Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Tale of Two Cities

In the classic novel A Tale of Two Cities, there is a clear distinction between the two classes of people. There are the nobility, the upper class, and the peasants, the lower class. This story takes place during the French Revolution between the years 1771 and 1794, in the cities of London and Paris. During this time, the peasants were fed-up with the way they were being treated by the upper class. Many members of the upper class even referred to the lower class as “dogs”. The nobles lived in the lap of luxury imposing taxes on all of the poors’ hard earned money, while the ragged peasants were starving to death. Many terrifying scenes were in plain sight of the noble’s daily and very few did anything to help. The most obvious display of complete disregard shown by the nobles was when the marquis carriage ran over and killed a boy, and the raping of a pregnant peasant committed by the Evremonde brothers.

Clearly shown in the book, is the nobility’s pure hatred of the lower class. In one instance, a marquis carriage was racing down the narrow inner city streets, with total disregard to any people or objects in its way. Suddenly, the carriage jolts to a halt, upon inspection, the driver sees that a small peasant boy has been caught in the wheel and was killed. When the boy’s father rushes to him and cries out, “Killed! Dead!” the marquis Evremonde, simply threw a gold coin at him. Of course, the peasant doesn’t want anything to do with the noble’s money and left it in the street. Before the carriage drove away, one brave woman threw the coin back into the carriage. This act of rebellion makes the marquis extremely upset, and in a fit of anger he yells out, “I would ride over any of you very willingly, and exterminate you from the earth. If I knew which rascal threw at the carriage, and if that brigand were sufficiently near it, he could be crushed under the wheels.” and he drives away. This whole time the aristocrat hasn’t even so much as stepped out of the carriage. Apparently, he thought a gold coin is payment for human life. This event is a prelude to the other despicable acts the Evermonde family commits on members of the lower class, including their ‘right’ to throw whoever they like into jail for any reason they choose.

A mystery that is revealed to us in the reading of this novel is the reason why Dr. Manette is held in prison for 18 years of solitary confinement. In the year before his imprisonment, he witnessed a crime committed by two noble brothers, the Evremonde brothers. They thought it would be okay to ‘borrow’ a peasant’s wife and have their way with her simply because she was from the lower class. The woman’s husband, however, wouldn’t allow this to happen. So the Evremondes made him pull their cart like a horse till he broke down and died. With no other man to save her, the brothers took her to a house in the country, which they took over upon arriving, and did what they wanted with her. She had a younger brother, however, who tried to save her and in his attempt, was stabbed by one of the brothers. After being raped by these nobles, the woman went into a trance and screamed for the entire night, repeating the same phrase over and over, “My husband, my father, and my brother! 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12, Hush!” The noble men decide they need a doctor to ‘fix’ her; they turn to Dr. Manette. When he came upon this display and learned the story from the dying younger brother, he was disgusted. After both the woman and brother have died, the Evermonde brothers send the doctor home. Later, he writes a letter to the secretary of the government and tells him of the horrible murders. In the letter, he says, “I Alexander Manette, unhappy prisoner, denounce the Evremonds to the last of their race. I denounce them to Heaven and to earth.” It so happens, that the secretary was friends with the brothers and gave them the letter. In turn for writing that one letter, the doctor was forced into 18 years of imprisonment causing him to have great flaws in his character for the rest of his life.

Dickens makes you feel sorry for the peasants as you read this book, and for good reason. In the end, the peasants stage a revolution and kill any member of the upper class they can get their hands on. All that anger it took to kill so many came from events such as the ones explained that showed just what cruel people most of the nobility were.

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

In general, pieces of literature tend to give off a feel of the time period in which they are written. "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer", by Mark Twain, is a novel which was written in the 1870Тs and gives a superior understanding of what society was like in this era. Education and religion were very important to the morals and values of the people of this time; they were both taken more seriously than they are now. Another aspect of the 1870's that was portrayed in this novel was the poor health care. Mark Twain displayed the thinking process of this time period when he included the small, but noticeable amount of racism towards the "still not yet quite equal in this time period" African- American race. Additionally, Twain gave the "Frontier Era" familiarity when he introduced his characters Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. These characters were used to unleash the "rebel" typecast and demonstrated what was inappropriate for the time. "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" reflects the history and thinking of the 1870Тs through education and religion, lack of satisfactory health care, racism and demonstrated what was unacceptable through the prototypical characters in the book.

