Brooklyn historical society assignment

I have noticed and learned quite a few things from my visit to the Brooklyn historical society. On my table were 3 pictures and a transit map of Brooklyn and Queens. All the pictures were taken around the 1950’s. The first picture that I have looked at was a picture of a street in New York, which I think it was 87 streets. If I would to compare the street image from back then to now I will say there has been a major change. The area is now more occupied than it was in the 1900’s. Another things, I have realized looking at one of the pictures, which was a picture of a beach located in Brooklyn, Coney Island to be exact is that back then most people weren’t comfortable showing their body. The picture was taken in the month of June, which we can assume it was summer time, yet most people in the picture were fully dressed at the beach, something you don’t see nowadays.

In addition, from the transit map I was able to learned a lot of things.  Before our visit to the BHS I read the story” only the dead know Brooklyn ‘’ which was about a man on a pursuit of knowing all the streets in Brooklyn by using a map. In the story the man was looking for a place name “Bensenhoist”.  I’ve been living in Brooklyn for a very long time now and I never heard of such place. Looking at the Transit map at BHS, I was able to find “Bensenhoist’s location. I also found out that it is only half an hour away from where I live. In the same map were pictures of famous buildings that existed in the 1900’s and are still around. One of them was Brooklyn College. Apparently there is not much physical change to the school from the 1900’s until now. I think Brooklyn historical society is a very interesting and educational place. I wish I had been able to look at more things, but we didn’t have much times. Hopefully, I get to visit the BHS some other time.

BHS + “Only The Dead Know Brooklyn”

Our visit to the Brooklyn Historical Society was very interesting and taught me things about Brooklyn that i never knew, including what the BHS was, even though I’ve been in Brooklyn most of my life. We got to look at many things such as the map of the borough of Brooklyn from January 1st, 1925. The map was somewhat the same as it is today, except in some places where they used to run railroads or trains but  it is a normal street that we walk on. Also, as a classmate mentioned, a place that was considered to be Brooklyn back then in 1925 is no longer a part of Brooklyn, but now is a part of the borough of Queens, which i never knew was possible and i found that interesting.

In “Only The Dead Know Brooklyn” the “big guy” was asking for directions to get to Bensonhurst, even when he had a map. Looking at the map “Brooklyn and How to get to the Worlds Fair” which was around the same time, it shows all the routes, and was pretty easy to follow, and which are similar to our maps now. He tries to get to know Brooklyn by visiting random places and not even knowing what to expect. The main guy says to him that he will never get to know all of Brooklyn because he lived there his whole life and still hasn’t got to know it through and through.

The Map

The map at the Brooklyn Historical Society puzzled my eyes with so much intersections and crossroads. I tried to find the place called ‘Bensonhoist’ mentioned in the essay “Only the Dead know Brooklyn”.  If there was no map at all, it was some kind of impossible task to do. The guy was smart enough to use the map and the question about swimming that relates to the survival. It is obvious that even though a person born in Brooklyn would be lost without a map. For instance, if a person does not know how to swim would surely be drown. In 1935, maybe the map was not popular in use.

Essay #1, blogging about our first BHS visit, and more

Essay #1:

Essay #1 is due on Monday, but I haven’t heard much about Part 2–how is it going? Please bring a paper copy of both parts of Essay #1 to class on Monday. Once i see that everyone has these materials, I will ask you to do some reflective writing about your writing process and will then provide directions for submitting your work electronically.

If you still have questions about Essay #1, please ask them! I know there must be questions, and better to be brave and ask them now than wonder and guess and have no guidance.

Blogging for homework:

At the Brooklyn Historical Society on Wednesday, I asked you to blog for homework. I’ve added some more suggestions to the instructions, so this might be more helpful:

After class, write a blog post in which you elaborate on the materials you examined in class. You might begin with your one-sentence presentation. If your item can be posted on the blog, please share the photograph; if it can’t, you might describe it for your readers. This blog post is the place to say all the smart things you observed and interpreted but didn’t have a chance to present to the class. You can reflect further on the questions of how the “big guy” in “Only the Dead Know Brooklyn” gets to know Brooklyn, and how you have, or you might think about what was missing from our exploration at BHS, what you would have liked to examine. This blog post could also be the chance for you to include other materials that you know about or seek out. Remember to include a citation for any materials you use, including the items from BHS and “Only the Dead Know Brooklyn.” Choose the category Homework, and tag your post with whatever tags you think represent your work.

