Monday, September 21, 2009

Quick update with a dry essay

So...I thought I would update really quickly before I set forth on my epic adventure of reading through the stacks in...making sure every book is in the exact place it's supposed to be and such...should be fun but I have no music to listen to because i don't own an ipod or mp3 player or anything :P oh well..that was my choice haha

I've got studying to do tonight for a test tomorrow after my shelf reading! wish me luck!!!

So this is my english essay that I turned in last week and I thought I would put it up...and yes...i know it is boring . This book (Fever 1793) is one that I recommend to anybody and everybody. yes it is a younger audience and mainly girls but it is still worth reading and is a very quick read! (it is also a billion kazillion time better than this essay haha!!!)
p.s. love you mom and dad!!! =D

LeeAnn Schaefer
September 17, 2009
ENG 218
Literature Worth Reading
Literature is commonly defined as simply a written work. Literature includes many works from different genres and of varying degrees of quality. One of the many genres of literature is fiction, which are works that may be based on facts but are not factual as a whole. There are many things contribute to the quality of a book and the power it has over its reader. I believe in order to be an exceptional piece of fictional literature, like Fever 1793 by Laurie Anderson, it must contain engaging imagery, characters that you have an interest in and a plot that is ever moving and keeps you guessing what is next.
A key component to good fictional literature is the use of imagery when telling the story. Imagery needs to have a balance in which there is enough detail provided but the descriptions are not overwhelming. This is echoed by John Gardner when he says, “A scene will not be vivid if the writer gives too few details to stir and guide the reader’s imagination; neither will it be vivid if the language the writer uses is abstract instead of concrete (Gardner, ¶ 6).” Imagery allows us to see what is going on and to have a distinct mental image when we are merely reading the words. When a writer uses imagery to its full potential the reader will be able to see the events in the story unfolding with a clear mental image (like a movie in the minds eye). In Fever 1793, Laurie Anderson used imagery to its full potential when writing, “I jolted awake. Moonlight spilled in through the open windows. I rubbed my eyes, trying to sort out where the nightmare stopped and the waking world began. My sheets and shift were soaked through with sweat, blood and the foul-smelling black substance that marked a victim of yellow fever (Pg. 98).” Here Anderson does not overload the reader with words or explain every little thing that happens. She gives enough information for the reader to see what Mattie sees while allowing us to understand the full scope of the situation. Imagery, though a simple component to writing, is absolutely essential to keeping the reader engaged and informed.
Another instrumental factor that enables written works to be considered good fictional literature is the plot of the story. Even if the imagery is excellent the reader still can become uninterested if the plot is stagnant. According to A Short Guide to Writing About Literature, “plot has two meanings: (1) what happens, the basics of the narrative, and (2) the writer’s arrangement of structuring of the material into a story (Pg. 131).” A Short Guide to Writing About Literature goes on to discuss important elements of plot such as conflict, progression and a resolution. The progression of the plot determines whether or not the plot is moving and keeping the reader actively interested or if the book is becoming torturous to read. Laurie Anderson keeps the plot moving in Fever 1793 when telling Mattie’s story. The story starts with what seems to be a normal day but Mattie learns that her childhood friend Polly died from this new mysterious illness. As the story continues more and more cases of deaths from the fever and escalates until Mattie has to flee the city to save herself from the fever. When she cannot escape the city she becomes ill. After barely surviving, Anderson keeps the plot moving constantly from Mattie’s grandfather dying to her taking in an orphan and helping out the sick. Even to the end of the story Anderson keeps the plot ever-moving with Mattie’s new and tough decisions that come with starting a new life.
Probably the most influential element that a good piece of fictional literature has is the character. The reader needs to be interested in the character in order to have a desire to read about them. One of the most common ways for the character to interest the reader is that the character is changing and growing as the story progresses. In Fever 1793, the character Mattie is a great character that keeps the reader interested in the story. Mattie goes through many changes in facing the fever and the difficulties of living through crisis, being alone, and having an uncertain future, etc. She adapts and finds ways to overcome these obstacles. Anderson creates an interest in Mattie for the readers at the very beginning of the book when she describes a usual morning for Mattie: “I yawned and stretched, then snuggled back onto my pillow. A few more minutes’ rest, that’s what I needed (Pg. 2).” Countless people have gone through mornings of exactly this fashion. Here she shows Mattie as a child and normal everyday person and allows the readers to relate with her. As the story goes on and Mattie faces the threat of the fever the reader sees Mattie change and grow out of this child role. When Mattie cared for her grandfather after they were abandoned she was forced to change and adapt. She used information her grandfather had taught her to find water and berries. Later in the story a pivotal point in her transformation from a child to an adult occurs. Mattie stood up to the gravediggers and convinced them that her grandfather be put to rest with a prayer by saying slowly and clearly, “This was a great man, Captain William Farnsworth Cook, of the Pennsylvanian Fifth Regiment. He was my grandfather. You will not bury him without a prayer (Pg. 153-154).” The Mattie at the beginning of the book would never have been able to stand up to men in this fashion let alone command their respect with her words. As the story finishes the reader is shown how Mattie deals with the new responsibilities of adulthood and surviving; keeping the reader interested until the end where her transformation is complete.
The plot and characters are, by themselves, two very important elements of good fictional literature. However, the “…plot and character are inseparable. Plot is a series not simply of happenings, but of happenings that come out of character, that reveal character, and that influence character (Barnet, Pg. 133).” Simply telling us about the character will not do. The reader needs to care about the character in order to want to read what happens to them. Anderson executes this perfectly in Fever 1793. Right from the start she creates a connection between the reader and the character Mattie. Throughout the book the reader cares about Mattie and the challenges she faces. The reader can see the changes that Mattie takes to overcome the challenges and through all of those changes the reader still is interested in her.
With these three key elements- plot, imagery, and characters -truly good fiction is born. When there is a book that instantly engages the reader there are lessons that can be learned and an understanding of another time, or another type of character, can occur. Ernest Hemingway once said that “all good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse, and sorrow, the people and places and how the weather was (Quote, ¶ 25).” Without engaging imagery, characters in which you can feel empathy for and a plot that is ever moving and keeps you guessing what is next, you cannot have good fictional literature.

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