems that the cure for her sickness is rest and fresh air up in the nursery. This nursery is described as “a big, airy room… with windows that look all ways and air and sunshine galore” (Gilman 2). The only thing that seemed to bother the narrator was the sickly yellow wallpaper as far as the eye can see, “… almost revolting; a smoldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight.” (Gilman 2).

Throughout the story, we see the different time that the narrator exists in as her husband seems to control her actions and determine her best interests. With the bed nailed to the floor and bars over each window in this nursery, its almost as if she was imprisoned in this room that was only worsening her condition and causing her to lose more and more of what piece of mind she had left. She starts to see a woman’s figure behind the repulsive wallpaper, and we as readers follow her on the path deeper into her insanity page by page. “.. It is like a woman stooping down and creeping about behind that pattern. I don’t like it a bit. I wonder — I begin to think — I wish John would take me away from here!” (Gilman 5). The narrator finally reaches her limit when she decides to free the woman behind the wallpaper, thus freeing herself from her little prison and bringing her farther away from sanity. The room she once wanted to be free from was now the place she felt most safe. “I don’t want to go outside… For outside you have to creep on the ground, and everything is green instead of yellow” (Gilman 9).

“Puertoricanness” Reading Response

In “Puertoricanness” by Aurora Levins Morales, the narrator speaks of a girl who feels as though she is reborn by breaking free from her constant suppression of her blood and heritage as a Puerto Rican woman. Throughout the text, she repeats 2 to 3 times that “it was Puerto Rico waking up inside her”, signifying a cease to the battle within her of being “more American and less Puerto Rican”.  The sound of the rooster teleports her to her very own island and serves as a sort of reminder of her roots and her mornings waking up in Puerto Rico as a child. This sense of breaking free of a self imprisonment slightly reminded me of Kate Chopin’s “Story of an Hour”, where similar to the woman of Levins’ story, Mrs. Mallard is liberated once she realizes she was free of her marriage to live a life of her own. Puerto Rico and all her ties to her island are suddenly awoken within her; ties that she knew have been within her since birth. She is undeniably a Puerto Rican woman and isn’t going to conform for the validation of someone else.

I found one part very relatable as a Caribbean girl, where Levins’ describes the habits of the “Puertoricanness” that lived within her. Habits like leaving a pot of food on the stove to reheat “whenever hunger struck”. These habits are what make her, and she had felt embarrassed of her true self for so long. By suppressing who she was beneath what she presented herself as, she kept her Puertoricanness caged and hidden, failing to be true to herself and yearning to be someone she wasn’t. Social standards can urge people to alter themselves just to blend in and conform, and by regaining this realization the girl is liberated and fully embracing the real her. I think Aurora Levins Morales gives a clear message about embracing your truest form, and being yourself undeniably and whole heartedly despite what may be “socially acceptable”.  To blend and conform is to lose who we really are, which is a waste of precious time and life.

Class Notes for Thursday, 8/31

Hello Class,

Here are the notes I took on todays class, as well as some reminders for next Tuesday’s class. I didn’t quite get everything but this is most of what was discussed!

What kinds of things do we annotate while we read?

  • Vocabulary words unfamiliar to us
  • Key lines in the story (Similes, Metaphors, language/dialogue
  • Parts of the story that stand out or can be important or pertinent to the message
  • Characters, protagonist/antagonist, plot
  • Foreshadowing
  • Mood/Setting

Objective: Factual, unbiased information

Subjective: Biased preferences or personal opinion

Why do we reread stories?

  • To go over important info that may have been missed by the reader
  • To get a better sense of what the text is saying/the message

Characterization:  Learning about characters and their traits.

Denotation: A dictionary’s definition of something

Connotation: Your idea or feeling of what something means

Reminders!

Bring in printed copies of “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid, “Puertoricanness” by Aurora Levins Morales, and

Blog a response to EITHER ‘Girl” or “Puertoricanness”, by Monday at 11:59pm!

See you guys next Tuesday!

Gemanna Gomez Introduction

Hello Class!\

 

I am Gemanna Gomez, pronounced (Heh-Mah-Nah). I prefer being called Gem, which is my nickname. I am a first generation Dominican American, with Haitian ancestry as well. I am 19 years old, currently living in the Bronx and majoring in Liberal Arts and Arts here at City Tech. This is my second year at this school, after which I hope to attain my Associates degree and transfer to a school (possibly Brooklyn College or Hunter College) to study Journalism and English Education. My favorite color is burgundy, which I once had as my hair color not too long ago. I enjoy reading and writing very much and I’ve written several chapter books as a child that I plan on publishing someday.

When it comes to literature, I enjoy fiction/sci-fy stories, and dystopian seems to be a new favorite genre as well. I really enjoy the perspectives and creative takes that authors have on the effects of technology advancement, and how it can cripple our society in the “future”. As for strength and weaknesses, I feel that I am a very great writer and reflector, yet a weak public speaker or presenter. I love that writing is an anonymous voice and different way of self expression, and I live for the different worlds I get to experience in each book I read. My goal has constantly been to be open to new vocabulary words in the texts we read as a class, as well as expand my knowledge and writing skills by studying their definitions. I also look forward to experiencing and learning from other students as we share ideas and reflect on the texts given.

Thank you!