For those of you who missed class, please use the BHS visit 1 handout I distributed at BHS and any of the following materials to complete the assignment:

Map of the New York City subway system. 1955. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

Who Lives Where. Guenter Vollath. 1985. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection. (not the first map in the post)

Brooklyn and how to get to the World’s Fair. 1939. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection. (first map)

Dry Dock 1, 1928, v1973.5.875; Photography Collection; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Coney Island Beach, ca. 1968, v1988.12.41; Otto Dreschmeyer Brooklyn Slides Collection, V1988.012; Brooklyn Historical Society.

And more:

We will begin blogging in a rotating cycle again, so if you have any other requests or suggestions, please let me know what they are. Our next round of blogging will be geared toward preparing for the midterm exam, which will be on 3/20 in class.

“Only the Dead Know Brooklyn”

After visiting the Brooklyn Historical Society, it helped me understand and know more about the place Brooklyn. All the information and images we saw from the BHS, it showed us how the Brooklyn was looked very long time ago. From looking at the “Atlas of New Utrecht,” I saw a map of part of Brooklyn. From the map I found the place which the “big guy” from the story is looking for. In the story, he was trying to find out how to get to 18th Avenue and 67th Street. From the map, I can located the street the “big guy” is looking for, but unfortunately it’s only a map so I don’t know what exactly the place is or has. I was surprised not to see the details of the street on this map that shows only street and avenue numbers. This map was from the 1874 time period. It makes me wonder what is it there that made the “big guy” wanted to visit.

I also looked that the image of 71st Street Station, West End line from 1958. From this picture compare to this station in 2013, I can tell there isn’t much big difference between now and then. The picture was taken from looking across tracks to Northwest. In the picture, there aren’t much detail to describe. I can only tell there are 3 tracks in the station. There are 2 sides platform. From looking across, I can see some houses behind the station.

From all the pictures and information we saw from the Brooklyn Historical Society. I think the “big guy” in the story attempted to know Brooklyn from the map that he has. I think he is trying to get to know more about Brooklyn by himself personally visit the places that he interested in. In the story he didn’t know how dangerous he was that he was in the Red Hook at night alone and he still wants to continue his adventure of getting to know Brooklyn. I didn’t know much about Brooklyn before I visit the Brooklyn Historical Society, but after the visit I had known a little more about Brooklyn. From the picture of 71st Street Station, I know the station didn’t change much between now and then. Also from the map, some places are divided into different territories like some places are belong to who or those places are belong to someone else.


[71st Street station, West End line, BMT], 1958, V1974.4.469; John D. Morrell photographs, ARC.005; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Atlas of New Utrecht Kings County, New York, 1847. Brooklyn Historical Society]


Monotonous; adjective; lacking in variety; tediously unvarying.

From “The Metamorphosis” pg 14 of 31: “Hearing these words from his mother made Gregor realise that the lack of any direct human communication, along with the monotonous life led by the family during these two months, must have made him confused- he could think of no other way of explaining to himself why he had seriously wanted his room emptied out.”

From searching this word, I now understand that the family was leading a boring life, with no change or exciting events. The life that they were living lead Gregor to want to have the furniture removed from his room.


strenuous: Requiring or using great exertion

Synonyms: strong – hard – vigorous – active – energetic – toilsome

Found in “The Metamorphosis,” paragraph 4, line 1, page 2. “oh, god”, he thought,” whats a strenuous career it is that I’ve chosen! traveling day in and day out.

