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Let’s Review: Hamlet

By the vice-president of the Teen Advisory Group:

Hi everyone! I am back after almost a year-long hiatus with a new series on English IV books (original, I know). My class recently finished Shakespeare’s play Hamlet and this short post will primarily focus on dissecting its main characters Hamlet and King Claudius without spoiling the plot too much.

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Let’s Review: Frederick Douglass

Next up in English III novels is a fairly short read in the autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by you guessed it, Frederick Douglass. Published in 1845, it captures the plight of slaves during this time. Beaten, raped, killed, and separated from their families, some slaves such as Douglass resolved to escape in search for freedom. Douglass finally succeeded after failed attempts and moved North where he became a free man. His childhood was marked by unimaginable sufferings but he reminds us that other slaves had it much worse which hints at the true horrors of slavery.

Douglass also explains ways how white masters kept slaves subservient, and among them is lack of access to education. Realizing this, young Douglass taught himself to read and write with the help of neighborhood white boys who sympathized with his situation. He also exposes the hypocrisy of white slave owners: they profess their faith to God yet own fellow human beings. Religion was much debated during this time as many whites used the Bible to justify slavery; however, Douglass disproves this and supports his anti-slavery argument not only using religion but also logic and morals.

It was definitely meaningful and inspiring to read the story of such an incredible individual who overcame his barriers as a slave and established himself as an advocate for other suffering slaves like he had been. It is no understatement to say that the works of people like Douglass contributed to the 13th amendment abolishing slavery, and I am happy to say that Mr. Douglass lived to see this day in 1865.

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Let’s Review: The Scarlet Letter

Second on the list of English III literature is The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hawthorne was on good terms with transcendentalists such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, but was a critic of the movement himself and held more pessimistic views on human nature. An interesting fact about Hawthorne’s ancestral lineage is that he was a descendant of John Hathorne, a leading voice in the Salem Witch Trials (and a minor character in The Crucible) and one of the only judges to never apologize for his actions sentencing “witches” to death. He was the reason Nathaniel Hawthorne decided to add a “w” to hide their relation, and The Scarlet Letter is seen as Hawthorne’s apology in his ancestor’s stead.

The novel is set in 17th century Boston, still a largely Puritan society. In the town lives young and beautiful Hester Prynne, who in the beginning of the novel is revealed to have committed adultery and is condemned by her entire community. Her punishment is wearing a scarlet “A” on her chest for the rest of her life and become an outcast in her Puritan society. She and her daughter, Pearl, live on the outskirts of town and learn to live in their own way. These two, especially Pearl, represent non-conformists to Puritan society. However, Hester’s kindness and good works ultimately lead to some respect and higher regards for her in the community. I won’t reveal the entire storyline here, but there are two men in Hester’s complicated love life: her former husband known as Roger Chillingworth and the reverend Dimmesdale. Both are inherently non-evil people, but both suffer from pain caused by sin, guilt, or revenge. The story of these two men and Hester and Pearl in this strictly Puritan society makes this novel a fairly enjoyable and interesting read (for an English class novel at least) and serves to highlight Hawthorne’s dislike and contempt for the hypocrisy of Puritan ideals that had caused the Salem Witch Trials during his ancestor’s time.

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Let’s Review: The Crucible

Hi everyone, I have been a TAG member for two years, but this is my first time writing for this blog! I apologize in advance that with school and everything else junior-year-y, I have not been reading very many books voluntarily, so I am going to do a summary/review/analysis of English III classics (and pray that it doesn’t bore anyone). Yes, summaries are found on SparkNotes and CliffsNotes (lifesavers) but here is a more personalized review with some hopefully helpful insights into the novels not found in those websites alone. I recommend any current or future English III students to give it a read.

First off is the play The Crucible by Arthur Miller. I will spare you the mere summary (again, found on SparkNotes) and move on with the analysis of this play. Miller was a playwright whose early works were funded by the New Deal. He also was Marilyn Monroe’s husband from 1956-1961, and we see Miller paint himself as John Proctor, the protagonist. Miller was involved in a scandal during his marriage to Monroe which led to their divorce. Likewise, Proctor has a secret affair with his family’s former housemaid Abigail (a much younger girl who ultimately becomes the main accuser of witchcraft), leading to an unstable relationship with his wife Elizabeth, but unlike Miller the two try to become better spouses and ultimately forgive each other. The play itself is set in late 17th century Massachusetts Bay during the hysteria known as the Salem Witch Trials. Miller published this book in 1953 as a response to the Red Scare at the time, a time when Americans feared that their neighbors were communists. Both the witch trials and the Red Scare are characterized by mob mentality, a form of mass hysteria as more and more people jump on the bandwagon of near insanity. Much of the events in the play are driven by Puritan ideals (for example, Puritans believed children could not lie and therefore trusted the “testimonies” of young girls such as Abigail) and greed of neighbors trying to gain property (by accusing someone of witchcraft and taking their land). In the end, the town realizes its mistake in sentencing so many of its people to death for witchcraft; however, it is much too late and the innocent lives cannot be returned.

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