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:

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Put the Blame on Mame - Song Analysis

Put the Blame on Mame is the song from the movie "Gilda" (1946). The song is available for listening on Youtube. Here is the link:

The song reflects the conflict which was described in the plot of the movie. The main female character refused to be guilty for everything. She expressed it telling (singing) story of the lady (Mame) who was blamed for everything.

When they had the earthquake in San Francisco
Back in nineteen-six
They said that Mother Nature
Was up to her old tricks
That's the story that went around
But here's the real low-down
Put the blame on Mame, boys
Put the blame on Mame
One night she started to shim and shake
That brought on the Frisco quake
So you can put the blame on Mame, boys
Put the blame on Mame

The song represented the style of music - jazz with easy to remember rhythm. The actress - Rita Hayworth used a very brave for that time elements like taking away glove during the dance.

Some believe (I read it in the comments about the video clip on Youtube) that the meaning of the song is quite close to the idea of feminism. I don't think that put that kind of the blame on the song is a good idea. More appropriate would be to connect the meaning with a timeless interaction between men and women. This song is also about love, it is hidden between the lines. Putting the blame on somebody means the advice for gentlemen to pay more attention to ladies and then their flaws become the things of adoration.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Bora Bora in Literature (Ghost of the Lagoon by Armstrong Sperry Review)

The story "Ghost of the Lagoon" by Armstrong Sperry takes place on the island Bora Bora in French Polynesia in the southern Pacific Ocean. This place is well known for its crystal clear water, beautiful coral reefs, and lush tropical vegetation. The main plotline is about courage and friendship.

The main characters of the story are the boy Mako and his little dog Aho. Mako's grandfather told the story about Tupa, who was a mysterious monster - the ghost of the lagoon. The old man said that he saw the monster once. Three fishermen were in the boat when Tupa destroyed it. One of them who found his death in that boat was Mako's father.

Next day the mother asked Mako to bring some bananas and oranges from the little island which was located half a mile offshore. Mako liked such kind of errands. He called his dog Aho, picked up his longed-bladed knife and seized his spear.

The island Bora Bora is known as a fabulous location for tourists who like being alone with nature. That kind of vacation is exclusively expensive. Reading this story we have a great opportunity to look at the natural sightseeings of this place. Some quotes from the text combining with pictures would be appropriate.

"The canoe shot ahead. Its sharp bow cut through the green water of the lagoon like a knife through cheese. And so clear was the water that Mako could see the coral gardens, forty feet below him, growing in the sand. The shadow of the canoe moved over them."

While a canoe drew away from the shore, Mako saw a white coral reef. Its upper part could be seen above the surface of the water like the fin of a shark. Mako imagined that it was enigmatic Tupa. He enjoyed feeling that he wasn't afraid of Tupa, he "shook his fist and called, “Ho, Mister Tupa! Just wait till I get my bananas. When I come back, I'll make short work of you!

Marko reached the desired island, "the boy saw the broad green blades of a banana tree. A bunch of bananas, golden ripe, was growing out of the top."

The boy accomplished his task and on the boat, filled with bananas and oranges, started his way home. Sailing past the coral reef, Mako remembered Tupa imagining himself a courageous hero who was able to fight the monster and suddenly ... Instead of a fin-like spine of the coral reef, Mako saw something different. It was a shark which was moving towards the canoe.

It was a real peril. "Here was Tupa—the real Tupa— the ghost of the lagoon! His knees felt weak. He tried to cry out, but his voice died in his throat. The great shark was circling slowly around the canoe." Mako grabbed Aho but the dog happened to fall over into the dark water. "Swiftly the boy seized his spear. Bracing himself, he stood upright. There was no weakness in him now. His dog, his companion, was in danger of instant death... The spear drove straight and true, right into the great shark's eye."

This story finished with a good ending. Mako with his dog and the dead shark came back to Bora Bora. He was honored like a hero. 

The writer, Armstrong Sperry, grew up in Connecticut, the USA. As a child, he loved listening to the tales of his grandfather about adventures of inhabitants and travelers in the Pacific Ocean. After he graduated from an art college, he spent some time on the island Bora Bora which was beautifully described in this story.

The story is some kind of advertising of the island Bora Bora.

Here is the link for those who'd like to have an imaginary trip to the fabulous island of Bora Bora:

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Federigo's Falcon: Fifth Day from The Decameron Review

"Federigo's Falcon" is a novella from the masterpiece of the Italian writer Giovanni Boccaccio "The Decameron". Boccaccio (1313–1375) lived in Florence during the Medieval Ages. His works gained popularity after his death.