Comparisons in “The Metamorphosis”

who Gregor was before vs his life after his change

Gregor narrated vs. quoted

tone changes: first discovering himself as vermin to when he later accepts his situation

characters treat Gregor: mother vs father; sister from beginning to end

struggles of family: financial burden vs financial boom

physical vs emotional abnormalities or ugliness

literal vs metaphorical understanding of Gregor’s transformation

family’s reaction to Gregor when he first transforms vs when he dies

status quo vs reaction to sudden change

Although Grete is notably uncomfortable with Gregor’s new state, she takes on the responsibility of caring for her brother, a job his father could not fill.

introduce the quotation: When Gregor’s presence shocks his mother and makes her faint, Gregor’s father blames him for this

provide the quotation

interpret it

analyze it

apply it back to our argument

When Gregor’s presence shocks his mother and makes her faint, Gregor’s father blames him for this: “It was clear to Gregor that Grete had not said enough and that his father took it to mean that something bad had happened, that he was he was responsible for some act of violence” (16). Here, Mr. Samsa, although not in the room, jumps quickly to the conclusion that something awful has happened and that Gregor is at fault. He clearly sees his son as a monster, and someone to be afraid of, who would purposely hurt the family. This shows that unlike Grete, he is not willing to engage in the current family situation.

“Only the Dead Know Brooklyn” and the Brooklyn Historical Society

On Wednesday, we will be traveling to the Brooklyn Historical Society to look at some of the archived materials in their collections. Please meet promptly at 11:30 or prior inside the Adams Street entrance to City Tech (near the entrance to the bookstore). We will leave from there and travel the short distance to the Brooklyn Historical Society at 128 Pierrepont Street at Clinton Street.

Before our visit to the Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS), every student in our class needs to complete a survey. You can find the survey here. Follow the instructions on the site. If you have any questions or problems, please get in touch with me. You’ll do another survey at the end of the semester. It’s all to gauge how much you’ve learned at BHS.

To prepare, think about the following two questions:

Q: How does the “big guy” in “Only the Dead Know Brooklyn” attempt to know Brooklyn?

Q: How have you gotten to know Brooklyn?

When we’re at BHS, I’ll ask you to think about getting to know Brooklyn:

Q: How can we get to know Brooklyn and Wolfe’s story through the archival materials at BHS?

You will work in groups to examine the materials at one of six stations.

Be prepared to photograph each piece and its citation–your phone’s camera is fine.

In your groups, you will discuss what you’re looking at, trying to identify elements from the story in your materials and to piece together an understanding of the area you’re looking at.

Your group will then share what you have discussed by presenting for 3-5 minutes total on some aspects of the following topics:

  • What did you look at?
  • What do you know about Brooklyn from each piece you didn’t know before?
  • How does it represent aspects of “Only the Dead Know Brooklyn,” if it does? How is it different?
  • What more do you want to know?

Each person needs to speak!

Overly Affectionate Woman.

The most bewildered occupation I ever had was a housekeeping job at John and Madison’s rented house. John was a physician. He was practical in the extreme, and had no patience with faith. He scoffed openly at any talk of things not to be felt and seen and put down in figures.  Madison was an obedient, imaginative and soft woman with overall affection from her husband. “Jennie,” called John. “You must very well take care of Madison while we live here for three months. She has nervous breakdown I want her to take rest as much as she can”. Madison looked fabulous when we entered the old mansion. She would listen to him in every step he told her to follow; after all he was a physician. Her brother was a physician too.

John looked worried but confident that he could help cure Madison from the nervous breakdown through his medical practition. Being John’s sister, I would try hard to make them happy. I felt that Madison would recover soon from her nervous breakdown since poor John had tried his every possible option.

All for the benefit of Madison’s fast recovery, John brought Madison to this old mansion in order that she could breathe better air and rest as comfortable as she could. There were some legal issues, the mansion was empty for years and John could rent at a cheap rate. The house was three miles away from the village so the place was quite lonely, standing isolated on the far side of the road. It looked calm but not the calmness that any people would want. For the first few weeks, I had difficulty adjusting to the place as most people usually did.

“Jennie, please follow her schedule in case if she gets carried away on her imaginative things.” said John walking hurriedly towards the door. John had scheduled Madison’s prescription for each hour of the day. He let her exercise, drink tonics, journey, catch more fresh air and never let her do any sort of work specially writing which he thought would pressure her mind with more fancy ideas. John said I am supposed to keep watch on Madison if she ever touches any paper.