"Education and religion were important aspects of everyday life in the 1870's." (1) Children were expected to go to school everyday to get an education. Those children who did not attend school were considered mischievous and unruly. An example from the novel is when Tom explains to the teacher that the reason he is late is because he stopped to speak with Huckleberry Finn. "Thomas Sawyer, this is the most astounding confession I have ever listened to" (2) Since Huckleberry does not attend school, he is considered repulsive and intolerable. Children had more respect for adults, elders and especially teachers in the frontier era. In the proceeding quotation Tom tried to show respect for an adult he admired but ended up tongue tied from anxiety. "Tom was introduced to the judge, but his tongue was tied" his heart quaked partly because of the awful greatness of the man. He would have liked to fall down and worship him. The judgeЕ asked him what his name was. The boy stammered "Tom", "No, not Tom it's "Thomas Sawyer, sir" (3) This passage shows Tom's respect for the judge and also how children used to use the term sir when speaking to adults. When a child did something iniquitous or dishonest in this time period, they were expected and take their punishment without arguing. When Tom got into trouble for skipping school, he took his punishment, without complaining, of whitewashing the fence. "Tom was whitewashing with vigor, and Aunt Polly was retiring from the field with a slipper in her hand and triumph in her eye." (4) Everybody in the 1870Тs was religious and was expected to go to church. Every child was responsible for learning the prayers. "Aunt Polly had family worship, it began with a prayer built from the ground up of solid courses of scriptural quotations" (5) In conclusion, education and religion were significant parts of society in the 1870's and were portrayed well in this novel.

Health care in the 1870's was inadequate due to lack of medical research. Also since "America had just finished fighting a civil war" (6) "the economy was low. (7) In "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer", it was evident that health care was not tremendous when Becky Thacher stopped coming to school because she was mildly sick. Many people were debating whether she was going to die. "Becky Thacher had stopped coming to schoolЕ for a few days" she was sick. What if she should die!" (8) The lack of health care in this era was also evident through the novel when two of the main characters, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are discussing remedies to cure warts. Instead of suggesting medicinal treatment, the boys suggested organic and spiritual treatments such as spunkwater and dead cats. "СSay, what are dead cats good for? "Cure warts with "I know something better"Spunkwater" " (9) Another example of the poor medical care of the time is when Tom complains of toothache. Instead of taking him to the doctor or dentist to see what is wrong, Aunt Polly decides to pull out the tooth herself. "The old lady made one end of the silk thread fast to Tom's tooth with a loop and tied the other to a bed post" (10) In conclusion, the lack of medical investigation in the 1870's is discreetly evident throughout the novel.

Although by the frontier era African- American people had more freedom and rights, many were still used as maids and hired help in households. "The slaveholding community of Hannibal provided a mix between rugged frontier life and the southern tradition" (11) Also, many old fashioned parents brought their children up thinking poorly of other races because of their erstwhile beliefs. In "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer", Tom's family possesses a "little black boy" to assist the individuals with their daily responsibilities. "Jim, the small coloured boy, sawed next days wood and split the kindling before supper" (12) In the story, Jim is definitely not a slave, but does work for the family. Consequently, some terms that are unacceptable in today's society such as "Negro" and "Nigger" are used throughout the book. These terms are probably meant to be used in a non- offensive way but would be offensive to many of the black people in the 1870's. The fact that these terms are thrown around carelessly in this era shows the lack of respect for these people. Lastly, the blacks are still partially segregated from the white people in this book. They are not referred to as just people but as black people. Throughout the book one is referred to as "the small coloured boy" (13) This shows how black people were still not treated like equals and are seen for the colour of their skin and not their true identity. In conclusion, America was still a racist society in the 1870's and "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" demonstrates this particular time period characteristic through the use of inappropriate slang terms, the utilization of coloured maids and "hired help" and the social attitudes towards the African- Americans in the novel.

"The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" is a novel that is based of the real- life chronicle of Mark Twain's voyages as a child. The two characters Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are "drawn from life; Е a combination of the characteristics of the three boys [he] knew." (14) Although these characters are drawn from life, they in no way represent what life was supposed to be like in the 1870's. These characters were so unacceptable for the time that the "book was banned from book list in many libraries in America" (15) for a long time. These two characters help us to understand the time period because they introduce what was "morally wrong" in society at the time. What is excepted in youths now is much more than in the frontier era. Tom and Huck skipped school, smoked and played practical jokes on each other. Joe Harper (one of Tom's friends) says, "I could smoke this pipe all day" (16) after the three boys just light up a pipe. This was no way for children to act. Children were supposed to follow the rules, get an education and most of all, obey everything that adults said. In conclusion, the insurrection of these two characters has helped in demonstrating the thinking of the 1870's by disclosing what was intolerable for children of the time.