"The Decameron" was framed as stories inside the story: the group of narrators told a new story each day. The author used the tales, myths, anecdotes of the time when he lived and he brought to each story emotional part, focusing on the characters and conflict resolutions.

The story is about a young nobleman who lived in Florence and who fell in love with a noble lady named Monna Giovanna. Trying to win her heart he organized a countless number of tournaments, parties, meetings and eventually he spent all his money, without succeeding in gaining the love of his desirable lady. Only a little farm was left in his ownership, he moved to that farm and started to live there on its revenues very meagrely.

He had nothing valuable except the falcon, which was the finest among that kind of birds. Meanwhile, Monna Giovanna got married and gave the birth to her son. After few years her husband died and he made her the heir of all his fortune if his son died without any legitimate children.

She had a farm too and her farm was close to Federigo's farm. She used to live there with her son. It happened that the boy became more and more friendly with Federigo, he enjoyed seeing Federigo's falcon fly and he wanted so much to have this falcon as his own. He didn't dare to ask Federigo about giving the falcon because he understood that the bird was the only valuable thing which Federigo had.

The son of Monna Giovanna happened to fall ill. The crying mother asked him if there was something that could bring him joy. The son said he wished to have Federigo's falcon. Monna was ready to do anything for her son and she promised to go to Federigo' farm, ask it and bring the bird to her son. In anticipating this present, the condition of her son seemed to have improved and next day Monna Giovanna went to the Federigo's farm.

Federigo was very surprised and pleased his fate to see his lovely woman. He asked her to wait in the room while he was organizing a dinner in her honor. But when he went out to the kitchen he realized that he didn't have any food. In a desperate feeling he took the falcon, he wrung its neck and gave it to the servant girl to prepare the dish. After that, he came back with a cheerful face to his lady. Monna Giovanna didn’t know what it was they were eating.

When the dinner time was over, Monna Giovanna had to start the conversation about the reason for her visit. As Federigo heard about her wish to ask for the falcon, he started crying. Mona thought that he was crying for his falcon and she was ready to leave her wish. When it became clear that they ate the bird, she had to return home and say her son that she couldn't fulfill his wish. The son was very disappointed and after a while, he died.

So, Monna Giovanna started to live alone. Her brothers told her that she should find a new husband. Firstly she refused thinking about it but after some time she said that she would agree to marry only Federigo. Her brothers disagreed because Federigo was poor but because Monna was persistent in her choice, considering the fact that Federigo was of noble birth they accepted her wish. When Fererigo "found himself the husband of such a great lady, whom he had loved so much and who was so wealthy besides, he managed his financial affairs with more prudence than in the past and lived with her happily the rest of his days."

The happy ending of the story conveys to readers the idea that sacrificing for love is what should be rewarded. People who are in love each other must find happiness being together.
This is a link to the text of the story:

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Extra Passenger by Stephen Grendon Review

The short story "The Extra Passenger” by Stephen Grendon represents a genre of comic horror tales. The plot includes the story of preparing the murder and what happened after that.

This is the first line: "Mr. Arodias had worked a long time on his plan to kill his eccentric uncle, and he was very proud of it." Mr. Arodias bought the ticket for the train, he decided to commit the crime during the time when he left the train on one station and came back on the next. He expected that it would be an excellent alibi and it could be. But unexpectedly when he returned back to his compartment in the train, the new passenger appeared. This extra passenger kept silence, suspicion of the plot started to increase dramatically.

It is interesting how grammar constructions in English can help to highlight the tense

"Mr. Arodias was suddenly aware that his traveling companion had been speaking of his uncle for the past few minutes in the past tense".

What happened next, the readers can know from the story. This is a link for the text:
This is a short movie about this story:

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Face on the Wall by E. V. Lucas Review

The story "The face on the wall" by E. V. Lucas is quite short and very captivating. The author talks about a group of people who presented the stories one after another. One person, the pale man, listened to the stories with a great attention, and he was eventually asked to tell a story too.

The pale man started the story about a strange patch on the wall which reminded him of a face of a man. While the time was passing, the face became clearer and clearer. He couldn't sleep under obsession to find the man and he found him...

I can't disclose the plot further, I'd like to keep some intrigue for the future readers of this story. I think that there is one thing which is remarkable about this story: it is the pitch of voice which the narrator uses. When the suspense grows, the tone of the narration is changing, it goes to a high level and suddenly stops. The listeners are anxious to hear continuation, their interest is growing and so on.

