Sunday, June 17, 2018

Louise by William Somerset Maugham --- Analysis

The short story 'Louise' by William Somerset Maugham was written in an ironic style. The narrator spoke about his acquaintance - Louise, the young girl in the beginning of the story and an old lady in the end.

Her parents cared about her very strongly, as the narrator said, they "worshipped her with an anxious adoration" because she had a weak heart. When Tom Maitland proposed marriage, they were dismayed because they thought that the role of wife was difficult, given her poor health. But Tom was rich and they were not well off, so eventually they agreed to the marriage.

Tom promised to do everything for Louise, he gave up gambling and hunting for the sake of her. Meanwhile, the narrator noticed she might walk for few miles, she might dance all night. Once the narrator said to Tom that Louse might be not so weak as it seemed. Tom shook his head and answered that the best heart specialists in the world concluded that her life hung by a thread.

Louise outlived her husband. He died from pneumonia. According to the narrator, while they were sailing Tom cared only about keeping Louise warm and didn't think about himself. He left Louise with the fortune and a daughter, Iris.

A year after Tom's death Luisa accepted a proposal to marry from George Hobhouse. He was an officer who resigned because of his intentions to care about his poor wife who suffered from heart disease. They lived in Monte Carlo. The narrator asserted that because of it, George allowed his wife "to go beautifully dressed to all the most lively parties, to gamble very heavily, to dance and even to flirt with tall slim young men." Meanwhile, George braces himself with a stiff drink. When the war started, he rejoined the army again and a few months later, he was killed in the First World War.

In order to ease her mind, Luise turned her villa at Monte Carlo into a hospital for convalescent officers. The narrator met her by chance in Paris at the Ritz with a tall, handsome young Frenchman. She said that she was there on business related to the hospital.

Next time the narrator met Luise in London. She lived there with her daughter, Iris. Iris met a good man. He asked her to marry him but she refused because she decided that she needed to care for her mother. The narrator asked Luise about her attitude to this proposal and she answered, 'she can marry her young man tomorrow if she likes. If it kills me, it kills me.' The narrator suggested, ‘Well, let's risk it, shall we?'

In the last lines of the story, the author wrote,
"On the wedding–day, at ten o'clock in the morning, Louise, that devilish woman, had one of her heart attacks–and died. She died gently forgiving Iris for having killed her."

This story was the subject of many discussions. We can find lots of essays and an analysis on the Internet. Commentators mostly focused on the theme of manipulations, which some people use. This idea was confirmed by the ironic style which the author used in this story. The circumstances of the deaths of Luise's former husbands seem also to prove this statement. But is it really so? Let's call it into a question. Because she was ill, she accepted the idea of death. Because of it, she spent her time in parties, gambling, flirting and so on. There is an idiom in English “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die”. Her death was real. The narrator believed in her insincerity, but he might be mistaken.

This is a link to the story:

This is a link to the sixty-five short stories of W. Somerset Maugham:

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Winter Dreams by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Analysis)

The short story “'Winter Dreams” by F. Scott Fitzgerald mostly took place in the 1920s, known as the Jazz Age. Behind the brilliance and glamour of those years lay a feeling of emptiness and hopelessness. During these years there was a drastic change in people’s lifestyle and values which presented a new freedom which not all were ready to accept. It is likely that that mood, that feeling of restless and uncertainty was expressed in the title of the story.

At the beginning of the story the young boy, Dexter, worked in a golf club as a caddy. His father owned a large grocery store, so Dexter didn’t lack for money and worked not out of necessity but simply for pocket money. In this way, Fitzgerald established Dexter as a clever boy, who eagerly wanted to achieve success in life. He dreamed about being a champion golfer and imagined himself as a celebrity surrounded by huge crowds, among which was the golf clubs owner, Mr. Mortimer Jones.

Dexter was fourteen when he met Mr.Jones’s eleven-year-old Judy who came to the club with her nanny. Dexter finished his job and he was going to come back home. He suggested to wait for the caddy-master, but the girl demanded that he served them. When his boss came and ordered him to assist the girl, he said that he quitted the business. This was the first, but not the last time that an encounter with Ms. Jones would change Dexter’s life.

Next year Dexter studied in university, bought a partnership in a laundry. Dexter bought it to learn how this business works and soon he was running several branches of laundries. When he was twenty-three he got an invitation to be a member of a golf club where he worked as a caddy. There he met Ms. Judy Jones the second time.

After a couple of meetings, Judy said that her former boyfriend told her that he was "poor as a church-mouse". She said:

"if I'd thought of him as poor —well, I've been mad about loads of poor men and fully intended to marry them all. But in this case, I hadn't thought of him that way, and my interest in him wasn't strong enough to survive the shock. As if a girl calmly informed her fiancé that she was a widow. He might not object to widows, but—"

Judy asked Dexter if he was poor, he said "No". It was not obvious but it seemed that being rich was a mandatory condition to have relationships with her. The author described this episode as, "she communicated her excitement to him, lavishly, deeply, with kisses that were not a promise but a fulfillment."

He was one of a dozen guys who were around her. She favored one, next moment she favored another. He asked her to marry him but she didn't give a definite answer. After a few months, Dexter got engaged to another girl, Irene Scheerer. Her father always believed in Dexter. Everyone in the city knew about this engagement. There were only a few days before the wedding when Judy appeared again. That time she asked if he would agree to marry her. Fitzgerald described his feelings in these lines:

"A million phrases of anger, pride, passion, hatred, tenderness fought on his lips. Then a perfect wave of emotion washed over him, carrying off with it a sediment of wisdom, of convention, of doubt, of honor. This was his girl who was speaking, his own, his beautiful, his pride."

Dexter’s marriage was ruined but the relationship with Judy had no future. Dexter then moved to New York City, for a few years he didn't hear about Judy. When Dexter was thirty-two he had a conversation with a man named Devlin. Devlin came into his office to see him in a business way. During the conversation, Devlin mentioned that he had a friend from the Middle West who married a girl from Dexter's home city. That was Judy.

Devlin said, that Judy was too old for her husband. He drank and spend lots of time with other women and she stayed at home with her kids. Devlin's remark that she was too old for him shocked Dexter. He knew that Judy was only twenty-seven. Devlin commented, “Lots of women fade just like that”.

The author described Dexter's feelings and thoughts,

"He had thought that having nothing else to lose he was invulnerable at last— but he knew that he had just lost something more, as surely as if he had married Judy Jones and seen her fade away before his eyes. The dream was gone. Something had been taken from him."

During the entire narration, the author expressed the desire for a wealthy life of his main characters. It is likely that thoughts of the main characters have a connotation with his life. His future wife Zelda refused to marry him before he gained enough money for the family's future. Throughout "Winter Dreams" was represented the theme of the ideal American life, of money and wealth. Judy was the continuous "dream" in Dexter's life, as well as Zelda was Love of the whole Fitzgerald's life.

This is a link to the text of the story:

Saturday, June 9, 2018

The Monkey's Paw by W. W. Jacobs --- Analysis

'The Monkey's Paw' by W. W. Jacobs is a supernatural story. The readers may also conclude that what happened in the story were just coincidences, giving the impression that the author was trying to create suspense through these events. The actions were built around the traditional theme of fulfilling three wishes.

The plot began with a description of a usual evening of the family who reunited with their old acquaintance. This guest brought the monkey's paw from India which had the power to grand the three wishes of its owner. Nobody believed in it before the head of the family, the old man, jokingly asked for two hundred pounds. It was the first wish.

Next day started, as usual, the son of the old man went to his job but he didn't return in time. The manager of the company where the son worked came to their house and said that their son died in a tragic accident at his workplace. He brought also as compensation for it --- two hundred pounds.

