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Writing a Literacy Narrative
In the following literacy narrative, Shannon Nichols, a student at Wright State
University, describes her experience taking the standardized writing proficiency
test that high school students in Ohio must pass to graduate. She wrote this
essay for a college writing course, where her audience included her classmates
The first time I took the ninth-grade proficiency test was in March of
eighth grade. The test ultimately determines whether students may
receive a high school diploma. After months of preparation and anxiety,
the pressure was on. Throughout my elementary and middle school
years, I was a strong student, always on the honor roll. I never had a
GPA below 3.0. I was smart, and I knew it. That is, until I got the results
of the proficiency test.
Nichols's narrative focuses on her emotional reaction to failing a test that she
should have passed easily. The contrast between her demonstrated writing ability
and her repeated failures creates a tension that captures readers' attention.
We want to know what will happen to her.
Although the test was challenging, covering reading, writing,
math, and citizenship, I was sure I had passed every part. To my surprise,
I did pass every part—except writing. "Writing! Yeah, right! How
did I manage to fail writing, and by half a point, no less?" I thought
to myself in disbelief. Seeing my test results brought tears to my eyes.
I honestly could not believe it. To make matters worse, most of my
classmates, including some who were barely passing eighth-grade English,
passed that part.
Until that time, I loved writing just as much as I loved math. It was
one of my strengths. I was good at it, and I enjoyed it. If anything, I
thought I might fail citizenship. How could I have screwed up writing?
I surely spelled every word correctly, used good grammar, and even
used big words in the proper context. How could I have failed?
Finally I got over it and decided it was no big deal. Surely I would
pass the next time. In my honors English class I worked diligently, passing
with an A. By October I'd be ready to conquer that writing test.
Well, guess what? I failed the test again, again with only 4.5 of the 5
points needed to pass. That time I did cry, and even went to my English
teacher, Mrs. Brown, and asked, "How can I get A's in all my English
classes but fail the writing part of the proficiency test twice?" She
couldn't answer my question. Even my friends and classmates were confused.
I felt like a failure. I had disappointed my family and seriously
let myself down. Worst of all, I still couldn't figure out what I was doing
I decided to quit trying so hard. Apparently—I told myself—the
people grading the tests didn't have the slightest clue about what constituted
good writing. I continued to excel in class and passed the test
on the third try. But I never again felt the same love of reading and
This experience showed me just how differently my writing could
be judged by various readers. Obviously all my English teachers and
many others enjoyed or at least appreciated my writing. A poem I wrote
was put on television once. I must have been a pretty good writer.
Unfortunately the graders of the ninth-grade proficiency test didn't
feel the same, and when students fail the test, the state of Ohio
doesn't offer any explanation.
After I failed the test the first time, I began to hate writing, and
I started to doubt myself. I doubted my ability and the ideas I wrote
about. Failing the second time made things worse, so perhaps to protect
myself from my doubts, I stopped taking English seriously. Perhaps
because of that lack of seriousness, I earned a 2 on the Advanced Placement
English Exam, barely passed the twelfth-grade proficiency test,
and was placed in developmental writing in college. I wish I knew why
I failed that test, because then I might have written what was expected
on the second try, maintained my enthusiasm for writing, and continued
to do well.
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Analyzing a Text
Doug Lantry wrote this analysis of three print ads for a first-year writing course
at the University of Akron.
"Stay Sweet As You Are": An Analysis of Change
and Continuity in Advertising Aimed at Women
Magazine advertisements aimed at American women have a long history
of pushing things like makeup, mouthwash, soap, and other products
that reinforce men's roles in women's lives. The concept of personal
hygiene has been used to convey the message that "catching" a man
or becoming a wife is a woman's ultimate goal, and in advertisements
from the 1920s, 1930s, and 1950s this theme can be traced through
verbal and visual content.
Lantry summarizes each ad clearly and focuses his analysis on a theme running
through all three ads: the concept that to find happiness, a woman must
be physically attractive to men. He describes patterns of images and language
in all three ads as evidence.
For example, a 1922 ad for Resinol soap urges women to "make
that dream come true" by using Resinol (see Fig. 1). The dream is marriage.