That's all about the story and here the story is:
This is a link to the audio on Youtube:

Saturday, February 17, 2018

A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner Review

A Rose for Emily is a story with a quite gloomy plot. The plot line followed readers through three deaths. This work of Nobel laureate William Faulkner is a common subject for studying in schools and colleges. It is considered that the author conveys to readers the atmosphere of the old South of the USA.

The beginning of the story was about the death of Emily, who was an old lady, who had lived in the city all her life.
"When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house, which no one save an old manservant—a combined gardener and cook—had seen in at least ten years."

Following parts of the story were about her life. Her father was a rich and respectable citizen of the city. Young Emily lived with him, their circle acquaintance was quite restricted. When her father died, Emily couldn't accept this fact saying everybody that he is alive. The body of her father was taken from the house to cemetery despite her wishes. Following time she refused of any contacts with inhabitants of the city when they asked her to pay the taxes, she denied doing it referring to the conversation with Colonel Sartoris who died many years ago.

The second part of the story was about another time: "That was two years after her father's death and a short time after her sweetheart—the one we believed would marry her ... people hardly saw her at all." Only her servant was going in and out with a market basket. “Just as if a man—any man—could keep a kitchen properly,” the ladies said; so they were not surprised when the smell developed.". Dwellers complained about it to the judge, but he said it wouldn't be necessary. After two weeks the smell went away.

Part three was about the time when Emily was a young lady a year after her father died. The young man - Homer Barron came to the city. He was good in communication, soon he knew everybody in the city. The public was surprised when they said Emily with Homer driving in the yellow-wheeled buggy. Emily looked like an extravagant lady: she didn't communicate with people of high society, once she was noticed buying a poison in the shop. When Homer disappeared, she stopped leaving her house at all.

The relatives of Emily came to the house when she was buried. They had to break the door in a closed room above stairs in the house. They saw there a skeleton of a man lying in the bed. They "noticed that in the second pillow was the indentation of a head ...", they "saw a long strand of iron-gray hair."

This story is scary and intriguing. It is interesting to explore the method how William Faulkner was able to keep suspense during of all story. He used the sequence of the chapters so, that events were described not in a chronological order but for the purpose to hide for readers the climax of the story and reveal it in the last lines. The story inspired many people for writing essays, creating video interpretations and so on. We can find these works on the Internet and on Youtube.

This is a link to the text of the story:

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Rights to the Streets of Memphis by Richard Wright Review

"The Rights to the Streets of Memphis" is an excerpt from autobiography "Black Boy" by Richard Wright. That story includes two episodes from his childhood in Memphis, the USA, where he lived with his mother. His father had left the family.

The first episode was about harsh living conditions for the black community in Memphis at that time. When he was a little boy he asked his mother something to eat:

"Mama, I'm hungry,” I complained one afternoon. “Jump up and catch a kungry,” she said, trying to make me laugh and forget. “What's a kungry?” “It's what little boys eat when they get hungry,” she said. “What does it taste like?” “I don't know.” “Then why do you tell me to catch one?” “Because you said that you were hungry,” she said, smiling. I sensed that she was teasing me, and it made me angry. “But I'm hungry. I want to eat.” ... She was ironing, and she paused and looked at me with tears in her eyes. “Where's your father?” she asked me."

Since that, the feeling of hunger was associated in mind of the author with an absence of his father.

The next episode was dedicated to the description of the street life in the city. The mother of the author had got a job, a salary was small but at least they didn't starve. She gave him, a young boy at that time, some money and asked him to go to the grocery and to buy some food. On the way to the shop, he met a gang of boys who took his money. When he came back home in tears, the mother gave him money again and sent him to the shop again. The situation repeated, he was grabbed by this street gang. He returned home crying. The mother didn't allow him to enter the house, she decided to teach him to stand up and fight for himself. She said “Take this money, this note, and this stick,” she said. “Go to the store and buy those groceries. If those boys bother you, then fight. ... Go now! If you come back into this house without those groceries, I'll whip you!”.

The key point of the story was the turn in the mind (the thoughts) of the main character when he stayed in front of the shut door.

"She slammed the door and I heard the key turn in the lock. I shook with fright. I was alone upon the dark, hostile streets and gangs were after me. I had the choice of being beaten at home or away from home. I clutched the stick, crying, trying to reason. If I were beaten at home, there was absolutely nothing that I could do about it; but if I were beaten in the streets, I had a chance to fight and defend myself."