There were many rooms for maids and guests on the ground floor, but they chose to take the room on the upper floor, the room is big, airy, the whole floor nearly, with windows that look all ways, air and sunshine bountiful. The wallpaper had few scratches; maybe previous landlord’s children must have played around a lot.

John wanted to repaper the wall, but later dropped the idea because they were only going to be here for few months and if he starts, there will be never ending repairs to be done for three months. He said that nothing was worse for a nervous patient than to give a way to such fancies.

She felt uncomfortable whenever I entered the room to clean it. When I caught her several times her face changes to flush like a blending style of chameleon. I could see her hand move swiftly to set aside the book. I always look straight forward to grab the book and advice her that it would be detriment for her health.

During the second month, Madison seems physically better. But her eyes looked tired in the morning whenever I serve the breakfast. I could understand that she had not slept well during the night.

Madison always faced the wall that has scratches on it. It seemed like she always meditates on that wall. She does walk around but mostly she concentrate for much longer time as if her soul has been stuck on that fancy wall. When I enter the room in those first weeks, Madison would describe that there’s something unique about that wall.

Most of the time, John would come very late. During the day Madison would never come out of her room for hours. In those first two months, she was collaborating with us, following the schedule set by her husband. Those provisions really improved her physically but not mentally. She seems abandoned from the present world and kept herself sticking her eyes to that wall much longer than usual.

Near the last week of third month, I was busy cleaning up and putting back things where they belong in the first place. We took things up and down to embellish the room, rearrange the position but now it’s time to move everything back to normal position. Madison would never come out of her room. I noticed in the morning that she had scratched the wall little bit.

Although it’s the last day, I heard John scream at the door. “Open the door, my darling!” Madison had locked herself inside. John could not find the key to get inside the room. I walked up the stairs and let John know that I am available for any help. Madison replied in her gentlest voice. “The key is down by the by the front step, under the plantain leaf” John was very nervous and his body was shaking.

We could hear from outside what was going on inside.  She was peeling off all the papers and tearing down whatever she could reach like a cat scratching the couch. John got frustrated looking for some way to break-in. I found the key and he snatched it from my hand. He nervously put the key into the door’s lock, the door hesitated to open, but with a final shove he got through.

“What is the matter?”   he cried. “For God’s sake. What are you doing!” She was still scratching the wall, she looked at John over her shoulder through disheveled hair. John ultimately fainted on the ground. I wondered what had gone through her mind. She was so soft and yet she absorbed everything inside herself.


Is my narration consistent throughout this piece and does it flow well?

Here comes Richard and Josephine I haven’t seen them in quite some time and they are here together. This is truly weird for they have no reason to visit me today. They came wearing grim faces and portraying sad eyes. In my heart I know that something terrible has happened, I wonder if it has anything to do with the terrible ruckus down at the telegraph station today I swear it was like a complete mad house there. Then they start talking and I can barely believe what I am hearing. “Jessica my sister” she says “I there has been a terrible accident on the rail. It has been most disastrous and families have been thrown into turmoil.” “Death has come and we will get through this as best as we can because we are family and that’s what family does” she continued to speak but I had long stopped listening to her and came to the horrible realization that he was gone. DEAD for that is what he is dead and gone according to Robert. My poor Brently taken away from me in a disastrous culmination of steel and fire on that beast of iron he worked on. I am blinded by the grief for my eyes have been bathed in the wetness of my tears and I have nothing else but sorrow in my heart. I now weep for he whom I lost the man that I love.

In a fell swoop it is gone I feel nothing and need to be alone, my room beckons calling me into the peaceful abyss of my abode. Gone is the light for the sky has turned dark with rain as if somehow the gods feeling my sorrow wept with me and have become spent. The darkness that is there is dissipating slowly like the sobs wrecking through my body. In this moment I am truly lost but just as quickly clarity comes to me as the light starts peeking through more and more through the sky. I remember a time when I was happy and young and beautiful, a time when life was so simple. Then I realized that I was free to go back to being that girl. I was no longer tied down to the dead man I was “FREE” truly free and I am going to love it.