The premise is that a bad complexion will prevent marriage even
if a woman has attributes like wit and grace, which the ad identifies as
positive. Blotchy skin, the ad says, will undermine all that. The word
repellent is used for emphasis and appears in the same sentence as the
words neglected and humiliated, equating the look of the skin with the
state of the person within. Of course, Resinol can remedy the condition,
and a paragraph of redemption follows the paragraph about being
repellent. A treatment program is suggested, and the look and feel of
"velvety" skin are only "the first happy effects," with eventual marriage
(fulfillment) implied as the ultimate result of using Resinol soap.
Visual content supports the mostly verbal ad. In a darkened room,
a lone woman peers dreamily into a fireplace, where she sees an apparition
of herself as a bride in a white veil, being fulfilled as a person by
marriage to a handsome man. She lounges in a soft chair, where the glow
of the image in the fireplace lights her up and warms her as much as the
comforting fire itself. A smaller image shows the woman washing with
Resinol, contentedly working her way toward clear skin and marriage
over a water-filled basin suggestive of a vessel of holy water. This image
is reinforced by her closed eyes and serene look and by the ad's suggestion
that "right living" is a source of a good complexion.
A somewhat less innocent ad appeared more than a decade later,
in 1934 (see Fig. 2). That ad, for Lux soap, like the one for Resinol, prescribes
a daily hygiene regimen, but it differs significantly from the
Resinol message in that it never mentions marriage and uses a clearskinned
movie star as proof of Lux's effectiveness. Instead of touting
marriage, Lux teaches that "a girl who wants to break hearts simply
must have a tea-rose complexion." Romance, not marriage, is the
woman's goal, and competition among women is emphasized because
"girls who want to make new conquests . . . [are] sure to win out!" by
using Lux. Lux's pitch is more sophisticated than Resinol's, appealing
to a more emancipated woman than that of the early 1920s and offering
a kind of evidence based on science and statistics. The text cites
"9 out of 10 glamorous Hollywood stars" and scientists who explain
that Lux slows aging, but it declines to cite names, except that of Irene
Dunne, the ad's star. The unnamed stars and scientists give the ad an
air of untruthfulness, and this sense is deepened by the paradox of the
ad's title: "Girls who know this secret always win out." If Lux is a secret,
why does it appear in a mass-media publication?
Like Resinol, Lux urges women to seek love and fulfillment by
enhancing their outward beauty and suggests that clear skin means
having "the charm men can't resist."
The Lux ad's visual content, like Resinol's, supports its verbal message.
Several demure views of Irene Dunne emphasize her "pearlysmooth
skin," the top one framed by a large heart shape. In all the
photos, Dunne wears a feathery, feminine collar, giving her a birdlike
appearance: she is a bird of paradise or an ornament. At the bottom
of the ad, we see a happy Dunne being cuddled and admired by a man.
The visual and verbal message is that women should strive,
through steps actually numbered in the ad, to attain soft, clear skin
and hence charm and hence romance.
Not surprisingly, the ad uses the
language of battle to describe the effects of clear skin: girls who use
Lux will "make new conquests!" and "win out!" Similar themes are
developed for a younger audience in a 1954 ad for Listerine mouthwash
(see Fig. 3). This time the target is no longer grown women but
teenage girls: "If you want to win the boys . . . Stay Sweet As You
Are!" Because attracting men would be inappropriate for teenagers,
boys are the catch of the day in the Listerine ad. The idea of staying
sweet means on the surface that girls should have nice breath, but the
youthful context of the ad means that for women to be attractive they
must stay young and "stay adorable," preferably with the girlish innocence
of a teenager.
The consequences of not staying sweet are clear:
if you don't use Listerine every morning, every night, and before every
date, "you're headed for boredom and loneliness." If you do use Listerine,
there are "good times, good friends, and gaiety ahead."
Like Lux, Listerine relies on science as well as sex. With talk of "the
bacterial fermentation of proteins," research, and clinical tests, the
mouthwash props up its romantic and sexual claims by proclaiming scientific
facts. Listerine is "4 times better than any tooth paste," the ad
proclaims "With proof like this, it's easy to see why Listerine belongs
in your home."