He came back to his way. When the boys saw him they surrounded him and begun to grab his hands. He threatened “I'll kill you!”. That is what happened next: "In blind fear I let the stick fly, feeling it crack against a boy's skull. ... The boys scattered, yelling, nursing their heads, staring at me in utter disbelief." The author finished the episode by a little bit pathetic line "That night I won the right to the streets of Memphis."

The story gave readers some points for discussion:
- was the mother right to leave her son without protection;
- what could be the fate of the author if some boy from the gang was seriously injured;
- did the author exaggerate the negative perception of his life in Memphis?

After the novel "Black Boy" was published, Richard Wright became famous in the USA. He couldn't accept racism which he had experienced in his country so he moved to France, he became French citizen where he continued writing until his death in 1960.
Here is a link to the original text of the story:

Friday, February 9, 2018

The Duchess and the Jeweller by Virginia Woolf Review

The short story "The Duchess and the Jeweller" by Virginia Woolf presents a narrative technique "stream of consciousness". She used in this story the elegant style common to the upper class.

The first part of the story describes the house of the jeweler and his thoughts and attitude in terms of what he owned and the goals he had achieved. He had a luxurious house in the center of London, he was very satisfied with his career. “Behold Oliver,” he would say, addressing himself. “You who began life in a filthy little alley, you who . . .” and he would look down at his legs, so shapely in their perfect trousers; at his boots; at his spats. They were all shapely, shining; cut from the best cloth by the best scissors in Savile Row."

He came to the jeweler's shop and followed by jealous looks into a small room. He was informed that Duchess had come to meet him. The fact that such an aristocratic person wanted to meet with him raised his confidence, he thought "The Duchess of Lambourne waited his pleasure; the Duchess of Lambourne, daughter of a hundred Earls. She would wait for ten minutes on a chair at the counter. She would wait his pleasure. She would wait till he was ready to see her."

The contrast between the rich and the poor, between aristocrats and people of a humble origin is one of the main ideas of the story. Here is how the presence of the Duchess changed the atmosphere in the room: "Then she loomed up, filling the door, filling the room with the aroma, the prestige, the arrogance, the pomp, the pride of all the Dukes and Duchesses swollen in one wave.".

Something had happened before which made him quite suspicious of the Duchess intentions. The lady had brought the pearls asking the Jeweller great money for it. The Jeweller had already had an experience of being deceived by her and he thought about the pearls "But real was it, or false? Was she lying again? Did she dare?"

She moaned that she did it for her children including Diana her daughter who he loved.

The Duchess said that the duke, her husband, was a gambler. If he knew about her intentions to sell the pearls, he would have killed her. She asked to keep that agreement a secret. He would have called his assistants to test the pearls, "He stretched to the bell." but ... She interrupted him “You will come down tomorrow? ... The Prime Minister—His Royal Highness . . .” She stopped. “And Diana,” she added. Oliver took his hand off the bell."

He started filling the check and for a moment he stopped writing.

"The eyes of the old woman in the picture were on him—of the old woman, his mother. “Oliver!” she warned him. “Have sense! Don't be a fool!”

“Oliver!” the Duchess entreated—it was “Oliver” now, not “Mr. Bacon.” “You'll come for a long weekend?” Alone in the woods with Diana! Riding alone in the woods with Diana!

Later he discovered that the pearls were fake "“For,” he murmured, laying the palms of his hands together, “it is to be a long weekend.”

Along with the subject of a social inequality in this story, we have also plot-lines referring to the way how people manipulate each other and their attitude to love. The author showed how the Duchess, who knew about his fond feelings to her daughter, exploited them for getting money. Virginia Woolf left readers the possibility to decide if the main character played a negative role in the story (he was a self-centered and arrogant person) or a positive one (because he was sincerely in love with the girl and that feeling overcame the power of money).

The literary style which Virginia Woolf used was defined by critics as a flow of consciousness. She wrote long sentences and complicated figurative expressions are relevant to the social background of the story and presented readers the atmosphere of upper-class in England of the previous century.

This is a link to the text of the story:

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Breaking the Ice Essay by Dave Barry Review

Dave Barry is American journalist who gained popularity writing for a regional newspaper Miami Herald and thanks to his talent and sense of humor became famous around the U.S. and abroad.

The essay "Breaking the Ice" is the thoughts and recollections of the author about his youth. It starts with the question which Dave Barry got from the young reader who asked the advice how to ask the girl for a date. As a reply, the writer told about his past experience in that deal.

According to the assumption that "there was always the possibility that the girl would say no", the author believed that the guy should avoid the direct request. He humorously concluded that after such an answer he needed "go into the woods and become a bark-eating hermit whose only companions would be the gentle and understanding woodland creatures. ... the woodland creatures would shriek in cute little Chip 'n' Dale voices while raining acorns down upon my head. “You wanna DATE? HAHAHAHAHAHA.