In her desperation, the wife of the old man begged him to make a second wish to bring their son home. He did it. They heard a loud knock at the door. “It's my boy; it's Herbert!” the old lady cried. Let go. I must open the door.” “Don't let it in,” cried the old man, trembling”.

The old man found the monkey's paw and made his third and last wish. The knocking ceased suddenly, the door opened. A cold wind rushed up the staircase.

There is an important detail from the beginning of this narration. The previous owner of monkey's paw tried to throw it into a fire, to escape from it. Think before accepting something "for free".

This is the link to the text of the story:

Sunday, June 3, 2018

The Seventh Man by Haruki Murakami Analysis

The Seventh Man by Haruki Murakami is a short story written from the narrator’s perspective - about his life. The author gave the name "The Seventh Man" because the story was told by the narrator in front of others, probably six people. Numbers have significance dependent on culture, so the other interpretations of the title may exist too. This story is a classic example of suspense as a genre of literature. Here is the first line of the story:

A huge wave nearly swept me away,” said the seventh man, almost whispering. “It happened one September afternoon when I was ten years old.

The narrator detailed his life in a small Japanese town which was located on the shore of the ocean. The story was about his friendship with his classmate, he named him in the narrative as K. That boy had a kind of speech impediment. K. was frail, so the narrator always played his protector. As an artist however, K. was great, as it was said in the story, "Just give him a pencil or paints and he would make pictures that were so full of life that even the teacher was amazed." There two friends used to play together on the seaside. They were close to each other like brothers.

One day a heavy typhoon was going to hit the town. The schools and shops were closed,. The radio informed them it was going to be the worst storm in ten years, they warned people against leaving their homes. The narrator's family like other people in the town prepared emergency bags with water and food, nailed wood panels to their home’s doors and windows. The wind caused a lot of damage, blowing roofs off houses and capsizing ships. Many people had been killed or injured by flying debris.

Suddenly the storm disappeared. The weather became quiet, it was possible to hear a bird crying in the distance. The narrator asked his father to allow him to go outside the house. The father said that the narrator could walk around for a few minutes because the wind would come back. K. saw the narrator and asked where he was going. “Just down to look at the beach,” the narrator said. K. and his little dog joined the narrator.

Two friends went to the beach just as always, but now everything looked different, "the color of the sky and of the sea, the sound of the waves, the smell of the tide, the whole expanse of the shore.
 The waterline was much farther away than usual, even at low tide. They were examining the things that had washed ashore. The author described it, "Plastic toys, sandals, chunks of wood that had probably once been parts of furniture, pieces of clothing, unusual bottles, broken crates with foreign writing on them, and other, less recognizable items: it was like a big candy store."

The narrator described the feelings which crept him, "something ominous about them—something like the touch of a reptile's skin—had sent a chill down my spine.". He cried K. to go out of there, but his voice did not seem to have reached him. "He might have been so absorbed in whatever it was he had found that my call made no impression on him. K. was like that."

The narrator stood near the breakwater, and when a huge wave came, he survived. But K. with his dog had no chances to escape. The wave had swallowed them. The narrator stood near the breakwater and the second tremendous wave came. This is a description of the storyteller what he saw:

"In the tip of the wave, as if enclosed in some kind of transparent capsule, floated K.'s body, reclining on its side. But that is not all. K. was looking straight at me, smiling ...— it was a big, wide-open grin that literally stretched from ear to ear. His cold, frozen eyes were locked on mine. He was no longer the K. I knew. And his right arm was stretched out in my direction, as if he were trying to grab my hand and pull me into that other world where he was now".

The life of the main character changed dramatically after that. He hardly ever recovered after the tragedy. Nobody blamed him even parents of his friend K. He was in a deep depression for years, K. came to him in nightmares. He left the town trying to escape from this delusion, but memories pursued him.

Being already an elderly man, the narrator came back to his hometown. Everything had changed since he was young. There was no house of his family, no house where K. lived. The narrator walked through the beach. We stood there and thought, "It began to seem as if the whole thing were an illusion that I had dreamed up in vivid detail. And then I realized that the deep darkness inside me had vanished. Suddenly. As suddenly as it had come."

The main character suffered all his life trying to recover from a disaster and the loss he experienced following a devastating childhood tragedy. As it was made clear at the end of the story, losing health and turning to insanity could have been avoided it if the narrator had accepted the fact. The narrator recounted events that took place before the beginning of the story. This technique helped readers to understand the seventh man and his struggle to recover from tragedy. There are some practical points which could help people to recover after tragedy: talking about it, to be open for communication with society - many people would agree, it makes sense.

This is a link to the original text of the story:

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Seventh Grade by Gary Soto Analysis

Seventh Grade by Gary Soto is a story about teenage boy Victor who fell in love with his classmate - a girl Teresa. The author chose a deliberately simple style of writing according to the age of two main characters in the story. At the beginning of the story, Victor selected French as a foreign language for studying because, "... it was cool ... there were rivers in France, and huge churches, and fair-skinned people everywhere ...". Besides, Teresa, a girl he liked, took French, too.

The story begins with the classmates meeting after summer vacation before starting the seventh grade in school. The boys talked about appearance, how to make a good impression for girls. One boy - Michael said that, "... his face had changed during the summer. He had read a GQ5 magazine that his older brother had borrowed from the Book Mobile and noticed that the male models all had the same look on their faces. They would stand, one arm around a beautiful woman, and scowl." Michael believed that it worked because as he said, "Belinda Reyes walked by a while ago and looked at me”.

The main character- Victor thought that it was superficial but nevertheless he tried to make the same expression. He noticed that the girl, who walked past him, looked at him. Umm, he thought, maybe it does work.

During the French class, Victor thought about Teresa and when the teacher asked the students to give examples of nouns in French, Victor automatically said, "Teresa". "Some of the girls giggled. They knew he had a crush on Teresa. He felt himself blushing ...".

There are few more situations where Victor embarrasses himself in front of Teresa. The story has a happy ending. Teresa asked Victor to help her with her French. They said, “Bonjour” to each other. The last line of the story,
"He was going to like seventh grade."

Good reading for the positive emotions!

This is a link to the original text of the story:

Friday, May 25, 2018

In Another Country by Ernest Hemingway Analysis

Ernest Hemingway wrote the short story "In Another Country" in the style which some critics named as a detachment-style. It means that the author's purpose was to show life as it was, the main character just described what he saw around him.

The story was told from the side of the wounded American soldier who was in an Italian hospital. Ernest Hemingway was wounded in Europe during the First World War, the story could be defined as an autobiographical story.

The first line expressed the mood of the narrative, it displayed a smooth tone and the measured the peaceful life. It was written, "In the fall the war was always there, but we did not go to it any more. It was cold in the fall in Milan and the dark came very early."

The doctor asked him about sports that he practiced before. It was football and the doctor replied, "You will be able to play football again better than ever".

There were three boys; patients in the hospital. The author compared his own medals with the medals of others. The boys were very polite at first, asking what he had done to earn the medals. He showed them the papers, where it was written in a beautiful language, that he was awarded the medals for brotherhood. In other words, and it was written that the medals had been given to him because he was an American. The attitude of the boys toward the narrator changed after that. He wrote:
"I was a friend, but I was never really one of them after they had read the citations, because it had been different with them and they had done very different things to get their medals."

So the three boys and the author drifted apart. The narrator stayed good friends with the boy who had been wounded his first day at the front. This boy could never be accepted either and the author felt more comfortable with him.

The narrator spent much time with another patient; the major whose hand was severely wounded. The major dedicated his time to correcting the grammar of the Italian language which the author was studying. He had complimented the narrator on how he spoke Italian. The narrator mentioned that Italian seemed so easy to speak that he was not interested in it. The major replied, "Why, then, do you not take up the use of grammar?”. After that, the language became so difficult for the narrator that he was afraid to speak with the major until he had learned the grammar. When the author didn't spend enough time studying grammar, the major said that he, "was a stupid impossible disgrace, and he was a fool to have bothered with me".