Visuals contribute to the message, as in the other ads. The central
image is a photo of a perky, seemingly innocent teenage girl playing
records on a portable phonograph. A vision of midcentury American femininity,
she wears a fitted sweater, a scarf tied at the neck (like a wrapped
present?), and a full, long skirt. She sits on the floor, her legs hidden by
the skirt; she could be a cake decoration. Leaning forward slightly, she
looks toward the reader, suggesting by her broad smile and submissive
posture that perhaps kissing will follow when she wins the boys with
her sweet breath. The record player affirms the ad's teenage target.
The intended consumers in the Resinol, Lux, and Listerine ads are
women, and the message of all three ads is that the product will lead
to—and is required for—romantic or matrimonial success. Each ad
implies that physical traits are paramount in achieving this success, and
the ads' appearance in widely circulated magazines suggests that catching
a man (whether or not she marries him) is the ultimate goal of
every American woman. While there is a kind of progress over time,
the ads' underlying assumptions remain constant. There is evidence of
women's increasing sophistication, illustrated in the later ads' use of
science and "objective" proof of the products' effectiveness. Women's
development as individuals can also be seen in that marriage is not
presupposed in the later ads, and in the case of Lux a single woman
has a successful career and apparently has her pick of many partners.
Still, one theme remains constant and may be seen as a continuing
debilitating factor in women's struggle for true equality in the world of
sex roles: pleasing men is the prerequisite for happiness. Despite apparent
advances on other levels, that assumption runs through all three ads
and is the main selling point. The consumer of Resinol, Lux, and Listerine
is encouraged to objectify herself, to become more physically attractive
not for her own sake but for someone else's. The women in all three ads
are beautifying themselves because they assume they must "make new
conquests," "win the boys," and "make that dream come true."
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The following essay was written in 2001 by a student for a history course at
the Trumbull Campus of Kent State University. It was first published in Etude
and Techne, a journal of Ohio college writing.
The Greatest Generation:
The Great Depression and the American South
Tom Brokaw called the folks of the mid-twentieth century the greatest
generation. So why is the generation of my grandparents seen as
this country's greatest? Perhaps the reason is not what they accomplished
but what they endured. Many of the survivors feel people today
"don't have the moral character to withstand a depression like that."1
This paper will explore the Great Depression through the eyes of ordinary
Americans in the most impoverished region in the country, the
American South, in order to detail how they endured and how the government
assisted them in this difficult era.
DeRoven's essay reports information about how the American South got through
the Great Depression. His information is based on both library research and
interviews with people who lived through the period he describes. He documents
his sources according to The Chicago Manual of Style, the preferred style in
President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) announced in 1938 that the
American South "represented the nation's number one economic problem."
He commissioned the National Emergency Council to investigate
and report on the challenges facing the region. Though rich in physical
and human resources, the southern states lagged behind other parts
of the nation in economic development.2
Poor education in the South was blamed for much of the problem.
Young children attending school became too costly for most families.
In the Bland family, "when Lucy got to the sixth grade, we had
to stop her because there was too much to do."3 Overcrowding of
schools, particularly in rural areas, lowered the educational standards.
The short school terms further reduced effectiveness. As Mrs. Abercrombie
recalls, "Me and Jon both went to school for a few months
but that wa'n't enough for us to learn anything."4 Without the proper
education, the youth of the South entered the work force unprepared
for the challenges before them.
Southern industries did not have the investment capital to turn
their resources into commodities. Manufacturers were limited to producing
goods in the textile and cigarette industries and relied heavily
on the cash crops of cotton and tobacco for the economy. Few
facilities existed in the South for research that might lead to the development
of new industries. Hampered by low wages, low tax revenue,
and a high interest rate, Southerners lacked the economic resources
to compete with the vast industrial strength of the North. As Abercrombie
indicates, "Penalized for being rural, and handicapped in its
efforts to industrialize, the economic life of the South has been
squeezed to a point where the purchasing power of the southern
people does not provide an adequate market for its own industries
nor an attractive market for those of
the rest of the country."5 The South had an untapped market for production and consumption.
However, without adequate capital, it did not have the means to
profit from them.
Southern industries paid their employees low wages, which led
to a low cost of living. "You could live very cheaply because . . . you
couldn't make a great deal of money," remembers Rita Beline."6 Most
families did not have much left for themselves after bills and living
expenses. "Nobody had much money, you know," recalls June Atchetce.
