I'm pretty peeved...

I got a lower grade than I should have on this damned paper. Admittedly, that was a B+, and I should be happy with what I got, but here is the reason:

“The analasis is great, Ken, but maybe too obvious.”

He narrowed the scope of the paper down. He gave us a choice of works to write about, and in each work he had a topic. One of the essay choices was “There Was Once” by Margaret Atwood, and the topic political correctness. Well, there really weren’t many choices for this one, so I took it up as a challenge and I think that I did a pretty damned good job. In fact, I’m going to put the (very) short story here, and then my essay. I’ll have you judge, if you’d care too. I really don’t understand why he thinks that my comments are “obvious.” The essay was supposed to be four to five paragraphs long, BTW.

“There Was Once” - Margaret Atwood

  • There was once a poor girl, as beautiful as she was good, who lived with her wicked stepmother in a house in the forest.

  • Forest? Forest is passé, I mean, I’ve had it with all this wilderness stuff. It’s not the right image of our society, today. Let’s have some urban for a change.

  • There was once a poor girl, as beautiful as she was good, who lived with her wicked stepmother in a house in the suburbs.

  • That’s better. But I have to seriously query this word “poor.”

  • But she WAS poor!

  • Poor is relative. She lived in a house, didn’t she?

  • Yes.

  • Then socioeconomically speaking, she was not poor.

  • But none of the money was hers! The whole point of the story is that the wicked stepmother makes her wear old clothes and sleep in the fireplace-

  • Aha! They had a FIREPLACE! With poor, let me tell you, there’s no fireplace. Come down to the park, come to the subway stations after dark, come down to where they sleep in cardboard boxes, and I’ll show you POOR!

  • Stop right there. I think we can cut the BEAUTIFUL, don’t you? Women these days have to deal with too many intimidating physical role models as it is, what with those bimbos in the ads. Can’t you make her, well, more average?

  • There was once a girl who was a little overweight and whose front teeth stuck out, who-

  • I don’t think it’s nice to make fun of people’s appearances. Plus, you’re encouraging anorexia.

  • I wasn’t making fun! I was just describing-

  • Skip the description. Description oppresses. But you can say what color she was.

  • What color?

  • You know. Black, white, red, brown, yellow. Those are the choices. And I’m telling you right now, I’ve had enough of white. Dominant culture this, dominant culture that -

  • I don’t know what color.

  • Well, it would probably be YOUR color, wouldn’t it?

  • But this isn’t ABOUT me! It’s about this girl -

  • Everything is about you.

  • Sounds to me like you don’t want to hear this story at all.

  • Oh well, go on. You could make her ethnic. That might help.

  • There was once a girl of indeterminate descent, as average-looking as she was good, who lived with her wicked-

  • Another thing. GOOD and WICKED. Don’t you think you should transcend those puritanical judgemental moralistic epithets? I mean, so much of that is conditioning, isn’t it?

-There was once a girl, as average-looking as she was well-adjusted, who lived with her stepmother, who was not a very open and loving person because she herself had been abused in childhood.

  • Better. But I am so TIRED of negative female images! And stepmothers- they always get it in the neck! Change it to stepFATHER, why don’t you? That would make more sense anyway, considering the bad behavior you’re about to describe. And throw in some whips and chains. We all know what those twisted, repressed, middle-aged men are like -

  • HEY, JUST A MINUTE! I’M A MIDDLE AGED -

  • Stuff it, Mister Nosy Parker. Nobody asked you to stick in your oar, or whatever you want to call that thing. This is between the two of us. Go on.

  • There was once a girl-

  • How old was she?

  • I don’t know. She was young.

  • This ends with a marriage, right?

  • Well, not to blow the plot, but - yes.

  • Then you can scratch the condescending paternalistic terminology. It’s WOMAN, pal. WOMAN.

  • There was once -

  • What’s this WAS, ONCE? Enough of the dead past. Tell me about NOW.

  • There -

  • So?

  • So, what?

  • So, why not HERE?


Aaand… my essay:

The demands placed on authors to produce “acceptable” works of literature by editors, politicians, and political activists is great in these times. However, in their effort to avoid political gaffes, they inadvertently use narrow-minded and often offensive terminology. The busybody editor’s political correctness in “There Was Once” by feminist writer Margaret Atwood is ironically racist and sexist itself.

Bigotry seethes through the editor using the rusty tool of political correctness. First of all, she (for ease of reading and writing, I shall refer to the writer and the author as “she”) asks the would-be author what color her character is. Since in this story (Cinderella ) race has absolutely no relevance (unlike in “The Flowers” by Alice Walker or To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee), her question is not only immmaterial, but it implies that race matters to the editor in real life. When the writer responds in confusion, the editor clarifies by saying “You know. Black, white, red, brown, yellow. Those are the choices. And I’m telling you right now, I’ve had enough of white.” If the editor is not white, she is being quite prejudiced against white people. If the editor is white, she is being condescending to the point of insulting all other races (and insults her own race) by assuming that she owes them a favor by randomly “ethnicizing” a character for no viable plot reason. Digging herself deeper into the ground, the hatemongering editor makes a baseless accusation of racism towards the writer, “Well, it would probably be YOUR color, wouldn’t it?” Unfortunately, this is not where the editor ends her prejudice.

The editor is astonishingly sexist. While she champions the rights and positive attributes of females, she denigrates all males as power hungry sexual deviants. “Change it to stepFATHER, why don’t you? That would make more sense anyway, considering the bad behavior you’re about to describe. And throw in some whips and chains. We all know what those twisted, repressed, middle aged men are like[.]” The editor is explicitly stating that middle aged men actively fantasize or participate in sadomasochistic sexual activities with their stepdaughters. While it would be politically incorrect to insult women in a similar manner, it is perfectly socially acceptable to bash men in a similar way. When a third party (the reader) steps in to defend himself as a middle aged man, she tells him to shut up. “Stuff it, Mister Nosy Parker. Nobody asked you to stick in your oar, or whatever you want to call that thing.” If someone has similar views to the editor, she listens to them to boost her own ego. If (God forbid) the reader has a problem with her work, she doesn’t even want to listen to him; his opinion is invalidated because he is male, and therefore he automatically thinks with his “oar.”