Once the major asked the author if he was going to marry. The major seemed very angry, he repeated, “A man must not marry....He'll lose it,” he almost shouted, “Don't argue with me!”.

Later, the major had a telephone call, he came back to the narrator:
"I am so sorry,” he said, and patted me on the shoulder with his good hand. “I would not be rude. My wife has just died. You must forgive me"

Ernest Hemingway chose for this story a detached, objective tone and attitude toward the subject. This literary method gives readers possibilities to see the time how it was, like watching the documentary. The author was able to recreate his time and to deliver the atmosphere of the place for us.

Can we pronounce Bengali letter "ভ" as "v" instead of "bh"

This is a discussion which I started on the site about the Bengali language:

According to the dictionary the Bengali letter "ভ" pronounce as "bh". But in the word good (ভালো) I heard from native Bengali speaker pronunciation "valo".

I read in the Internet that the proper pronunciation is "bh". But there is another version:
The name of Italian city Venice Google Translator translates as ভেনিস.

The question:
Can we pronounce Bengali letter "ভ" as "v" instead of "bh"?

Comment 1:

Depending on the word you use "V"
Good = ভালো ; you can use either V or Bh for this one.
However, for Beggar = ভিখারি you can use V, it will have to bh.
Best practice is using bh always for not to get confused.

Comment 2:
Can we pronounce the English letter "z" as "j"?

In Bengali, the sound "z" does not exist. People who have a lot of contact with English or other foreign languages learn to pronounce the "z" sound properly, but the rest approximate it with the sound of "j". So it's not uncommon to hear the number "zero" in English being pronounced something like "jiro" among Bengalis. It's an approximation, and it works.

Depending on the level you're trying to attain at this stage, it may be perfectly reasonable to approximate the "ভ" sound with "v". People will have no trouble understanding you.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Rules of the Game by Amy Tan - Analysis

The author of the story Rules of the Game, Amy Tan, is the daughter of Chinese immigrants, who grew up in California. The main character is a girl named Meimei, who absorbed knowledge about the rules for living in a society which she learned from her mother and people around her.

The author wrote in the first line, "I was six when my mother taught me the art of invisible strength. It was a strategy for winning arguments, respect from others". The title of the story is connected with the idea of following rules for individuals living in society. Because of that, the story seems contain autobiographical memories told from the point of view of a Chinese girl who lived with her family in San Francisco's Chinatown.

The mother of the girl demanded that she, “bite back her tongue" when the girl begged for candies in the shop. Next time, only after the girl accepted this advice, did her mother buy the candies without her asking. Her mother "quietly plucked a small bag of plums from the rack and put it on the counter with the rest of the items.".

The Chinese community kept it’s identity, it was represented in the story by a few episodes. The first one was about a restaurant where the menu was only in Chinese. When one foreigner asked Meimei what they served there, she shouted, “Guts and duck's feet and octopus gizzards!” and ran off. The second episode was about the statement which one boy said in the class that Chinese people do Chinese torture. When Meimei asked her mother about it, she replied “Chinese people do many things ... Chinese people do business, do medicine, do painting. Not lazy like American people. We do torture. Best torture.

The core part of the story is dedicated to chess. Once the children received a chess set as a Christmas gift. Two of Meimei's older brothers started playing the game and Meimei begged them to allow her to play too. After, her brother briefly explained her the basic rules, she asked why the pawn could move only to the one direction. The answer was about chess but it could be referred to the general knowledge which every child faced:

Why can't they move more steps?” “Because they're pawns,” he said. “But why do they go crossways to take other men? Why aren't there any women and children?” “Why is the sky blue? Why must you always ask stupid questions?” asked Vincent. “This is a game. These are the rules. I didn't make them up. See. Here. In the book.

Eventually, Meimei studied the rules of the game, she became a regional chess champion. The success came when she understood the rules of this game. The idea of accepting rules for definite achievements was presented by the author as a crucial thing. Success will come for those people who know the rules.

Here is the link to the story:

Matthew Henson at the Top of the World Biography by Jim Haskins Review

'Matthew Henson at the Top of the World' by American author Jim Haskins is a short biography. The story is about a black American who was among the first people who successfully reached the North Pole and whose deed was undeservedly forgotten.

The author told about the difficult childhood of Matthew Henson. He grew up without his parents, he needed to work hard to survive. Since a young age, he served on the small ships, he sailed to different parts of the world. After years of traveling, he got a job as a clerk in a clothing store. During that time he met with Robert E. Peary - at that time a young navy officer of the USA - the future pioneer of the way to the North Pole. Pearly offered Matthew a job. Since that time they had several geographical expeditions together.

After their first trip to Greenland, Pearly wrote “Henson, my faithful colored boy, a hard worker and apt at anything, . . . showed himself . . . the equal of others in the party.”

The walking part of their journey started the 1st of March, 1909. As the expedition went on, Pearly had to send back several men due to their exhaustion and frostbite. Despite the temperature was sub-zero, the expedition encountered troubles with open water. One traveler went ahead and didn't come back. Only his coat was found floating in a hole in the ice.

Finally, they reached the North Pole. This was not only their success, it was is a great achievement of all humans. But his deed wasn’t rewarded. The National Geographic Society gave the gold medal only Peary, Matthew’s contributions to the expedition were not recognized for many years.

The short biography 'Matthew Henson at the Top of the World' written by Jim Haskins filled this gap in the history of research of Arctika

This is the link to the text of the story:

Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Lady, or the Tiger? by Frank R. Stockton Analysis

'The Lady, or the Tiger?' is a philosophical tale written by the American author Frank R. Stockton. The question in the title may be familiar to many Americans. It is used in various situations when a difficult choice needs to be made.

The plot is about a semi-barbaric king, who found pleasure in organizing trials in a big arena in front of a large audience. In the arena, there were two doors leading to separate rooms. Behind one was a lady, behind another - a tiger. The accused criminal was placed in the arena and faced a difficult choice. If the accused chose the room with a lady, he was proven innocent, and a great wedding was celebrated. If he chose the room with the tiger, he was considered proven guilty and met a sad end as the tiger tore him to pieces.

There was a young man from an ordinary family who was in love with the King's daughter. The princess loved him too: he had a generous character, he was handsome and he loved her very much.

When the king found out about their relationship, he became furious. The young man was captured and thrown in jail. Shortly thereafter, it was his turn to be on trial in the arena. The princess having influence in the court knew which room the lady was in and which the tiger was in. The lady, who would be the potential bride of the Princess’ lover, was a beautiful girl. She was also in love with this young man.

The young man went out into the arena, he immediately looked at the princess, and she gave him a sign with her right hand. He went to the right door without a moment's hesitation….

According to my observations and discussions with others about this story, it is my opinion the princess pointed her lover to the room with the lady because she loved him. However, according to the interpretations of others, the princess inherited semi-barbaric characteristics from her father and pointed to the door with the tiger. The logic of her possible intention is opposite of the previous assumption.

Frank R. Stockton didn't disclose what happened after that. He left this choice to his readers.

Here a link to the text of the story:

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Daughter of Invention by Julia Alvarez Analysis

Daughter of Invention is a short story written by Hispanic American writer Julia Alvarez. Her family moved from the Dominican Republic to the USA. The story wasn't considered by the author as her biography but we can notice lots of similarities with the real life of Julia Alvarez.

The story was being told by a 10-year-old girl who came with her family from the Dominican Republic to New York City. Her life in the USA was not easy. Her classmates teased her because of her bad English. Once she came back home and said to her mother that children threw stones at her. “Sticks and stones don't break bones ...” she replied. It was noticeable, however, that "it was as if one of those stones the kids had aimed at us had hit her." Her mother didn’t accept these complaints, she wanted her daughter to be more tolerant of the new society. She desired for daughter her to accept the new way of life in America - that is what mother wanted to say.

