Please grade my Essay!





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By Vinny919 (Vinny919) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 08:12 am: Edit

This is my summer reading project essay for AP Junior English (Langauge and Composition) that I worked pretty hard on, but I'm a really sucky writer so I apologize in advance if its hurts yours eyes to read.

What we're supposed to do is compare and contrast how the authors of The Bell Jar and The Catcher in the Rye use at least 3 literary devices to convey their common theme.

Can you give me a grade that I would get for this essay, keeping in mind its AP Junior English and over the summer.

Just a few things to consider:
Do I stick to the point?
Does it flow well?
Is it well organized?
Are the introduction and conclusion strong?

Adolescence. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines it as “the state or process of growing up.” And indeed it is this process of growing up that is so crucial in a maturing young adult’s life. Events and changes can occur during this period that can have long-term repercussions. Many times, unable to understand or adjust to the adult world, adolescents isolate themselves in an attempt both to preserve their former world and to protect themselves. Both Sylvia Plath, author of The Bell Jar, and J. D. Salinger, author of The Catcher in the Rye, convey the theme of alienation during adolescence in their respective novels through similar, but in many ways different, direct and indirect uses of point-of-view, symbolism, and characterization.
Firstly, both authors use point-of-view indirectly by creating mood and tone to convey their common theme. By using the first-person narration style, Plath creates a meditative mood, showing the reader that Esther, her main character, is very introspective and meditative herself. Thus, as is seen throughout the course of the novel, Esther often alienates herself by sometimes being too meditative and worsening relationships by over-thinking them. This over-thinking is also better shown to the reader thanks to the first-person narration, as opposed to a third-person omniscient narration style, where the reader still gets to hear Esther’s thoughts, but some of the effect of these thoughts is lost with the lack of the pronoun “I.” Salinger, in contrast to Plath, creates, a bleak mood full of contempt that shows Holden’s alienation simply through Holden’s scornful rejection of almost everything. Plath’s tone in The Bell Jar is depressed. Some of the blank narration and complex discussion on suicide definitely lends itself to the idea that the author was in a dark period of her life while writing this and perhaps contemplated suicide herself. In fact, only one month after publishing The Bell Jar, Plath committed suicide in her London flat by turning on the gas jets. Plath was indeed quite ill, suffering from the same cause as Esther: being an isolated individual not conforming to the ideas and behavior of society. Many have said The Bell Jar is an almost autobiographical work, and it is through this strong tying of the novel to Plath’s own life that allows her to introduce the theme of alienation into her novel with ease. In contrast, Salinger’s tone is cynical of society’s ways that cause adolescent individuals, such as Holden, to alienate themselves from society, and from this, the theme of alienation is clearly introduced. The flatness of minor characters that is caused by the point-of-view being first person could also be meant to highlight how alienated from others both respective characters are. Although Salinger develops minor characters much more than Plath does, the reader doesn’t get to know any nearly as well as they know Holden. Also, because both novels are written in first-person, the authors are easily able to employ the stream-of-consciousness technique, which is not used directly to convey theme, but is useful in establishing mood, tone, characterization, and other elements to the work, as stream-of-consciousness is the closest the reader can get to knowing the character’s full train of thought. Hence, it is seen that by use of point-of-view to create moods and tones, both Plath and Salinger convey their common theme of alienation through slightly different means, Plath using depressed, subdued moods and tones while the cynic Salinger uses depressed moods and scornful tones.
Secondly, Plath and Salinger use symbolism in their respective novels to convey their theme. The first symbol that Salinger uses is right in his narrator’s first name, Holden. It is unlikely that the brilliant author chose a name for his main character at random (after all, Holden’s last name, Caulfield, pertains to the theme of the protection of innocence, as a “caul” is a protective membrane around a fetus’s head). It is largely possible, then, that by choosing his character’s name to be Holden, Salinger, in order to emphasize the theme of alienation, means to subtly indicate that his character is “Holden” (holding) himself away from society. Although Plath’s use of names as symbols in expressing theme is not as direct and straightforward as Salinger’s, it still exists. Unlike Salinger, Plath included no symbolism in Esther’s name itself, but, when Esther is introducing herself to Lenny, a man she and her friend Doreen met while in a taxi, she gives her name as Elly Higginbottom. The reader is at first left wondering why she lies about her real name for no specific reason, aside from safety issues that Esther doesn’t mention. It soon occurs, however, that this too may be a subconscious attempt at alienation, where she distances her real self from any new acquaintances. Coming back to The Catcher in