"Everybody kind of lived at home, had gardens and raised their
own produce, raised their own meat and had chickens and eggs and
such as that." The needs of the families "were very small as far as
purchases were concerned." What they could not grow, they did not
have a need for, except for basic staples such as coffee, flour, sugar,
and honey. To save on the cost of clothes, families "had a lot of
handmedowns from the oldest to the baby. We did not throw them away.
We patched them up and sent them down the line."7 Luxury items,
like radios, cost too much money, and "only the [aristocrats] had
radios because the poor did not stay at home long enough to enjoy
them."8 The fact was that Southerners wanted modern consumer
items but did not have the purchasing power to pay for them. "The
people of the South need to buy, they want to buy, and they would
buy—if they had the money." Without paying laborers a fair wage,
industry had forced upon itself a lower living standard, thus perpetuating
losses in local revenue resulting in a decline in purchasing
The Federal government had to step in and help, as historians
David L. Carlton and Peter A. Coclanis note:
Some of the South's credit difficulties have been slightly relieved in
recent years . . . by the Public Works Administration, . . . the Works
Progress Administration, [and] the Soil Conservation Service, [which]
have brought desperately needed funds into the South.10
Along with other New Deal projects like the Tennessee Valley
Authority (TVA) and the Civilian Conservation Corps [CCC], President
Roosevelt was able to prime the pump into a seemingly dead Southern
Other ways the federal government primed the pump was with
the WPA [Works Progress Administration]. This New Deal measure
gave jobs to those who wanted to work. Local governments benefited
too. The WPA provided new roads, buildings, hospitals, and
schools. Rita Beline remembers her "father came very short of money,
. . . took a job with the WPA, in which he helped in building a road
across a lagoon."11 President Roosevelt knew "cheap wages mean
low buying power."12 The WPA ensured a fair wage for good work.
Warren Addis remembers that "workers were tickled to death with
it because it gave so many people jobs. It started out at eight cents
an hour for common labor, and it finally went to thirty cents an
FDR also created the CCC. The concept of putting the American
youth to work yielded an economic stimulus by having them send home
twenty-five dollars a month. That money worked itself back into local
economies as families spent the money on needed goods. Young men
across the South "left home to go and do this work. They got paid a
little bit of money, which they sent home to their families."14 The CCC
created recreation habitats as well. Jefferson Brock recalls, "They came
and built brush poles for the fish to live in the lake near my cottage."15
The CCC became an outlet for young men who could not find work in
their hometowns. Jesse Brooks remembers:
They did a great lot of good. For instance, they built Vogel State
Park and raised the wall up on the national cemetery. Just put people
to work. Gave them their pride back. A man's not going to feel
very good about himself if he can't feed his family. So, that was the
New Deal itself—to put people back to work and get the economy
The South did not enjoy the United States' economic successes in
the early part of the twentieth century and in many ways was a third
world country within our own nation. The federal action that fueled
the Southern economy during the Great Depression changed the way
of life for the better and helped Southerners endure a time of great
despair. Programs like the TVA, WPA, and CCC planted the seeds for a
prosperous future. I still do not know if they were the greatest generation,
but they did overcome tremendous obstacles to bring forth
other "greatest generations."
1. Allen Furline in Kenneth J. Bindas, "Oral History Project," Kent
State University, Trumbull Campus, Trumbull, OH. Dr. Bindas has a collection
of 476 oral-history interviews from western Georgia and eastern
Alabama, from which the information for this paper is derived.
(Hereafter cited in Notes as BOHP.)
2. David L. Carlton and Peter A. Coclanis, Confronting Southern
Poverty in the Great Depression: The Report on Economic Conditions
of the South with Related Documents (New York: Bedford/St. Martin's
Press, 1996), 92.