The story began with these lines:
"She wanted to invent something, my mother. There was a period after we arrived in this country, until five or so years later, when my mother was inventing." The hobby to make inventions was mentioned in the title of the story, so it is an important detail.

Living in an unfriendly social environment, the narrator found herself in writing. She had little time of her own. When mother rushed into her daughter's room with a new invention, she reacted to the interruption: “Oh Mami!” I'd cry out, my eyes blinking up at her. “I'm writing.

Children often made fun of mom's hobby:
"... we'd humor her. “What every household needs: a shower like a car wash, keys ticking like a bomb, luggage on a leash!” By now, as you can see, it'd become something of a family joke, our Thomas Edison Mami, our Benjamin Franklin Mom."

The narrator was chosen to deliver a speech at a school assembly on Teacher's Day. It was a difficult task for the girl, she didn't feel comfortable with her English, she felt embarrassed speaking in public. The thoughts about this future event made her life for long weeks unbearable.

A weekend before the Monday morning assembly she went into a panic. The mother tried to calm her down. She persuaded her daughter saying: “Just remember how Mister Lincoln couldn't think of anything to say at the Gettysburg, but then, Bang!". Everything would be ok if you relaxed. "Necessity is the daughter of invention.",- she said.

Just before the deadline, the inspiration came:
"That night, at last, I started to write, recklessly, three, five pages ... When I was done, I read over my words, and my eyes filled. I finally sounded like myself in English!"

The narrator read her speech aloud to her mother. She was delighted by the text. They went to the father's room to present him this work. But the reaction of the father was completely opposite to which they expected:

"His toothless mouth had collapsed into a dark zero. His eyes glared at me, then shifted to my mother, accusingly..., he whispered, “You will permit her to read that? ... It shows no gratitude. It is boastful. ‘I celebrate myself'? ‘The best student learns to destroy the teacher'?

He snatched out of his daughter's hands the paper and tore it to small pieces. Daughter cried in indignation: "You're just another Chapita!" It took my father only a moment to register the hated nickname of our dictator, and he was after me. Down the halls, we raced, but I was quicker than he and made it to my room just in time to lock the door as my father threw his weight against it."

The narrator already started to feel sorry for her behavior in that day. When mother stood behind the door, the author wrote:

Go away,” I wailed, but we both knew I was glad she was there, and I needed only a moment's protest to save face before opening that door."

That night mother wrote a new speech for her daughter "two brief pages of stale compliments and the polite commonplaces on teachers". This speech had a great success: "The nuns had been flattered, the audience had stood up and given “our devoted teachers a standing ovation,” what my mother had suggested they do at the end of my speech."

As it became clear later, the last line was borrowed from her father’s old speech. Next day he bought a brand new electric typewriter - his daughter's dream. And for mother, as the author wrote: "her inventing days were over just as mine were starting up with my schoolwide success."

The conflict in the story would be interpreted as a conflict between cultures of different countries or between generations. A possible interpretation of the moral could be explained as the attitude of each person towards other people, readiness to accept the traditions of a new country.

The events described in the story changed a lot for the main characters:
- mother passed her ability to create new ideas for her daughter;
- father helped his daughter to correct her attitude towards society;
- daughter started her long way as a writer.

The picture below illustrated the complexity of plot-lines of this story. Let's see ...

Here is the link to the text of the story:

Sunday, April 22, 2018

A Marriage Proposal by Anton Chekhov Analysis

A Marriage Proposal is a play written by a great Russian writer Anton Chekhov. It could be classified as a humorous story where the author mocked the habits of landowners.

The play features three characters. A country farmer Tschubukov and his daughter Natalia and Lomov - their neighbor, who came to Tschubukov to ask for the hand of his daughter.

Tschubukov welcomed Lomov ceremonially: "Who is this I see? My dear fellow! ... Please sit down. It isn't right to forget one's neighbor.". When the purpose of the visit was disclosed, Tschubukov embraced and kissed Lomov, he called his daughter and left Lomov and Natalia one on one.

They started a small talk about the weather, about the chores on the farm. When Natalia asked Lomov why he was dressed up so gorgeously, he started answering. Probably, there are many ways to start a speech with a marriage proposal. Some would start talking about their feelings, about their intentions. Lomov, however, started with a precise description of his property:

"My poor aunt and her husband, from whom, as you know, I inherited the estate, always had the greatest respect for your father and your poor mother ... my property, as you know, adjoins your own. If you will be so good as to remember, my meadows touch your birch woods."

Natalia interrupted his speech on this statement "You said “my meadows”—but are they yours?" Their dispute was in a polite tone firstly but soon it became furious. When Tschubukov joined the arguing, the speakers started insulting each other. He cried that "whole Lomov family were insane!". Lomov replied "And your mother limped ... And you are an intriguer."

That debate was so violent that Lomov even had a black-out. Here is what happened next:
"Lomov. Sparks! Mists! Where am I?
Tschubukov. Get married! Quick, and then go to the devil! She's willing! (He joins the hands of Lomov and Natalia.) She's agreed! Only leave me in peace!
Lomov. Wh—what? (getting up) Whom?
Tschubukov. She's willing! Well? Kiss each other and—the devil take you both!
Natalia (groans). He lives! Yes, yes, I'm willing!
Tschubukov. Kiss each other!
Lomov. Eh? Whom? (Natalia and Lomov kiss.) Very nice! Pardon me, but what is this for? Oh, yes, I understand! My heart—sparks—I am happy.

And ... they continued arguing.

Anton Chekhov poked the fun at the habits of the landowners to marry for economic reasons rather than love. He wrote in his story a typical situation: when stubborn people started arguing about something unimportant it leads to a silly dispute. Chekhov was a recognized Master who was able to describe human nature in a manner which made the features of character familiar and funny.

Here is the link to the story:

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Travel Narrative by Bill Bryson (from A Walk in the Woods) Review

A Walk in the Woods is a travel narrative written by American author Bill Bryson. He described in the story his experiment of walking through the Appalachian Mountains. Hiking as a sports activity and as a sort of adventures becomes nowadays very popular. What motivates people to go through the woods, mountains, long distances, overcoming sometimes the great difficulties and dangers? Interesting question. Let's see what the author wrote:

"Distance changes utterly when you take the world on foot. A mile becomes a long way, two miles literally considerable, ten miles whopping, fifty miles at the very limits of conception. The world, you realize, is enormous in a way that only you and a small community of fellow hikers know. Planetary scale is your little secret.

At times, you become almost certain that you slabbed this hillside three days ago, crossed this stream yesterday, clambered over this fallen tree at least twice today already. But most of the time you don't think.

Interaction with nature is the main plotline of the story. The author with his friend went through the forest. When they reached the Appalachian Mountains the strong snowy storm begun. The map, which they had, showed the area very approximately, it was possible to say that they didn't have a map. They were lost at the peak of the mountain, during heavy snowfall, as the author wrote: "people have died in less trying circumstances".

Fortunately for travelers, they found the shelter- a small cabin for hikers, where another two people were: a father and a son. After a little rest, they continued their journey. The story has a happy ending. They had some difficulties, even troubles during this journey, but they survived, they overcame difficulties, they achieved the aim- and that's the most important thing. It probably was not the last walking trip for them.

Here is a text of the story:

Saturday, April 14, 2018

When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine by Jhumpa Lahiri Analysis

The short story When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine by Jhumpa Lahiri represents a recollection of Lilia, for that time - a ten-year-old girl, about the relationships in a small community of Indian immigrants who lived in a small university town in the USA. The story took place in the year of 1971 when Bangladesh became independent.