So Dave Barry said:
"Never risk direct contact with the girl in question. Your role model should be the nuclear submarine, gliding silently beneath the ocean surface, tracking an enemy target that does not even begin to suspect that the submarine would like to date it. I spent the vast majority of 1960 keeping a girl named Judy under surveillance, maintaining a minimum distance of 50 lockers to avoid the danger that I might somehow get into a conversation with her, which could have led to disaster."

The author had a friend, Phil who was ready to help to arrange the date. "... after several thousand hours of intense discussion and planning with me, Phil approached a girl he knew named Nancy, who approached a girl named Sandy, who was a direct personal friend of Judy's and who passed the word back to Phil via Nancy that Judy would be willing to go on a date with me."

The main impression about the meeting (watching a movie in a cinema) was a tension. The author didn't feel confident, he wouldn't be able to communicate with Judy "without the assistance of Phil, Nancy, and Sandy". That feeling spread for everybody who was around. His mother who drove them to the cinema "was hideously embarrassing, had to pretend she wasn't there".

As a result of experience, the narrator gave advice for the young reader about asking the girl for a date: don't hesitate, pick up the phone and call her.

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

Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Hitchhiker Radio Play by Lucille Fletcher Review

"The Hitchhiker" is a radio play written by a popular American screenwriter and novelist Lucille Fletcher. The play was extremely popular in the USA at the time when television wasn't commonly watched, up to 1950. That time families gathered together in the evenings in front of the radio as later it was for TV. They listened to radio programs and the play "Hitchhiker" became a hit for a long time.

In the beginning, the play was introduced by a warning that "I go on record at the outset of this evening's entertainment with the sober assurance that although blood may be curdled on this program none will be spilt. There's no shooting, knifing, throttling, axing or poisoning here. No clanking chains, no cobwebs, no bony and/or hairy hands appearing from secret panels or, better yet, bedroom curtains. ... I promise you we haven't got it. What we do have is a thriller."

The story started with a panic speech of the man (Ronald Adams) who said (almost cried) that "At any moment the link with life may break. This may be the last thing I ever tell on earth . . . the last night I ever see the stars. . . ."

Next part of the play was about what happened before. Ronald Adams told us about the beginning of his journey. He had to drive from New York to California to deliver the car he was driving. He started telling his story in a cheerful voice which contrasted with an introduction when his voice displayed quite uncertain, thrilled intonation. The scene of the last meeting of Ronald with his mother was played as a dialog of a very brave and energetic son with a hesitating mother who predicted the danger of this journey in general and risk of encountering a stranger on the road.

Later Ronald saw a hitchhiker the first time crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. An hour later he met him again, after that again. It happened many times, repeatedly and becoming more and more frightening. The suspense was growing. Ronald asked people on the gas station, in the restaurant on the road about hitchhikers but nobody heard of or saw them.

When the desperate driver tried to ask at night the owner of a small restaurant by the road to open the door and to give him a coffee, he got "no-answer" and suspense became almost unbearable. The audience could understand the feelings of the main character: "I got into the car again and drove on slowly. I was beginning to hate the car. If I could have found a place to stop . . . to rest a little."

Ronald was happy to meet the girl on the road. She didn't hitchhike, Ronald asked her if she wanted a ride. They had a simple conversation before Ronald saw the hitchhiker again. He saw, but the girl didn’t. She was frightened by his murmuring: "Watch for him the next time, then. Keep watching. Keep your eyes peeled on the road. He'll turn up again—maybe any minute now.". The girl decided to get out of the car, Ronald tried to stop her: "No. You can't go.", the girl screamed "Leave your hands offa me, do you hear! Leave your—"

Ronald wanted to speak to somebody who could understand him and he stopped to make a telephone call to his mother. As it was a long-distance call, the operator asked to deposit money for it, it seemed that the call would be canceled while the operators were connecting lines. The play-writer used it as another method to keep the listeners in suspense.

When the connection was made an unknown woman answered instead of Ronald's mother. She said that his mother had been in hospital after a nervous breakdown since the death of her eldest son, Ronald. "He was killed just six days ago in an automobile accident on the Brooklyn Bridge."

The sequence of events was built by the author so that the strain could be gradually increasing. There was no need in special effects like unexpected, frightening voices and sound effects, the team of that radio-show achieved their aim - they created a captivating play in suspense genre.

This is a link to the original text of the radio play:
We can find the audio on Youtube.