3. Vera Bland in BOHP.
4. M. Abercrombie in BOHP.
5. Carlton and Coclanis, Confronting Southern Poverty, 76–78.
6. Rita Beline in BOHP.
7. June Romero Atchetce in BOHP.
8. Ruby Girley in BOHP.
9. Carlton and Coclanis, Confronting Southern Poverty, 62–65.
10. Ibid., 73.
11. Rita Beline in BOHP.
12. David M. Kennedy, Freedom from Fear: The American People
in Depression and War, 1929–1945 (New York: Oxford University Press,
13. Warren Addis in BOHP.
14. Jane Berry in BOHP.
15. Jefferson Brock in BOHP.
16. Jesse Brooks in BOHP.
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Arguing a Position
Here is an argument written in 2002 by Andy McDonie for his
first-year writing course at Wright State University, in Dayton, Ohio.
Airport Security: What Price Safety?
We all want to feel safe. Most Americans lock their doors at night, lock
their cars in parking lots, try to park near buildings or under lights,
and wear seat belts. Many invest in expensive security systems, carry
pepper spray or a stun gun, keep guns in their homes, or take self-defense
classes. Obviously, safety and security are important issues in
American life. But there are times when people are unable to protect
This argument offers a clear statement of its position: people of Middle Eastern
descent must not be targeted for airport security checks. McDonie organizes his
essay carefully: after introducing the topic, he contrasts El Al's procedures with
those of U.S. air carriers, provides examples of suspended rights in the United
States during wartime, presents the core of his argument against targeted
searches, and concludes by acknowledging the need for improved security.
Air travel is one such situation. There is nowhere to run, and no
one is allowed to carry weapons that could be used for self-defense
on board an aircraft. Therefore, it is important that no one at all be
allowed on board an airplane with a gun or any other weapon.
Unfortunately, this is much more easily said than done.
Though airlines and the U.S. government are taking many steps to
ensure the safety of passengers, there is still a risk. In light of recent
hijackings by militant Islamic Arabs, it would be very easy and economically
sensible to target Middle Easterners for security checks at airports
and anywhere else security could be an issue. This would allow everyone
else who is statistically less likely to be a terrorist to travel more
freely without long delays. However, as sensible and economical as this
solution could be, it must never be allowed here in the United States.
One airline that targets passengers for security checks based on
ethnicity and gender is El Al, Israel's national airline. In "Unfriendly
Skies Are No Match for El Al," Vivienne Walt, a writer for USA Today,
describes her experience flying with this airline. Before anyone gets on
any one of El Al's aircraft, he or she has to go through an extensive
interview process. The intensity of the process depends on categories
into which passengers fit. Jews are in the low-risk category. Most foreigners
are medium risk, while travelers with Arabic names are very
high-risk. Women traveling alone are considered high risk as well,
because authorities fear that a Palestinian lover might plant a bomb
in their luggage. Screening passengers takes time; El Al passengers must
arrive three hours before their scheduled departure, and even so flights
are sometimes delayed because of the screening process.
El Al is secretive about what goes on in its interviews, and company
spokespersons admit that the airline will deny boarding privileges
to certain ticket holders, but their security record is the best in the
world. Since these and other policies took effect over twenty years ago,
not one terrorist act has occurred on an El Al plane (Walt 1D–2D). El
Al's anti-terrorist system is indisputably effective. But is it ethical?
Here in the United States, airports and airlines are racing to meet
new security standards set by the federal government. As travelers are
flying and as new regulations are being implemented, more and more
air travelers are getting pulled aside for "random" security checks. In
my experience, these checks may not be as random as the airports would
like the public to think. Since September 11, 2001, I have spent several
hours at airport gates and have boarded eight separate flights. Not once
have I been delayed at the gate for a random security check. I am a
young white male. However, I have seen who does get checked. I have
seen some middle-class Caucasians checked, but at least from what I
have observed, that is not the norm. Minorities are a target, especially
minorities traveling alone. I have seen a seemingly disproportionate
number of nonwhites delayed at gates. I have also noticed that women
traveling alone or with other women are often picked out.