In search of compatriots, Lilia's father observed the columns of the university press, seeking surnames familiar to their part of the world. Eventually, he discovered Mr. Pirzada, and phoned him, and invited him for dinner.

Lilia remembered Mr. Pirzada as a man "bearing confections in his pocket and hopes of ascertaining the life or death of his family." Every week Mr. Pirzada came to Lilia's family and they had dinner together. As a botanic, he was granted by the Pakistani government for one year studying in the university in the USA. We lived in Dacca, which at that time was part of Pakistan. In Dacca he left his wife and seven daughters.

Lilia remembered an episode when she wanted to bring the Indian man a glass of water, and her father said that "Mr. Pirzada is no longer considered Indian ... Not since Partition. Our country was divided. 1947.” It wasn't clear to Lilia. She wrote:

"It made no sense to me. Mr. Pirzada and my parents spoke the same language, laughed at the same jokes, looked more or less the same. ... Nevertheless my father insisted that I understand the difference, and he led me to a map of the world taped to the wall over his desk. He seemed concerned that Mr. Pirzada might take offense if I accidentally referred to him as an Indian".

One day when the family had dinner with Mr. Pirzada, the father turned up the volume on TV and they "saw tanks rolling through dusty streets, and fallen buildings, and forests of unfamiliar trees into which East Pakistani refugees had fled, seeking safety over the Indian border,... a barricaded university, newspaper offices burnt to the ground" Lilia sympathized with Mr. Pirzada, she imagined his family in blazing Dacca. She prayed for the safety of his family. What else could the child do? She ate a piece of candy, wishing all the best to his family.

In contrast to events in Dacca, Lilia described some current events which took place in the university town where she lived. Nobody in the school knew about the war in Southeast Asia. They studied American Revolution, Declaration of Independence, and so on.

Before the Halloween, the children prepared pumpkins to make a Jack-o'-Lantern. Mr. Pirzada participated in that. He began carving when the national news began. It was reported that India had to make war on Pakistan. What Lilia remembered was "the knife slipped from Mr. Pirzada's hand and made a gash dipping toward the base of the pumpkin. “Please forgive me.” He raised a hand to one side of his face, as if someone had slapped him there. “I am—it is terrible. I will buy another. We will try again.” Everyone said that it was ok, they asked Mr. Pirzada don't worry. Lilia took to heart all troubles which family of Mr. Pirzada had.

The author wrote:
"I remember some nights helping my mother spread a sheet and blankets on the couch so that Mr. Pirzada could sleep there, and high-pitched voices hollering in the middle of the night when my parents called our relatives in Calcutta to learn more details about the situation."

After a while, Mr. Pirzada flew back to Dacca. He sent a letter from Dacca. He wrote that his wife and seven daughters survived, they were in an estate belonging to his wife's grandparents in the mountains. The author finished the story by this line:

"Since January, each night before bed, I had continued to eat, for the sake of Mr. Pirzada's family, a piece of candy I had saved from Halloween. That night there was no need to. Eventually, I threw them away."

The moral of the story wasn’t expressed directly. The events which happened many years ago in a remote country, shown in the News, were described by a young girl. The essential part of the story was dedicated to the description of a daily routine in a small American town. Jhumpa Lahiri communicated the idea of friendship between people, respect to the culture and traditions of other nationalities.

Here is a link to the text of the story:

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

An Analysis of 'The Distant Past' by William Trevor

The Irish writer, William Trevor, described in the short story The Distant Past the life of two people - brother and sister. They were born and grew up in a family of Protestants when Ireland was under the United Kingdom rule.

Catholics in Ireland have fought for their autonomy from the rule of the British since the eighteenth century. Great Britain's rulers (Protestants) didn't welcome that movement. By 1949 the South of Ireland declared independence from British rule. Northern Ireland stayed as a part of the United Kingdom. The tension between Catholics and Protestants reached the highest level by 1960 when the Irish Republican Army (IRA) - an outlawed group of Catholics launched the terrorist attack on Northern Ireland.

The main characters of the story lived during that time in the South of Ireland. They remembered when British soldiers came to the town. All Catholic citizens were against British. There were rumors that their father had the relationship with Catholic woman in Dublin and he spent the major part of his fortune on her. When their father died in 1924, the children discovered that they did not inherit much.

The author used the parts of the family's name for presenting their belonging to Catholics or Protestants, he wrote:

"The Middletons of Carraveagh the family had once been known as, but now the brother and sister were just the Middletons, for Carraveagh didn't count any more, except to them."

The siblings grew up on the farm they inherited from their father. They worked hard on their farm, doing their best to survive. Their favorite pastime was to visit the city weekly and mingle with the locals drinking beer and tea. They were welcomed by society.

There was a time when the area became a very popular place for tourists, the prosperity of the city grew. People thought that the Middletons were a bit of an extravagant couple, but their attitude to them was quite positive. "The visitors who came to the town heard about the Middletons and were impressed. It was a pleasant wonder, more than one of them remarked, that old wounds could heal so completely, that the Middletons continued in their loyalty to the past and that, in spite of it, they were respected in the town."

Everything changed when the terrible news came from Northern Ireland. It was about the clash between the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the British soldiers. Here is how the author described the change in the text:

On Fridays, only sometimes at first, there was a silence when the Middletons appeared. ... It wasn’t something to laugh at any more, nor were certain words that the Middletons had gently spoken, nor were they themselves just an old, peculiar couple.

The main idea of the story disclosed in the title: the origin of the people could be stronger than people expect. The last paragraph shows that they remained Carraveagh despite their ties Catholic society:

“...he said in a rushing way that they could no longer at their age hope to make a living out of the remains of Carraveagh. … Now and again, he thought, he would drive slowly into the town, to buy groceries and meat with the money they had saved, and to face the silence that would sourly thicken as their own two deaths came closer and death increased in another part of their island. She felt him thinking that and she knew that he was right. Because of the distant past they would die friendless. It was worse than being murdered in their beds.

William Trevor grew up in Protestant family in a Catholic community. The story has a definite connotation with his experience. He drew an authentic picture of people’s attitude to some of them who have different beliefs even if they are close acquaintances. The distant past could appear in present and become a barrier which society is not able to overcome.

This is a link to the text of the story:

Saturday, April 7, 2018

A Devoted Son by Anita Desai Analysis

The short story A Devoted Son was written by Indian writer Anita Desai. Her mother was German, her father was Indian. She used to speak in different languages- German at home, Hindi on the streets and English at school. Her literary works became well-known, first abroad, and only later in her country, India.

Belief in the family's values was so strong for her that when she became a writer, she hid her works from children. Children used to see her only as their mother, not as a society figure.

There are two main characters in the story: the father - Varma and his son - Rakesh. The first scene describes the reaction of success which Rakesh achieved by passing the exams.

"When the results appeared in the morning papers, Rakesh scanned them, barefoot and in his pajamas, at the garden gate, then went up the steps to the veranda where his father sat sipping his morning tea and bowed down to touch his feet. “A first division, son?” his father asked, beaming, reaching for the papers. “At the top of the list, Papa,” Rakesh murmured, as if awed. “First in the country.

The locals came to congratulate Varma, praising his son. "To everyone who came to him to say, “Mubarak, Varma-ji, your son has brought you glory,” the father said, “Yes, and do you know what is the first thing he did when he saw the results this morning? He came and touched my feet. He bowed down and touched my feet.

Rakesh won a scholarship, he studied in the USA and he returned home. It was unusual because most of the students who studied abroad, married there and found a better place for living. But he came back. Moreover, he agreed to marry a girl whom his mother choose for him.

He started working at the local hospital. Soon he was appointed as the Director. Later he set up his own clinic. He became the richest man in the town. Because of old age, his mother died and his father became ill. As he did all time, Rakish daily came to his father's room to talk with him, "on returning from the clinic in the evening, persuaded the old man to come out of his room ... and take the evening air out in the garden".