The novel "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" reveals the history and beliefs of the 1870's through intimations of the importance of education and religion, instability of the health care system, racial discrimination in the community and unacceptable behaviour for the time period, which was reflected through the characters. Religion and education were the largest and most important thing of many people's lives. The health care was not up to standard and racial discrimination was just starting to die down. This novel gives a superior understanding of the frontier era.

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Education, as defined in the Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, is stated to be “the field of study that deals mainly with methods of teaching and learning in schools”, the word “educate” is defined as “a way of development mentally and morally through instruction”, and a teacher is defined as “one whose occupation is to instruct.” By definition then, being a teacher is as simple as instructing people in order to help them develop; however, Webster failed to look deeply into the art of teaching and what it really means to be an educator.

To be an educator you need to not only inform or instruct; but also to encourage, support, discipline, listen and understand. A teacher’s role is divided between an instructor, care giver, mentor, and law enforcer, whom provide moral, ethical, and social values. They need to exemplify what we all ideally strive to become mentally and socially, by setting the foundation for each generation to come and supporting what past generations accomplished.

Throughout my schooling I have studied in 4 elementary schools, 2 high schools, and one University. Within that time I have encountered a countless number of teacher’s, most of which exemplified Webster’s definition of an “educator”. I did not display an interest in my schooling and my teacher’s did not display an interest in me other then what I was not accomplishing. It was not until I enrolled in a Catholic High School that I realized the importance of my education and the importance of a teacher’s role throughout my educational development. The answer to a better education is not necessarily through a Private Institute; however, I do believe that the components smaller schools hold can benefit educators in any institute.

The focus needs to be the student; their needs, their thoughts, their potential and how to reach that drive inside each individual student in order to help assist them on their educational journey. Through my experience, teachers lost touch with their students and the drive to help each student progress. Instead of focusing on the individual, most teachers’s focused on the class as a whole, inadvertently encouraging competition between students.
In many of my classes, it seemed that teachers would focus on those students that were exceptionally smart and less of a challenge. I considered my teachers to be lazy; they ignored the more challenging students, those that needed more stimulation; those with the same potential as the “exceptional” students. Teacher’s bypassed those that were more creative and less factual; instead of helping them find ways to strengthen their weaknesses and overcome their obstacles.

Our teacher’s of today need to be more focused on the student and how the student can get the most out of their education allowing teachers the opportunity of working with their students on a smaller scale. While attending Pope John I realized that the smaller the classroom was the more I got out of the class and the more I felt involved and important, causing me to subconsciously better myself. Even in larger classes at the University, when placed in smaller discussion groups I felt as if I was contributing to my education instead of watching it go by. This method also encouraged me to better myself and work harder for recognition.

In smaller classrooms, teacher and student are able to work together accessing different approaches to understanding and learning. If smaller classrooms are not feasible, then considering allowance for a more intimate learning environment may be beneficial by constructing learning groups.

As a future teacher I would enforce smaller learning groups within my classrooms, more student participation would be encouraged but supporting critical thinking. I would learn how my students think, what interest them, and format a classroom environment that will encourage individual growth. Instead of having my students feel as if they need to compete with each other intellectually, I will challenge them to compete with their selves and to push them to better themselves.

Throughout the history of time we have all evolved and changed as a each generation emerged, but the one thing that remains the same is individuality. We all think differently, interpret things differently; we have different habits, flaws, strengths and abilities, so why would we have a structured teaching method that might only assist the minority of our students. Society expects allot from us as we grow and emerge, by changing our teaching standards to fit societal standards we can better prepare our students. Focusing on the importance of freewill and individuality but also encouraging team work within our classrooms will help shape our students for the “real world”.

Throughout my experience as a student and now a graduate, I have experienced this approach to teaching within the past few years. As I progressed to each level of schooling I noticed that teachers understood the importance of instilling confidence in each individual student and helping them compete with themselves instead of others. There are ways of bettering our students without compromising our education. It is up to our teachers to figure out what means need to be implemented in our individual fields and enforce them.

Like the subjects we teach we are all different and so are our students. By getting to know them on a more personal level, while maintaining a professional repute, we can better the generations to come that will be carrying our societal standards. In the classroom we were encouraged to think structurally and by the teacher’s standards, however, once we enter the work force we are expected to think critically and independently, we need to incorporate a way to allow our students to do both in the classroom to better prepare them for the world.

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