History has many examples of the U.S. government's suspending
or abridging the rights of certain groups during wartime. In the Civil
War, Abraham Lincoln suspended the right of habeas corpus (which
allows prisoners to have their detention reviewed by a court of law),
an act that was later ruled unconstitutional. During the First World War,
freedom of speech was restricted by the Supreme Court, which declared,
"When a nation is at war, many things that might be said in time of
peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their utterance will not be
endured so long as men fight and that no Court could regard them as
protected by any constitutional right." During the same war, Pittsburgh
banned Beethoven's music; the Los Angeles Board of Education forbade
discussions of peace in school; and in many states German could not be
taught. Perhaps the worst example of American wartime discrimination
occurred during World War II, when Japanese Americans had their property
seized and were forced to live in internment camps. Lieutenant
General John L. DeWitt, one commander enforcing the internment, justified
this policy by saying that "in the war in which we are now
engaged, racial affiliations are not severed by migration. The Japanese
race is an enemy race. . . . A jap is a jap" (O'Brien 419–25).
What can we learn from this grim history? Ben Franklin said that
if we sacrifice freedom for security, we get neither. Though safety is
important, at what price should it be bought? And if we sacrifice our
freedoms for it, are we really safe? It would be easy for most Americans
to justify restricting the rights of just one minority group. After
all, most people would not be affected. But if we can oppress people
from the Middle East during a time of crisis, we can do the same to
any other group of people at any time. That is not the way Americans
should have to live.
There is an additional point here: not all terrorists are of Middle
Eastern descent. If we were to target Middle Easterners for security
checks, many Muslims might have difficulty boarding an aircraft, but
the Unabomber or Timothy McVeigh would have had little or no trouble.
Acts of murder, political turmoil, and terrorism are carried out by
persons of all races and nationalities. Focusing on one group might
only simplify the process for non-Arab terrorists.
New security measures exist in many European airports. Some use
retinal scans, a high-tech way of identifying passengers by scanning
their eyes. Most screen checked baggage and match checked baggage
to passenger lists. Many airports interview all passengers. According to
one German frequent flier, "The level of scrutiny at a checkpoint says
a lot about security at the whole airport to me. I feel safer flying to
the United States than flying back" (Davis).
Clearly more changes need to be made at airports worldwide.
Though it would be more economically sensible to target certain
groups, doing so would be unethical. If the rights of one group of people
are jeopardized, then the rights of all Americans are jeopardized.
Freedom must not be sacrificed for security.
Discriminating against a single group would also be ineffective.
Many people of Arab descent would have difficulty boarding an aircraft,
but white, black, or Asian terrorists could move through security
easily. Targeting certain groups would be easier but less than fair.
Instead of focusing on one or more groups, airlines should treat all passengers
equally, using technology that is currently available.
Davis, Aaron. "Guarding Europe's Airports—Future of Air Travel
in Tight Security Terminal." San Jose Mercury News.
22 Nov. 2001:
O'Brien, Ed. "In War, Is Law Silent?" Social Education 65 (2001)
Walt, Vivienne. "Unfriendly Skies Are No Match for El Al." USA
1 Oct. 2001: 1D–2D.
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PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY
Sonnet: "Lift Not the Painted Veil
Which Those Who Live"
Lift not the painted veil which those who live
Call Life: though unreal shapes be pictured there,
And it but mimic all we would believe
With colours idly spread,—behind, lurk Fear
And Hope, twin Destinies; who ever weave 5
Their shadows, o'er the chasm, sightless and drear.
I knew one who had lifted it—he sought,
For his lost heart was tender, things to love,
But found them not, alas! nor was there aught
The world contains, the which he could approve. 10
Through the unheeding many he did move,
A splendour among shadows, a bright blot
Upon this gloomy scene, a Spirit that strove
For truth, and like the Preacher found it not.
Metaphor and Society in Shelley's "Sonnet"
In his sonnet "Lift not the painted veil which those who live," Percy
Bysshe Shelley introduces us to a bleak world that exists behind veils
and shadows. We see that although fear and hope both exist, truth is
dishearteningly absent. This absence of truth is exactly what Shelley
chooses to address as he uses metaphors of grim distortion and radiant
incandescence to expose the counterfeit nature of our world.
Huff focuses her analysis on patterns in Shelley's imagery. In addition, she pays
careful attention to individual words and to how, as the poem unfolds, they create
a certain meaning. That meaning is her interpretation.
The speaker of Shelley's poem presents bold assertions about the
nature of our society. In the opening lines of the poem, he warns the
reader to "Lift not the painted veil which those who live / Call Life"
(1–2). Here, the "painted veil" serves as a grim metaphor for life. More
specifically, the speaker equates the veil with what people like to call
life. In this sense, the speaker asserts that what we believe to be pure
reality is actually nothing more than a covering that masks what really
lies beneath. Truth is covered by a veil of falsehood and is made opaque
with the paint of people's lies.