Father thought about his son as a "pearl amongst pearls", he was proud of Rakesh. That changed when the state of health of the old man became worse.

"One day when the father was really sick, having ordered his daughter-in-law to make him a dish of soojie halwa and eaten it with a saucerful of cream, Rakesh marched into the room, not with his usual respectful steps but with the confidence and rather contemptuous stride of the famous doctor, and declared, “No more halwa for you, Papa. We must be sensible, at your age ... nothing fried, nothing rich.

Varma didn't agree with these measures, he even gave some money to his grandson, sending him to the nearest shop for buying halwa for him. This plan was disclosed and Rakesh was ashamed of his father saying that he was trying to turn a little son into a liar.

Varma suffered. He complained to his old neighbor- Bhatia, that his son doesn't give him a food which he asked. Bhatia couldn't believe: "No butter? No oil? How does he expect his father to live?” Old Varma nodded with melancholy triumph. “That is how he treats me—after I have brought him up, given him an education, made him a great doctor... Let me tell you,” Varma whispered eagerly. “Today the family was having fried fish—I could smell it. I called to my daughter-in-law to bring me a piece. She came to the door and said No . . .

The climax of the story occurred in the end. When Rakesh brought father next portion of medicine, Varma cried angrily: “Keep your tonic—I want none—I want none—I won't take any more of—of your medicines. None. Never,” After that: "He closed his eyes and pointed his chin at the ceiling, like some dire prophet, groaning, “God is calling me—now let me go.

The story was the subject of many courses in the schools and colleges. Through Google searching machine we can find a lot of essays and analysis. One of the common interpretation presents the disagreement between two main characters as a conflict between new and old or between West and East. The author left readers the choice to define what is good and what is bad in the story and the title "A Devoted Son" would be seen differently.

This a link to the text of the story:

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Complaining Letter to Albert-learning Online School (Written on the 1st April 2018)

I am writing to you to highlight a concern about one of the students in this online school. I met him as I had a shared session with him Today, the 1st April. During the entire session, he spoke about his dog. As you know, people are classified in two ways, dog-lovers and cat-lovers. Personally, I have a cat and I am a cat lover, it was very annoying for me to listen about his dog during the entire class. Our original topic was to discuss the HR functions of a company and he changed the topic without my permission. I highly respect the opinion of other people , but this habit of the student will be harmful for the reputation of the school.
I hope this matter will be taken into consideration . Thanking in anticipation .



Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Six Months with Engoo

Engoo ( is a very big online English school from Japan. I think that the number of teachers there is about 1000, and probably the number of students is much more. This school worked in the low price segment of market online schools. When I bought my subscription for 6 months the price of one 25 minute ticket was $1.80. They have recently changed their study plans and the current price is more than $4.00 for the same length of class time.

Technical information: The school uses Skype for video calls. We can book a class not later than 15 minutes before the class. The teacher calls the student when the time comes for the class to start. It is mandatory for teachers to turn their video camera on. The student needs to choose the activity when booking the class. It could be a free conversation or class material from the site of the school or other resources. I found the most beneficial and interesting one to be The Daily News option.

The Daily News are prepared on the base of VOA English material (Voice of America). The topics are divided on levels of difficulty of English. When I choose the topic, I applied the filter for the advanced level of English. The topics are really interesting---they include modern vocabulary, and the new articles appear every day.

The Daily News section of the class material is a very important advantage of Engoo. It includes a few parts:

The first part is vocabulary---a few words with explanations and examples of usage. It is possible to hear the pronunciation of these words on the site.

The second part is the text.

Next - 3 or 5 questions for testing comprehension, quite simple. 

I asked the teachers about what kind of classes are the most popular with students and the answer was: The Daily News and free conversation.

Free conversation is good and it could be even more captivating than structured classes. The success of this type of lesson is based on abilities of the teacher to manage the class. It is also important that the teacher has a good level of positive energy and for the students to be willing to participate actively in the session.

When I started studying English with Engoo I was impressed by the number of the teachers there from very different countries. I booked sessions with a trainer from each new country and asked the teacher to tell me about his (her) country. Through the screen sharing option of Skype, using Google Maps, I was able to share pictures and panoramic views from my location and also from theirs. After the class, I prepared the article with a name like "Talking about France," and published it on my blog accompanying it with the pictures from the Internet. This was a great experience and gave me the feeling of being present in the places we discussed. But after a few classes, I switched the topic to The Daily News. The main reason was that some of the teachers were not always ready to manage the conversation. Sometimes it happened that the role of the leader of the discussion fell to me. Sometimes when my questions about the tourist attractions, culture, and traditions of the country were over - an awkward silence hung in the air.

The possibility of booking a class 15 minutes in advance is a very important advantage of the school. There are options to mark teachers a favorite and to leave a comment after the class. At the beginning of 2017 the school divided study plans into two parts:
- practicing with native and
- non-native teachers.

The price for native plans is much higher than for a plan with non-native trainers. I used only the second - more affordable study plan.

I was very satisfied with the quality of the teachers in Engoo. I left many positive comments almost for all classes. Here are a few examples of some teachers:

Michael from Greece:
During the class, we read an article about the US as a top destination for Chinese emigration. I told him about my experience of visiting Chinatown in New York. We discussed the reasons for emigration.

Nelson from Nigeria:
During the class, we read an article about banned books week in the US and discussed it.

Dijana from Bosnia and Herzegovina:
During the class, we explored Sankt Petersburg using the screen sharing option of Skype and panoramic views.

David from Jamaica:
We had a fabulous class during which we had a virtual trip to Jamaica (using the screen-sharing option of Skype).

Royaltyunen from Benin:
We had a great conversation about the regulation of the Internet and about possibilities of using the Virtual World for practicing foreign languages.

Ana from Macedonia:
We had a free conversation about hobbies: studying English and Chinese, traveling to the USA and blogging.

Sia from the Dominican Republic:
We read an article on how to brighten the mood with a rainbow of food. After that we discussed it.

Bandz from Zimbabwe:
Bandz helped me to correct my essay on the story "The face on the wall" by E. V. Lucas and it was published on my blog after the session.

Ingrid from El Salvador:
We talked about strange things banned in Tajikistan such as a public celebration of New Year etc.

Bernadetta from Hungary:
We had an interesting conversation about jet lag and ways of how to lower effect of it for our health.

Jan from the Netherlands lives in Peru:
The main topic of the class was science (we talked about artificial life). We also discussed life in Netherlands, Peru, and Russia.

Tatiana from Colombia:
We discussed the Daily News article " Opens Its Own Rainforest in Seattle" and expressed our opinions about this extravagant move of the Internet's giant.

Mirrie from Zambia:
We talked about current snowfall in Moscow. I showed the pictures which were taken by me this day.

Elena from Serbia:
We discussed the short story “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner.

Wilson from Angola lives in South Africa:
We discussed an article from The Daily News about some issues which Uber faced.

Every teacher presents his (or her) unique teaching style. It is extremely interesting to hear the opinions about current events, history, literature and so on from people who live in different countries. Many learners find that studying foreign languages is their window into another culture. Here we have a great opportunity to ask our tutors about their lives and their countries. The more curious we are, the more we will learn.

I nearly forgot to mention, Engoo offers two free classes for each new student. I would recommend people who are interested in studying English online to try this option. This is the link:

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Treasure of Lemon Brown by Walter Dean Myers Review

The Treasure of Lemon Brown is a short story written by an American writer Walter Dean Myers. It took place in Harlem (New York-city, USA). This is an urban place where mostly (or completely) African-Americans live.

The main character is Greg, a 14-year-old boy. Greg was disappointed after talking to his father. His father reproached him for lack of efforts in studying Math. Father compared the life of his son with his own experience during his childhood, he had to quit school because he needed to care about gaining some money for his family.