the Rye, it is clear that Salinger has Holden utilize a very similar technique. Holden says, “I’m the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life. It’s awful. If I’m on my way to the store to buy a magazine, even, and somebody asks where I’m going, I’m liable to say I’m going to the opera. It’s terrible.” (Salinger 16) He goes into no explanation of this behavior, but some thought leads the reader to think that he does this, like Esther, to distance himself from the “somebody” who’s asking him “where he’s going.” Holden’s proclivity to lie about such things can, then, be thought of as symbolizing his self-alienating tendencies through what seems so harmless as fibbing. Salinger also uses a Biblical reference to emphasize Holden’s alienation. Holden says the person he likes best in the Bible, next to Jesus, is “that lunatic and all, that lived in the tombs and kept cutting himself with stones.” (Salinger 99) Holden is actually referring to Mark 5: 1-20, and it is interesting that the person with whom Holden identifies most with from the Bible is the trouble soul, alienated from all and living in complete isolation. Holden too is a similarly troubled soul and his ability to relate with the lunatic symbolizes his own alienation. Treating the title a little, on the surface it seems Salinger uses Holden’s wish to become “the catcher in the rye” to place emphasis on the theme of protecting innocence, but a further investigation shows a connection to the more universal theme of alienation. Holden hears the wrong words to the Robert Burns poem “Comin’ Thro’ The Rye” (He hears “if a body catch a body comin’ through the rye” when the real words are “if a body meet a body comin’ through the rye”). The actual poem has little to do with the protection of innocence, and really is about whether or not it is wrong for two lovers to have a romantic encounter in a field of rye, isolated and far away from the public eye. Clearly, in using this beautiful, multi-leveled metaphor, Salinger means to convey the theme of alienation through Holden’s affinity to the poem, as Holden too is isolated. Plath’s use of symbolism is similar to Salinger’s in that the title does carry a heavy symbolic meaning, but there is not quite so much depth. Esther describes the bell jar as an airless place, dark place where she mentally suffocates. It is in this vacuum that Esther feels she is stewing in her own sour air, isolated and disassociated from everyone she knows, and unable to make connections to those outside the bell jar. It is through the symbol of the bell jar that Plath conveys Esther’s state at various times. When she feels alone and alienated most, Esther narrates that she is in the bell jar, and at the end of the novel, she seems cured, as she believes “there ought to be a ritual for being born twice,” (Plath 229) but she senses that the bell jar is floating above her, ready to come down at any time, saying “How did I know that someday—at college, in Europe, somewhere, anywhere—the bell jar, with its stifling distortions, wouldn’t descend again?” (Plath 225). Through most of Esther’s treatment, only her symptoms were being treated and the underlying cause of her problems, alienation, was being left unattended to, and the above quotation demonstrates that she feels as if she may again plunge into the depression caused by alienation. Another important symbol is one that Salinger uses in The Catcher in the Rye: Holden’s hunting cap. Holden dons the cap, awkward most of the time with its extra-long bill and earflaps, but sometimes practical, whenever he is feeling sad, lonely, or depressed, which is a large portion of the time. The cap also points out Holden’s attraction to unusual things. It is this attraction that makes him so unique. However, this uniqueness is a mixed blessing, making Holden a good person, but also isolating him from society. Salinger craftily conveys the theme of alienation through Holden’s urge to put on this hat at certain times. Unlike Plath, however, Salinger’s physical symbol of the hunting hat has humorous undertones while Plath’s use of symbols generally enhances the solemn mood. So, the similarities and differences in Plath’s and Salinger’s uses of symbolism in conveying theme are clear. While Salinger uses name etymologies quite a bit, Plath uses names in a different way to put theme across a little more directly; and while Salinger has many themes imbedded within a single symbolic concept, Plath uses a number of subtle extended metaphors to communicate her themes.
The third literary device used by both authors is characterization. Both authors show their characters to be alienated by their speech and thoughts to and about others. Holden rejects everything artificial, which to him is most things adult, as “phony.” His rejecting of so many things is, in all actuality, the cause of his alienation which in turn is the cause of most of his pains and trouble, but as this is part of his character there is little that can serve as an immediate solution. Salinger uses Holden’s speech to show Holden’s alienation, and nowhere is there a better example than in Holden’s conversation with Phoebe. When Phoebe asks why Holden doesn’t like anything, Holden struggles to find an answer, and finally claims to Phoebe, “I like Allie,” (Salinger 171) referring to his dead brother. Clearly, there is little that Holden warms up to. As the reader, we can listen to his thoughts as he spurns everything, one by one, usually even making excuses to dismiss something as “phony” even if these excuses are not well founded. Holden remarks at one point about the skillful piano player Ernie, “It was very phony—I mean him being such a snob and all.” (Salinger 