Ecstasy has set in and my heart is pounding my realization has thrown me for a loop and I have accepted that I am truly free. I no longer need to worry about pleasing the dead man I have only myself to worry about. Pure happiness has filled my once dreary heart I feel like new life has been breathed into me and it is intoxicating. I feel alive more so than I have felt in a long time. I can hear her out there shouting in riotous anger Josephine my sister asking me to come out and talking to Robert at my conversation but she doesn’t understand, neither does he. They can’t begin to understand the feelings shooting through my very soul.

I have come to a conclusion that I am better because of his death but at the same time I truly loved that man that wonderful kind man who sheltered me through the years where I was his. I will truly miss him and when I see all that is left of him I will weep again but for now I will relish in my freedom. Because even though he was my love, love was not present all the time and I am happy I am not burdened with loving him anymore. There she is again yelling “Open the door Jessica who are you talking to stop these rambling thoughts before you make yourself sick.”  Sick what does she know she is no doctor she is a question bathed in mystery to me has been all my life.

I have had enough of her pleading and I care not for her talking. I open the door and in she rushes taking me by the hand and pulling me downstairs gently like I am made of glass and liable to break any time soon. I see Robert standing in the foyer looking expectantly at me as if I were there to present him with something. Then I hear it the jingling of the lock and the rattle of a key and in swings the door. Standing there is a ghost a ghost of my husband. I look again and see it’s not a ghost but the real thing. Gone is my freedom gone just as quickly as it came. I am no longer free. There is a pain a stabbing pain in my chest. They are all talking I can tell because their mouths are moving whether from shock I know not. All I hear is the clashing of a bell and the chains dragging me back in he’s alive and I am dead.





intransitive verb

to make a moaning or sighing sound
From “Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka, page 7, paragraph 1.
“He was still occupied with this difficult movement, unable to pay attention to anything else, when he heard the chief clerk exclaim a lout “Oh!”, which sounded like the soughing of the wind.”
I felt silly having to reread this sentence.  Once I learned the meaning, I reread it once more, and it made me understand the visual of Gregor being judged on his appearance by the chief clerk. It made the moment a lot more dramatic. It made me almost feel bad for him.

Before we meet again…

There’s much to do before we meet again. Just as a reminder, I’ll list them here:

First, there are two things I should have mentioned in class but didn’t:

  1. Before our visit to the Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS), every student in our class needs to complete a survey. You can find the survey here. Follow the instructions on the site. If you have any questions or problems, please get in touch with me. You’ll do another survey at the end of the semester. It’s all to gauge how much you’ve learned at BHS.
  2. Dropbox:
  • Essay #1 is due electronically on 3/11. I’ll collect the finished essay–Part 1 and Part 2–via You should each have received an invitation to join Dropbox–check your City Tech email. If you didn’t, or if you have a Dropbox account associated with a different email address and would prefer to use that, please let me know. Once you create an account, you’ll find an invitation to join our shared folder waiting for you in your Dropbox account.
  • It’s important that you understand that there are two ways to use Dropbox: you can use it exclusively on line, or you can download it to your computer. You do not need to download it. I do not require that you download it.  I promise that you can use it without downloading it. Please read those last four sentences several times out loud, with witnesses.
  • We will share a folder on Dropbox. That means that everyone in the class can see what everyone puts in the folder. I will not return work to you via Dropbox, so it will contain only your ungraded work. If you have any concerns, please let me know. Since we are the audience for our writing, it’s good that you can read your classmates’ work.
  • If you want to put your draft of your retelling in our Dropbox folder, please do. I’ll give timely feedback so that you can revise it before you get too far with Part 2 of your essay.
  • You need to work on your draft of your retelling for Essay #1. To do that, you want to make sure you really understand what kind of narrator the story has, what kind of narrator you’re switching to, and what that means for both versions of the story.
  • You should consider sharing any draft you have ready, or any questions you have, by posting to the blog, so that we can all give advice, answer questions, brainstorm, etc. Remember please that it can be difficult to share creative work, or work that’s an early draft, so let’s all be respectful of that.
  • If you haven’t finished “The Metamorphosis,” please do!