The father said that if Greg didn’t catch up with his classmates in Math, he would be not able to play basketball for the school’s team - the Scorpions. Greg was very upset by this restriction, he didn’t want to accept it. The weather was set according to his feelings:

The dark sky, filled with angry, swirling clouds, reflected Greg Ridley’s mood as he sat on the stoop of his building. His father’s voice came to him again, first reading the letter the principal had sent to the house, then lecturing endlessly about his poor efforts in math.
Greg went out of his home and crossed the street. He stayed in front of an abandoned house. He got away from the rain to that house. Soon he discovered that he is not alone in the house. Suddenly he heard a man’s voice behind him:

Don’t try nothin’ ‘cause I got a razor sharp enough to cut a week into nine days!

Greg was very afraid, he asked: “Who are you?” Greg hardly recognized his own voice. “I’m Lemon Brown,” came the answer”.

The man was old, it didn’t seem that he was dangerous. He said that he had hoped Greg came not for the purpose to grab his treasure. Greg asked if it was a real treasure. Lemon Brown answered that every man has a treasure.

As the old man explained, the name Lemon Brown or Sweet Lemon was his nickname when he was a blues singer. He was very famous in the past and he told about those times.

During their conversation they heard a noise around the house, somebody wanted to enter the house.

They’s bad men,” Lemon Brown whispered….
“We heard you talking about your treasure.” The voice was slurred.

Greg and Lemon Brown stayed in the dark, trying not to be noticed.
When it became clear that they couldn’t go unnoticed anymore, Lemon Brown came out of their hideout. For the question “You OK?” he answered “Few bumps and bruises”.

When Greg asked the old man if he really had a treasure, Lemon Brown showed the old newspapers with pictures and some descriptions of Lemon Brown’s play.

He started telling the story of his life. He had a wife and a son. His wife died, the son grew up with his mama’s sister. When the war started his son went off to join. The old man said: 

I didn’t have nothing to give him except these things that told him who I was, and what he come from.

After a while, Mr.Brown knew that his son was killed during the war. He said:

They sent back what he had with him over there, and what it was is this old mouth fiddle and these clippings. Him carrying it around with him like that told me it meant something to him. That was my treasure, and when I give it to him he treated it just like that, a treasure. Ain’t that something?

The events which happened before changed Greg dramatically. It was expressed in the last lines:

The night had warmed and the rain had stopped ... He thought ahead of what his father would say and wondered if he should tell him about Lemon Brown... Greg thought of the lecture he knew his father would give him, and smiled.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Dispute About The Pronunciation (After listening to “Let's Call The Whole Thing Off”)

Let's Call the Whole Thing Off is a song from the movie ‘Shall We Dance’ (1937). The main characters - Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are dancing on roller skates and they are singing...not only singing but having a dispute about everything that is going wrong.

This is a link to the video on Youtube:

Basically, the song is about misunderstanding and how it may be overcome.

Things have come to a pretty pass
Our romance is growing flat
For you like this and the other
While I go for this and that

But it has also a linguistic context. The song presents a difference in the pronunciation of the words:

You like potato and I like potahto
You like tomato and I like tomahto
Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto
Let's call the whole thing off

According to the Wikipedia about this song, the difference in pronunciation reflects not a regional difference in spoken English, it identifies a class difference.

Being a learner of English, I remember that teachers said that either and neither were pronounced differently, but it’s up for discussion. It is a case when spelling the same words could read differently:

You say either and I say either
You say neither and I say neither
Either, either, neither, neither
Let's call the whole thing off

The song has different variations. One of the famous version is here:

The video clip with background sounds from the voices of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong also includes pictures related to the words in the text.

The conclusion of the song is that the most opposite people become close to each other if they have Love.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

On the Rainy River by Tim O'Brien Review

On the Rainy River by Tim O'Brien is a short story from the book The Things They Carried published in 1990. The main subject is American society’s attitude toward the Vietnam War.

The narrator tells a story from the perspective of a 21-year-old young man whose name is also Tim O'Brien. It must be a real story about life experiences which the author had.

Young Tim O'Brien got drafted into the military, which means he had to fight in the Vietnam war, a war he hated. He couldn't believe that it happened to him. Here is a description of his thoughts:

"I remember opening up the letter, scanning the first few lines, feeling the blood go thick behind my eyes. I remember a sound in my head. It wasn't thinking, it was just a silent howl. A million things all at once—I was too good for this war. Too smart, too compassionate, too everything. It couldn't happen. I was above it. ... A mistake, maybe—a foul-up in the paperwork."

The father asked Tim what his plans were. He answered “Nothing. Wait.” The small town where Tim lived was near the Canadian border, and he was plagued with tempting thoughts to escape the draft. The thoughts were abstract and vague in the beginning. But they appeared in his mind again and again.

"I could see particular shapes and images, the sorry details of my own future— a hotel room in Winnipeg, a battered old suitcase, my father's eyes as I tried to explain myself over the telephone. I could almost hear his voice, and my mother's. Run, I'd think. Then I'd think, Impossible. Then a second later I'd think, Run."

That was a moral dilemma. Tim feared the war, but he also feared exile. He feared to lose the respect of his parents. The people in his hometown were conservative. Tim imagined how his neighbors would sit in the cafe talking about "the young O'Brien kid, how the damned sissy had taken off for Canada."

Being in a state of despair, Tim would drive for hours in his father's car without any destination in mind. In one morning he "began looking for a place to lie low for a day or two." He randomly found an old fishing resort on "the Rainy River, which separates Minnesota from Canada, and which for me separated one life from another."

Tim arrived at the fishing resort. It was a turning point of the story. He wrote, that "The man who opened the door that day is the hero of my life. How do I say this without sounding sappy? Blurt it out—the man saved me." He was eighty-one years old, Elroy Berdahl.

If we followed the plot we would see little actions. The next six days Tim and Elroy spent fishing at a resort, hiking into the woods. The tourist season ended, the place was empty. The old man "never asked the obvious questions: Why was I there? Why alone? Why so preoccupied? If Elroy was curious about any of this, he was careful never to put it into words."

It was obvious that the old man knew about the harsh choice which young men faced receiving the draft. Escaping to Canada was one of the possible options for conscripts who didn't want to go to the War.

There are two episodes which exposed the attitude of the old Elroy to his guest.

The first occurred when Tim paid for staying in the resort, Elroy in contrary to the usual price suggested to take into account Tim's work in the fishing resort (Tim helped Elroy in the same little chores to "get the place ready for winter, sweeping down the cabins and hauling in the boats"). Elroy offered a higher wage than Tim's obligations. As a result, Elroy returned the money back adding some money over. Tim refused to take the money. Elroy was persistent: “Pick it up. Get yourself a haircut.” The money lay on the table for the rest of the evening. It was still there when I went back to my cabin. In the morning though, I found an envelope tacked to my door. Inside were the four fifties and a two-word note that said EMERGENCY FUND. The man knew."

The second episode occurred when the old man took Tim out for fishing on the Rainy River. Elroy turned the boat straight north. The feeling of being in Canadian waters was described by the author as an existence of a parallel reality where there was no war, where everything was different.

Why did they come here? - Tim thought. "I think he meant to bring me up against the realities, to guide me across the river and to take me to the edge and to stand a kind of vigil as I chose a life for myself ... And what was so sad, I realized, was that Canada had become a pitiful fantasy. Silly and hopeless. It was no longer a possibility. Right then, with the shore so close, I understood that I would not do what I should do. I would not swim away from my hometown and my country and my life."

When we stand in front of our biggest choices, thoughts, feelings, predictions may line up and become tangible. This is what Tim was thinking:

"I saw faces from my distant past and distant future. My wife was there. My unborn daughter waved at me, and my two sons hopped up and down, and a drill sergeant named Blyton sneered and shot up a finger and shook his head. ... There was a slim young man I would one day kill with a hand grenade along a red clay trail outside the village of My Khe."

