Reflective Essay
Part I: An Introduction

BelovedThis portfolio contains my collection of work focusing on Toni Morrison’s novel, Beloved. I chose to include this particular collection because each stage of rewriting, from thesis inception through final analysis, demonstrates a systematic increase in understanding of Paul D’s continuous journey toward his sense of “manhood.” My literary scholarship has been furthered through close reading of the novel and two peer reviewed research sources while carefully revisiting and expanding support for my thesis.

The final draft of this paper has been improved technically by addressing two considerations. Initially, euphemistic language was used to describe the difference in cultural issues. Gaining confidence in handling these issues openly, the terms “black” and “white” are used more frequently as appropriate. Also, the previous drafts seemed to address my concepts well enough, but the paper would not appeal to some one who had never read Beloved. Because my audience may someday include the uninitiated, more description was used to illustrate the points. Close attention and reworking of the overall sentence structure removed wandering verbiage, keeping my thoughts concise and poignant. This new version achieved the desired effect on my test subject as I read the paper aloud. This entire process allowed me to see how effectively my thoughts were conveyed.

Conceptual additions to the final draft move beyond a cursory glance at how Paul D is stripped of the label “man” and offer further analysis on his diminishing sense of self. In a half page of text on 125 in the novel, a new close reading reveals vivid details and important events in Paul D’s deconstructive history. Incorporating the transfer of Paul D’s ownership from schoolteacher to Brandywine, his attempt on Brandywine’s life, and time spent on the Alfred, Georgia chain gang demonstrates Morrison’s quick depiction of how Paul D is whisked from one place to another and also allows for the inclusion of Sitter’s theory on Morrison’s tree imagery. Having found Sitter’s ideas intriguing, I was unsure how to work them into my existing paper. The addition of two new pages opens the door, using her theory as complimentary support for my examination into the significance of Paul D’s trembling. This new material also equates white culture’s power with guns, spanning beyond previously argued examples of how Garner gives guns to his “men” and schoolteacher takes them away. By discussing Paul D’s inferred and repeated oral rape at the mercy of the barrel, sobering description adds weight to “the enormity of Paul D’s degradation in the irresponsible hands of white authority” (Clune 4). And lastly, as described in the rain scene in Georgia, I break through my original assessment of Paul D’s treatment as an animal, realizing that “his life is worth less here than that of an animal, and only slightly more than the dead” (Clune 4). These inclusions strengthen the support of my thesis by allowing for deeper analysis.

Because I have received the highest grade possible in all stages of this developmental process, I found that discovering new directions in which to move is more difficult than reworking something known to have failed. This challenge has forced me to exceed my best effort. It has also taught me the importance of keeping notes on possible exploration and revisiting abandoned ideas. As this final paper comes to a close, I would still like to examine how Paul D encounters the feminine embrace of “white” manhood from the point of view of Baby Suggs, Sethe and Denver and the eventual abandonment of that interpretation by Sethe and Denver. I would also like to inspect the shift in Paul D’s sense of identity beginning with his own introduction to Denver as “Paul D Garner” and his eventual acceptance of himself as his own man, in the end, as she calls him “Mr. D.” That, unfortunately, will have to wait for another paper. Having surprised myself with the amount of my own interpretations and conclusions I will really enjoy writing it some day.

Part II: Understanding the Guidelines and Objectives

At the start of the semester, I only vaguely understood the objectives of the course. Unfamiliar with certain concepts and terms in relation to literature, I was unable to define what made literature worthy of study. Even as we began to address that question early on, I had no idea what my answer would be. I used to determine whether a book was good by how it made me feel, but that has since changed. The past few months of study have taught me that literature reaches far beyond emotion. Reading back on my first essay, I can see how wide my eyes have opened.

tempestDoubtful that I could say something new, I have discovered that my original interpretation is worthy of analytical study and expansion through research. I was fascinated by the new meaning historical documentation provided when reading Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and the types of critical approaches developed from its study, particularly New Colonialism. In reading and writing about Morrison’s Beloved, I was glad to engage with an alternative text to the traditional canon. This expansion of the canon offers a greater opportunity for students/scholars to dialogue with the text about relevant issues facing marginalized portions of society. Marginalization and diversification, the most prevalent topics in all my classes, are a grand departure from what was taught even in the late eighties. I enjoyed venturing into the world of research for Beloved after first using “The Tempest’s” training-wheel criticism because it gave me the chance to explore so many credible and relevant sources. This was one of the goals I had hoped to reach as mentioned in my first essay. Also, as much as the aforementioned facets applied to the poetry explication, I found that identification, understanding and employment of literary terminology reinforced its meaning. Now these terms are always close at hand for future projects.

Together, the abilities gained through this class have offered me a confidence I had not otherwise possessed when discussing various aspects of literature. Class discussion and development of papers has been a great exercise in abstract thinking and the feedback to my work has been a wonderful reward. One thing I have learned is that, while getting an A is nice, even an A is not the end of the road. Room for improvement always exists and I can still use much of that in public speaking. While my poetry explication was fraught with a case of nerves, it was a great personal triumph just to stand at the head of the class, particularly since I chose to speak at the podium rather than my seat. Since I remember very little about the experience, the most intriguing part of the presentation, for me, was the preparation. Next time can only be better. Overall, with the small exception of public speaking, this semester has broadened my skills and my enjoyment of reading and writing.