When such rhetoric invades the editors of our media and literature, such people often miss the point of the story and scour it of all traces of sexism (some have labeled the charge against Catcher in the Rye ), racism (Huck Finn), violence (A Clockwork Orange), and (consequently) an interesting story. As was shown in “There Was Once,” when the editor doesn’t listen to the writer or the reader (in this case, with political correctness), the story is ruined.

I don’t know what your teacher considers “too obvious”, but I kinda agree that it’s very easy to see where you’re going from an early start. The editor makes herself very clear when she talks so your explanation is slightly redundant. I don’t think it’s that bad though.

Don’t you want to be obvious when proving a point? If you use all these abstract and unobvious explanations it will leave others confused and lost and the people will not believe what you are trying to prove or point out.

Your essay seems to argue (more or less), “The editor is being an ass, and this is how.” The problem is, that’s not even a question for anyone. Everyone already <i>agrees</i> that what the editor is doing is ridiculous. Some groups, e.g. feminists, would argue, “This is a terrible misrepresentation of how we act!” and other groups will argue, “No it’s not”; and then they’ll both try to explain why. That isn’t even important, because the message of the story is the same regardless.

The story itself is an argument against a trend in modern literature. People now often interpret “realism” as meaning “anti-imaginative”, so that they feel a good novel should depict reality exactly as the average person encounters it. It should be a verbal still-life, in other words. Characters should be everyday and average, and their actions should have no special meaning.

The problem with this view is revealed in the scathing last lines:

“- There -”; “-So?”; “-So, what?”; “-So, why not HERE?”

If the best story is really a story that exactly depicts real life, then what is the point of stories? Why talk about “there”, when you have “here”? Once you’ve eliminated the <i>reason</i> behind a story–the “moral”, so to speak–there’s nothing left by which to measure it except how well it conforms to real life. And if that’s the only criterion, then why even tell stories?

It’s a brilliant little story, I think.

I’ll be blunt - what your teacher was trying to say in an ironically Politically Correct way is that your essay’s focus is on the wrong part of the story.

I’ll break your essay down for you:

<HR>Issue: Is the Political Correctness in the story “There Was Once” over the top and offensive?

Conclusion: Yes, the story is so PC that is becomes offensive.

Reasons:

  1. The editor makes race an issue, even though it is irrelevant, and tries to force whites out of the picture.

  2. The editor makes sex an issue, even though it is irrelevant, and tries to force the negative aspects of the step-mother on to a male figure - even adding more negative characteristics to the character than before.
    <HR>
    While your essay is logical and your reasons support your conclusion, your conclusion addresses the wrong Issue. A better issue for this book would be “Does the story “There Was Once” ridicule and poke fun at Political Correctness in American Society?” An essay following this issue could have a form like this:

<HR>Issue: Does the story “There Was Once” ridicule and poke fun at Political Correctness in American Society?

Conclusion: Yes, it does.

Reasons:

  1. The editor is used to present the various stances brought forth under Political Correctness.
    *These stances are presented as being over-the-top and extreme.

  2. The editor doesn’t actually care what the story’s about, just if it’s PC.

  3. The author’s proposed story is presented as being unbiast in its original form.
    *It becomes biast only after the editor gets a hack at it.
    <HR>

I got sick of the story after you told us to go to the subways and shit. Like you know from experience what being really “poor” is like. and the argumentive narrators are just annoying. It’s just an irritating piece of dreck.

your essay isnt much better. It’s arrogant, and makes me sick.

XWing put it very eloquently. I agree with him completely. If everything was politically correct, then what would be the point?

You haven’t looked between the lines. All you’ve done is look at the text and analyse what it says: You’ve completely forgotten to analyse what the author says. They hardly say the same thing. Both XWing and Green Mage have presented two possible analyses as to what the author says - one of which you would have wanted to present to get an A. To be honest, I’m not even sure it’s worth a B. Anyone who can read can say what a text says, what takes skill is to be able to say what the author says.

I know that the author hates this kind of thing. I probably would have done a better essay if it wasn’t an in class essay in which I had fourty five minutes to do it with no planning, either. :stuck_out_tongue:

Then you gotta learn how to think fast. I have to do shit like this all the time with equal time limits and the hardest part isn’t knowing what the text says, but like Nulani said, what the text means.

Well, I DO know what it means. I wasn’t criticizing the author, I was criticizing people that the author is satirizing in this work. I thought that it was a perfectly valid way to structure my essay.

I agree with some of the things some of the people said, but don’t give your teacher too much credit. Lit teachers are NOTORIOUS for grading papers based on how well your opinion aligns with their’s. Especially the ones that claim they don’t.

I think you did two things that would knock you down to a B. It is a decent essay, but it’s average. You read what it said and you commented on it, but you didn’t comment on the meaning behind it. You did slightly point out the meaning in the conclusion, but the middle part is about something else.
Also, the points you make are the kind of points everyone makes. You should have brought something innovative into the essay. That’s probably what your prof means by obvious. It was unorginal.

Also you seem to relate themes in the story to various books at random without really explaining why a parallel between the two is appropriate in the context of the story. Maybe you should have expand on those a little. Very good diction, though.

whatever man, it’s just an essay. atleast you got a B+ and not a paper bag full of cat livers. fuck I would hate it if one of my teachers did that instead of marking my essay.