Eventually, Tim left the resort, he followed his fate. This is the last line of the story: "I was a coward. I went to the war."

It is important to understand the significance of events described in the story for one particular person. The old man was the only one who provided Tim with the choice. Tim felt a terrible pressure from his parents, relatives, acquaintances. Elroy remained neutral, and moreover, he sympathized with Tim's troubles.

The dilemma described in the story reminds the famous monologue of Prince Hamlet:

"To be, or not to be, that is the question:
... to take arms against a sea of troubles

Here is a link to the text of the story:
It is an audio-record on Youtube:

Friday, March 16, 2018

Woodsong by Gary Paulsen Review

'Woodsong' is the memory written by American author, Gary Paulsen. It is about the author’s experience of living in the wild.

Gary Paulsen described the years when he and his family lived in the woods in the northern part of Minnesota, the USA. The forest had plenty of wild animals such as wolves, deers and black bears. They also held domestic animals like cats, dogs, chickens, ducks and geese.

It was strange that the bears would steal meat put out for dogs in the kennel, but they never attacked the yard animals. The author admitted that it must be a rule, a part of the bears’ natural instinct.

There was a large bear, who wandered around the house. It had a white streak across his head. It would be a result of wounding him by some hunter. Gary Paulsen called him Scarhead.

One day the narrator went for to burn a heap of trash and upon returning he saw Scarhead trying to catch something near the fire. This is how the narrator described this episode in his memoirs:

'"I was standing across the burning fire from him, and without thinking—because I was so used to him—I picked up a stick, threw it at him, and yelled, “Get out of here.

It was a terrible, fatal mistake. Gary was awarded it instantly when Scarhead jumped at him stopping very close to Gary.

"Close. I could smell his breath and see the red around the sides of his eyes. Close on me he stopped and raised on his back legs and hung over me, his forelegs and paws hanging down, weaving back and forth gently as he took his time and decided whether or not to tear my head off."

The bear stood above Gary and after that, he lowered himself down and he turned back to the trash. The narrator described how the anger grew inside of him, how he ran to the house and took a rifle, coming back to the yard and pointing to the bear ready to kill him. But awareness of what would happen came to Gary.

"Kill him for what? That thought crept in. Kill him for what? For not killing me? For letting me know it is wrong to throw sticks at four-hundred-pound bears? For not hurting me, for not killing me, I should kill him? I lowered the rifle and ejected the shell and put the gun away."

The story introduces the idea of living in peace with nature. The wildlife is severe, we need to understand and respect its rules. The author wished this bear a long life and concluded: "I am nothing more and nothing less than any other animal in the woods."

This is a link to the text of the part of the story:

Friday, March 9, 2018

Surprising Things about Namibia

This was the first time I had a conversation with a Namibian. We had an English class through an online school called ‘’. Kiki, who is a trainer in the school, gave me the general characteristics of her country.

Namibia is located on the Southern-Western coast of Africa. The country shares its border with South Africa. These two countries have an agreement that their citizens can visit the neighboring country without a visa.

The country Namibia was colonized by Germany in the past. It was once a colony of South Africa. Unlike South Africa, European civilization didn’t have much influence on Namibia. Hence, we cannot conclude if that is a good or a bad point. “We are our own”, said Kiki.

Before 1990, the country was under the control of the South African government. These two countries even shared the National Anthem. Namibia gained its independence in the year of 1990.

Except the official language (English), there are some recognized national languages like Afrikaans, German and others.

Portuguese is also a widely spoken language because there are many Angolans in the country (they speak Portuguese).

Using the screen sharing option on Skype and Google Maps, we looked for a random place in the middle of the country. 

It was surprising to see greenery instead of a desert.

Kiki said that the Namibian deserts often appear in Hollywood movies. We chose the place near the coast on the South and Google Maps opened for us the next panoramic view.

This picture is a perfect representation of isolation. What an impressive, magical view!

As we observe in the picture, there are a few houses located in the desert which have a very sandy color shade. The temperature during the day could be above 50 degrees Celsius.

Eventually, we decided to go to the capital city - Windhoek. The place was chosen randomly on Google Maps.

The landscape of the city was very pleasant. Kiki proudly said that her country differs from other African countries with regard to cleanliness and safety on the streets.

The country of Namibia is quite wealthy. The main business that contributes to the wealth of the country is the export of diamonds.

The country exports a third of the world’s output of these gems. The essential part of the business in that circuit belongs to the foreign companies.

One of the most important advantages of this country is that tourists find holidaying in Namibia much cheaper as compared to holidaying in South Africa.

Kiki also mentioned that people from Namibia are not generally "open books". You have to be very open-minded in order to survive there.

What we know about Namibia allows us to conclude that Namibia could be a new perfect destination for tourists in the near future.

A Wagner Matinee by Willa Cather Analysis

The majority of literary works of American author Willa Cather were linked with the place where she had passed her youth: Nebraska, the USA. A Wagner Matinee is a story about the perception of the classical music by the woman who kept her passion for music through severe life in the prairies.

The narrator, whose name was Clark, studied music in Boston. He had got a letter from his uncle reading that his aunt Georgiana from Nebraska was arriving the next day. He hardly recognized her in the train because her harsh life in Nebraska had changed her appearance dramatically. Before she moved to Nebraska, she was a music teacher at Boston Conservatory. During her vacation in Nebraska, where her ancestors had lived for generations, she met a boy who became her friend. He followed her to Boston and eventually they got married and moved to Nebraska.

They had no money. Their life hardships in the prairies were described in this paragraph:

"They built a dugout in the red hillside, one of those cave dwellings whose inmates so often reverted to primitive conditions. Their water they got from the lagoons where the buffalo drank and their slender stock of provisions was always at the mercy of bands of roving Indians. For thirty years my aunt had not been further than fifty miles from the homestead. "

The current appearance of Mrs. Georgiana didn’t have much in common with young Mrs. Georgiana who taught little Clark literature and arts. She avoided talking about music. The reason was explained by the narrator in this episode:

"I had found among her music books, she came up to me and, putting her hands over my eyes, gently drew my head back upon her shoulder, saying tremulously, “Don't love it so well, Clark, or it may be taken from you. Oh! dear boy, pray that whatever your sacrifice may be, it be not that.

Now the Aunt Georgiana came to Boston and Clark decided to invite her to a concert of classical music, to Wagner Matinee. It seemed that the thoughts of Mrs. Georgiana were far away from the concert hall, "she had forgotten to leave instructions about feeding half-skimmed milk to a certain weakling calf ... She was further troubled because she had neglected to tell her daughter about the freshly-opened kit of mackerel in the cellar, which would spoil if it were not used directly."

Clark thought that the invitation to the concert might have been a mistake, this world of classical music was dead for her forever. After the first music composition passed, her attitude to that event changed dramatically. "The first number was the Tannhauser overture. When the horns drew out the first strain of the Pilgrim's chorus, my Aunt Georgiana clutched my coat sleeve. Then it was I first realized that for her this broke a silence of thirty years; the inconceivable silence of the plains."

Not everyone is capable of appreciating the beauty of the classical music.

An ear for music is a gift of nature which some people get at birth. The writers, journalists who write about classical music often describe it using images of beautiful nature, recollections of something pleasant. Willa Cather used another method, she described the perception of music by a person who sincerely loves it. 

Willa Cather conveyed to readers the awareness of the beauty of music. That is a wonderful feature of reading: people who stand far away from the area which is described in literary works could get immersed in unfamiliar settings and situations. Severe life in prairies, a gentle feeling of music, the perception of beauty are the subjects of the exploration in this story.

Here is the link to the text of the story: