Overall timeline of themes and what/how they morphed.

After everyone has created their study guide, maybe a 1 sheet study guide would be good to include time periods and major themes within that period.

Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller

This whole book frustrated me – mostly due to the fact that the narrator, Barbara, is a 60-something old woman who in many ways is manipulative and selfish and asserts herself where she’s not needed under the pretense of caring for her ‘close friend.’

It’s obvious from the beginning of the book that Barbara’s main goal is to control Sheba, both physically and mentally. Her jealousies are overly apparent and just from the way she speaks, it’s clear Barbara holds herself in a very high haughty position. She looks down on the whole staff and no one ever reaches an equal status with her, which was why it was refreshing when she had the whole meltdown about being a lonely spinster.

The uniqueness of Barbara however, is that though she recognizes her feelings of jealousies for attention from Sheba, she does not recognize her own obsession and voyeurism when it comes to Sheba.

And she knows by now not to go too far without me.

The last line of the novel makes her to be more of a pervert than Sheba is, because she comes to see Sheba has being dependent on her – to the sense of treating Sheba as a child. But still, it is clear that the affections she has for Sheba are not maternal, but rather of romantic interest. This is most clearly defined when Sheba has trouble with Polly. Right after Sheba slaps Polly and bursts into tears, Barbara runs after Sheba instead of consoling Polly. She has no inclinations to try and help Polly understand and reconcile with her mother, instead preoccupied with following after Sheba obsessively.

Of course, I know why, really. They tell me because they regard me as safe. Sheba, Bangs, all of them, they make their disclosures to me in the same spirit that they might tell a castrato or a priest – with a sense that I am so outside the loop, so remote from the doings of the great world, as to be defused of any possible threat. […] Being told secrets is not – never has been – a sign that I belong or that I matter. It is quite the opposite: confirmation of my irrelevance. (pg 201)

I had never really realized it before, but to have oneself exposed to gossip really serves as either one of two purposes. 1) To spread the gossip and fit in or 2) to be a confidant.

It’s interesting to note that the two possible reasons for the telling of a secret have completely polar intentions/purposes. Or maybe the two are one and the same? Sheba tells Barbara about her affair with Conelly (mostly) in confidence, but then Barbara goes ahead and turns that confidence into reason #1, by spreading it. Therefore, I don’t really think that there can ever really be more than 1 reason or outcome in the telling of the secret; it will always spread.

The Children’s Hour
By: Lillian Hellman

When I first began reading the play, I thought it was going to be about Mary actually being a good character and about the teachers being wrong about her. However, that ideology was quickly blown away and when her true character was revealed I was a little disappointed but then I couldn’t help but still like her. She was in all essence a manipulative bully (supposedly an ideal personality for sociopaths), but the way in which she was portrayed to be so young and to be so smart in terms of using her resources (ie Rosalie ‘stealing’ the bracelet) to get what she wanted made me admire her in a sense.

When the play got to the part when Martha and Karen were in Mrs. Tilford’s home going on about how the old woman had wronged them, I already began to suspect that it would end up they had a relationship close to what Mary had made them out to have. Martha’s personality from the very beginning was possessive like that of a lover’s, and the way in which Karen spoke so openly to Martha about Mary being a brat and how she hoped the girl wouldn’t return to school the next year made me have little sympathy for them. As teachers, I thought their discussion was very unprofessional, regardless of them being close friends and business partners.

In terms of the ending, I thought it was too cliche and dramatic that Martha resorted to killing herself. Her method of shooting herself seemed very masculine as well, since in my experience usually it is the male suicidal characters that use a gun. The gun itself symbolizes masculinity considering the male sex is more gender roled to use such a sweapon. Therefore by Martha using it, it places her to be in the sort of ‘masucline’ role in her and Karen’s relationship. Traditionally females commit suicide by ‘natural’ means – drowning, freezing to death, suffocating.

However, although Martha kills herself in a masculine way, it doesn’t quite negate her role as a woman. It is also traditional for a woman in crises over self-identity to commit suicide (such as Desdemona with her innocence). She is sentimental in the fact that she too, wants revenge on Mrs. Tilford when Karen brings it up (woman’s scorn!) and confesses that she denied her attraction to Karen for the longest time and once that is realized, figures that she can’t live with herself anymore.

~ * ~

Annotation Ideas:

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
By: Amy Chua

Tea That Burns: A Family Memoir of Chinatown
By: Bruce Edward Hall

Typical American
By: Gish Jen

The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts
By: Maxine Hong Kingston

China Men
By: Maxine Hong Kingston

The Joy Luck Club
By: Amy Tan

Chua, Amy. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. New York: Penguin, 2011. Print.

Hall, Bruce Edward. Tea That Burns: A Family Memoir of Chinatown. New York: Free Press, 1998. Print.

Jen, Gish. Typical American. New York: Plume, 1992. Print.

Kingston, Maxine Hong. China Men. New York: Vintage, 1989. Print.

Kingston, Maxine Hong. The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts. New York: Vintage, 1989. Print.

Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club. New York: Penguin, 2006. Print.

 

 

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