84) Although, as the objective reader can easily perceive, Ernie doesn’t seem to be a snob or arrogant at all, and Holden is simply rejecting Ernie’s skill for the sake of rejecting it, and it is this habit of his that leaves him alone so many times. Holden’s style of talking characterizes him as an overly critical cynic, always saying things like “I was surrounded by jerks” (Salinger 85) and “All I ever meet is witty bastards” (Salinger 152). His cynical ways, in the end, do indeed cause him to be isolated and, further on, depressed. In addition to Holden’s thoughts and speech, Salinger also uses Holden’s actions to characterize him in order to ultimately convey the theme of alienation. Holden has quite a few meetings with different people during his long weekend, almost all of which he ends on bad notes, caused by rude or insensitive remarks on his part. For example, on his date with Sally Hayes, Holden suggests, “I could get a job somewhere and we could live somewhere with a brook and all and, later on, we could get married or something. I could chop our own wood in the wintertime and all.” (Salinger 132) Holden, although simply being candid, still probably was previously aware of what the conservative Sally’s reaction would be to such a suggestion, but he voices his idea anyway, almost as if he wants to end his date prematurely. Obviously, this is just another representation of his alienation, expressed through his actions rather than thoughts. Plath also uses characterization to convey the theme of alienation, but her characterization of Esther differs from Salinger’s of Holden. Unlike Holden, Esther is not so quick to reject everything without rhyme or reason. Esther’s speech is much more refined and she often uses rhetorical devices, although from time to time she does dismiss something with phrases like “it’s stupid,” or “makes me sick.” Like Holden, however, Esther is quite critical of others. Rejecting Buddy Willard just because he didn’t live up to her high standards of chastity and rejecting both Doreen’s and Betty’s ways of life just because of even one flaw she notices, Esther is just as critical as Holden, without the cursing and excess of crude language. Paraphrasing the novel itself, Esther, after finding out about Buddy Willard’s loss of virginity, reasons that she can not be with him because she had always thought Buddy to be a virgin, and now that that belief has been shattered, she feels as if she is in an “uneven” relationship and until Esther too has an affair, evenness in the relationship will not be restored. As skewed as this reasoning may be, Plath has made Esther into what she is through such instances and it is through these instances that the reader sees what Esther is like and begins to understand her alienation and its causes. Another way in which Plath characterizes Esther to convey the theme of alienation is through her actions, in such instances when Esther abruptly cuts off her relationships with men that are prospective long-term partners. For example, when Esther returns from her stay in New York, she reads Buddy Willard’s letter to her and then narrates to the reader her following actions: “I snatched up a pencil and crossed out Buddy’s message. Then I turned the letter paper over and on the opposite side wrote that I was engaged to a simultaneous interpreter and never wanted to see Buddy again as I did not want to give my children a hypocrite for a father.” (Plath 113-114) Buddy has been the closest thing to a boyfriend to Esther, yet Esther insists on pushing him away, just like she tells Irwin, the young mathematics professor to whom she loses her virginity, over the phone that he will never see her again, just to be “free” of acquaintances that are potentially close lovers. It is through such actions that Plath gives Esther the character of the uncertain, isolated adolescent. Characterization not only includes what the character thinks, says, and does, but also what others think, say, and do to the character, and Plath takes advantage of this to even further show her theme of alienation. After Esther’s suicide attempt, she is in the hospital. It seems to the reader that some of the nurses and doctors are indeed treating Esther in a kind of condescending way, no doubt only worsening her sense of alienation and thus deepening her depression. Thus, through use of characterization both Plath and Salinger have conveyed the theme of alienation, but through similar and different ways. Both Holden and Esther reject almost everything and everyone they come across, but while Holden’s is through fast, indiscriminant refutation, Esther is a contemplating person and turns things away only after a reasonable amount of thought, and their actions are parallel to their rejection of things: Holden ending meetings with deliberately offensive remarks, and Esther more subtly, but just as abruptly, ending her own relationships.
Although written during different generations and written in points of view of opposite sexes, both The Bell Jar and The Catcher in the Rye have the common theme of alienation, and the respective authors, Sylvia Plath and J. D. Salinger, convey this theme effectively through uses of point-of-view, symbolism, and characterization. Of course, both authors use each of these literary devices in differing ways, but neither fail to capture the dire problem of alienation during adolescence and the complications thereof, most of which, as is highlighted over and over again, society is to blame for. It is then perhaps society’s responsibility to change and adapt to maturing individuals who have trouble adjusting themselves. After all, it is today’s adolescents that are tomorrow’s adults.


Thanks so much!!

By Lisasimpson (Lisasimpson) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 01:44 pm: Edit

holy crap, that's a long essay. you might want to try a different board, though, maybe the high school or parents thread or something.

By Poison_Ivy (Poison_Ivy) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 01:47 pm: Edit

he did. he posted this thing in multiple boards.

By Noodleman (Noodleman) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 02:27 pm: Edit

Never, ever start an essay with a dictionary definition. That has got to be the most overused, underwhelming, hackneyed ploy out there.

The rest is pretty good.

Style: B
Content: A
Grammar/Spelling: B+ (Watch your verb tenses)

By Brianwilson (Brianwilson) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 05:43 pm: Edit

wordy, ideas are good though: B

By Justperfect (Justperfect) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 06:13 pm: Edit

i hope you dont mind me snatching your essay and selling it for $5 to people wanting it, thanks in advance

By Duke3d4 (Duke3d4) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 10:20 pm: Edit

rofl

By Geniusash (Geniusash) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 11:21 pm: Edit

Good start, I'm sure your teacher won't be too harsh grading as this is your first essay for the class. However, as an AP writer, you have a LONG way to go stylistically (you have really good ideas though)
on a scale of 1-9

organization:2
style:4
content:8
thesis statement:3

Keep these things in mind:
Be Specific don't say "different", "good", "bad", "well", etc. Don't say things like "to develop tone/mood" what kind of tone/mood?
Make sure your paragraphs are clearly organized and that you don't go off on tangents. The AP graders/teachers will make this face
Don't be wordy. It makes you confusing and boring (I was too bored to read your 3rd paragraph). This goes especially for your intro/conclusion. Above all, be direct.
Be careful of comma usage. They sure are fun, but overusing them makes it very difficult to understand what your saying. Because, when you keep using them, the commas, it makes it difficult to understand what you are refering to.

This essay is MUCH MUCH too wordy, don't say in 3 sentences what youu could easily say in 1. for example~
"By using the first-person narration style, Plath creates a meditative mood, showing the reader that Esther, her main character, is very introspective and meditative herself. Thus, as is seen throughout the course of the novel, Esther often alienates herself by sometimes being too meditative and worsening relationships by over-thinking them. This over-thinking is also better shown to the reader thanks to the first-person narration, as opposed to a third-person omniscient narration style, where the reader still gets to hear Esther’s thoughts, but some of the effect of these thoughts is lost with the lack of the pronoun “I.”"

Could be said in a few sentences and would be much less confusing to the reader

"Salinger, in contrast to Plath, creates, a bleak mood full of contempt that shows Holden’s alienation simply through Holden’s scornful rejection of almost everything. Plath’s tone in The Bell Jar is depressed. Some of the blank narration and complex discussion on suicide definitely lends itself to the idea that the author was in a dark period of her life while writing this and perhaps contemplated suicide herself. In fact, only one month after publishing The Bell Jar, Plath committed suicide in her London flat by turning on the gas jets. Plath was indeed quite ill, suffering from the same cause as Esther: being an isolated individual not conforming to the ideas and behavior of society. Many have said The Bell Jar is an almost autobiographical work, and it is through this strong tying of the novel to Plath’s own life that allows her to introduce the theme of alienation into her novel with ease. In contrast, Salinger’s tone is cynical of society’s ways that cause adolescent individuals, such as Holden, to alienate themselves from society, and from this, the theme of alienation is clearly introduced"

Much, if not all, of this section has NOTHING to do with point of view. This tangent is unnecessary, and only confusing. Talk only about point of view as related to tone, not about the tone/themes in general.

"Although Salinger develops minor characters much more than Plath does, the reader doesn’t get to know any nearly as well as they know Holden."
Once again, really nothing to do with point of view (as stated). This statement isn't really necessary, you already made your point (which is a good one!)

"Also, because both novels are written in first-person, the authors are easily able to employ the stream-of-consciousness technique, which is not used directly to convey theme, but is useful in establishing mood, tone, characterization, and other elements to the work, as stream-of-consciousness is the closest the reader can get to knowing the character’s full train of thought."

Very, very wordy.

"Hence, it is seen that by use of point-of-view to create moods and tones, both Plath and Salinger convey their common theme of alienation through slightly different means, Plath using depressed, subdued moods and tones while the cynic Salinger uses depressed moods and scornful tones."

Very wordy, do not say "to create moods and tones" that's obvious and is why authors use literary devices. Also, avoid (whenever possible) using the wordy "different" HOW are they different? Saying they're different doesn't really say anything substantial at all.

"Esther is introducing herself to Lenny, a man she and her friend Doreen met while in a taxi, she gives her name as Elly Higginbottom. The reader is at first left wondering why she lies about her real name for no specific reason, aside from safety issues that Esther doesn’t mention. It soon occurs, however, that this too may be a subconscious attempt at alienation, where she distances her real self from any new acquaintances."

This is symbolism? Um, no. This is a detail. She is alienating herself by using an alias, this IS alienation, not a symbol of alienation. Also very very wordy, with unnecessary details added.

"Salinger also uses a Biblical reference to emphasize Holden’s alienation. Holden says the person he likes best in the Bible, next to Jesus, is “that lunatic and all, that lived in the tombs and kept cutting himself with stones.” (Salinger 99) Holden is actually referring to Mark 5: 1-20, and it is interesting that the person with whom Holden identifies most with from the Bible is the trouble soul, alienated from all and living in complete isolation"

Once again, this is not REALLY symbolism. This is a biblical allusion.

"Treating the title a little, on the surface it seems Salinger uses Holden’s wish to become “the catcher in the rye” to place emphasis on the theme of protecting innocence, but a further investigation shows a connection to the more universal theme of alienation. "

Once again, not REALLY symbolism, more of an allusion.

"Holden dons the cap, awkward most of the time with its extra-long bill and earflaps, but sometimes practical, whenever he is feeling sad, lonely, or depressed, which is a large portion of the time."

How is this a symbol of alienation? Explain a bit more. Because it covers so much of his face/head (a symbol of his attempt to hide from society)?

For the intro~

"Adolescence. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines it as “the state or process of growing up.” And indeed it is this process of growing up that is so crucial in a maturing young adult’s life. Events and changes can occur during this period that can have long-term repercussions."

These sentences all say the same thing. I agree with noodleman that, especially in this case, a dictionary definition should be avoided. I would start with something like, "Adolescence. A time of great growth and great enjoyment, and yet also great isolation. Many times..." (although I'm sure you can find a more eloquent way of saying this). As is, your introduction is WAY too long.

"Both Sylvia Plath, author of The Bell Jar, and J. D. Salinger, author of The Catcher in the Rye, convey the theme of alienation during adolescence in their respective novels through similar, but in many ways different, direct and indirect uses of point-of-view, symbolism, and characterization."

Again, how are they different? Specifically, how do they differ from each other? Talk about tone a little ex. Path uses A approach to establish A tone/mood. Salinger uses B approach to establish B mood.

By Efilsiertaeht (Efilsiertaeht) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 02:58 am: Edit

Um. I didn't read it... because as Noodleman said, NEVER EVER EVER start an essay with a dictionary definition. You can start it with your own definition, if you'd like... but nevvvver dictionary.

By Aim78 (Aim78) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 11:44 pm: Edit

Especially using Webster's as the dictionary, that's what EVERYONE does. At least say "The computer program WordWeb defines..." or "One of my SAT flashcards defines adolescence as..."

By Vinny919 (Vinny919) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 06:28 am: Edit

Geniusash said that the biblical reference and title of the catcher in the rye are not symbols but allusions. Do you think it's ok to still keep them in the symbolism paragraph?

By Vinny919 (Vinny919) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 06:29 am: Edit

And also, in general, what's a good way to keep the wordiness low?


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