This painted veil does not completely obstruct our view, but rather
distorts what we can see. All that can be viewed through it are "unreal
shapes" (2) that metaphorically represent the people that make up this
counterfeit society. These shapes are not to be taken for truth. They
are unreal, twisted, deformed figures of humanity, people full of falsities
Most people, however, do not realize that the shapes and images
seen through the veil are distorted because all they know of life is the
veil—this life we see as reality only "mimic[s] all we would believe"
(3), using "colours idly spread" (4) to create pictures that bear little
resemblance to that which they claim to portray. All pure truths are
covered up and painted over until they are mere mockeries. The lies
that cloak the truth are not even carefully constructed, but are created
idly, with little attention to detail. The paint is not applied carefully,
but merely spread across the top. This idea of spreading brings to mind
images of paint slopped on so heavily that the truth beneath becomes
nearly impossible to find. Even the metaphor of color suggests only
superficial beauty—"idly spread" (4)—rather than any sort of pure
beauty that could penetrate the surface of appearances.
What really lies behind this facade are fear and hope, both of which
"weave / Their shadows, o'er the chasm, sightless and drear" (5–6). These
two realities are never truly seen or experienced, though. They exist only
as shadows. Just as shadows appear only at certain times of day, cast only
sham images of what they reflect, and are paid little attention, so too do
these emotions of hope and fear appear only as brief, ignored imitations
of themselves when they enter the artificiality of this chasmlike world.
Peering into a chasm, one cannot hope to make out what lies at the bottom.
At best one could perhaps make out shadows and even that cannot
be done with any certainty as to true appearance. The world is so
large, so caught up in itself and its counterfeit ways, that it can no longer
see even the simple truths of hope and fear. Individuals and civilizations
have become sightless, dreary, and as enormously empty as a chasm.
This chasm does not include all people, however, as we are introduced
to one individual, in line 7, who is trying to bring to light whatever
truth may yet remain. This one person, who defies the rest of the
world, is portrayed with metaphors of light, clearly standing out among
the dark representations of the rest of mankind. He is first presented
to us as possessing a "lost heart" (8) and seeking things to love. It is
important that the first metaphor applied to him be a heart because
this is the organ with which we associate love, passion, and purity. We
associate it with brightness of the soul, making it the most radiant spot
of the body. He is then described as a "splendour among shadows"
(12), his purity and truth brilliantly shining through the darkness of the
majority's falsehood. Finally, he is equated with "a bright blot / Upon
this gloomy scene" (12–13), his own bright blaze of authenticity burning
in stark contrast to the murky phoniness of the rest of the world.
These metaphors of light are few, however, in comparison to those
of grim distortion. So, too, are this one individual's radiance and zeal too
little to alter the warped darkness they temporarily pierce. This one person,
though bright, is not bright enough to light up the rest of civilization
and create real change. The light simply confirms the dark falsity that
comprises the rest of the world. Shelley gives us one flame of hope, only
to reveal to us what little chance it has under the suffocating veil. Both
the metaphors of grim distortion and those of radiant incandescence work
together in this poem to highlight the world's counterfeit nature.
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Sample Research Paper, MLA Style
Dylan Borchers wrote the following essay, which reports information, for
a first-year writing course. It is formatted according to the guidelines of
the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 6th edition (2003). While
the MLA guidelines are used widely in literature and other disciplines in
the humanities, exact documentation requirements may vary from discipline
to discipline and course to course. If you're unsure about what your
instructor wants, ask for clarification.
Sample Research Paper, APA Style
Against the Odds: Harry S. Truman and the Election of 1948
Karen Stonehill wrote the following paper for a first-year writing course. It
is formatted according to the guidelines of the Publication Manual of the American
Psychological Association, 5th edition (2001). While APA guidelines are
used widely in linguistics and the social sciences, exact requirements may
vary from discipline to discipline and course to course. If you're unsure
about what your instructor wants, ask for clarification.
It's in Our Genes:
The Biological Basis of Human Mating
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