Personal responses

Personal response #6 (novel)

Perks of being a wallflower: Highly recommended

Author: Shephen Chbosky

Published: February 1st, 1999

Perks of being a wallflower is an enticing coming of age novel about a boy named Charlie, who faces common struggles and issues that have been shaping teenage society for decades, with anything from depression and anxiety, to underage drinking and partying. The book is a compilation of letters, where Charlie recounts his experiences of all the struggles and joys of high school. It looks into deep but often underlying themes such as love, family, friendship, passivity, and sadness, in a way in which the reader can either relate to their own lives, or understand easily. The author, Stephen Chbosky, has said in several interviews that this novel was loosely based on his own adolescence, even stating “I do see life the way Charlie does. Actually, it was writing the book that made me understand I had so many of these thoughts and feelings about people and the world.” I personally found this book showed me a perspective on the life of a teenager I hadn’t previously seen, read about, or experienced, as many of the issues and actions taken by the characters in the book were not things that have happened to me before.

Charlie and his story had a bigger impact on my life than I could have imagined. I often found it hard to relate to him throughout the novel, as he chooses to live his life on the sidelines, and observe activities rather than get involved, as described in the quote “He’s a wallflower. You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand.” It was interesting to read about his character in these parts because it contrasts to how I have previously lived my life, where I have based my perspectives through my involvement in activities, rather than my observations. Charlie has shown me that sometimes, to gain a wider perspective on everything that’s happening, you need to take a step back and just observe and understand the way other people work, as shown by the quote “Sometimes people use thought to not participate in life.” In relation to this however, I also felt that Charlie never really got the most out of his life as he only saw things through the actions of others, and showed me the importance of getting involved, “Standing on the fringes of life… offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.” This view of Charlie’s character contrasted with the character of Alaska in the novel Looking For Alaska, who loved getting involved, and hated living on the sidelines. This comparison would help the reader to understand the message of the importance of getting involved. There were also times where I greatly admired Charlie, such as how he based all of his actions on the actions, thoughts, and feelings of his friends. He would do anything for any of his friends, but never did anything for himself.“If you care about somebody, you should want them to be happy. Even if you wind up being left out.” It showed Charlie as such a caring character, where he was willing to put his friend’s happiness before himself, and reminded me that we often don’t take enough time to care for and appreciate those that surround us. Charlie taught me that sometimes being a wallflower has its perks, but the majority of the time it’s far more valuable to get involved. Charlie’s passive way of living life may not be the best example to show other year twelve students, but it will teach them different perspectives that their peers may hold, and the reasons behind why people are less inclined to get involved. This can be shown by the quote “You can’t just sit there and put everyone’s lives ahead of yours and think that counts as love. You just can’t. You have to do things.”

The main message in the text is the importance of understanding the divergence that is often seen between teenage individuals, and how these experiences shape the way we think, act, and understand. It taught me that there are countless ways in which people are affected by the smallest of things, and to never assume that everyone else views things the same way that I do, as shown by the quote “So I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we’ll never know most of them.” I think that the author used this story to convey his opinions on how teenagers are affected by the society we live in. I loved the way in which he had Charlie posing interesting viewpoints on common experiences, because it showed me how we never really consider the smaller details of things, such as when he said “I walk around the school hallways and look at the people. I look at the teachers and wonder why they’re here. If they like their jobs. Or us. And I wonder how smart they were when they were fifteen. Not in a mean way. In a curious way. It’s like looking at all the students and wondering who’s had their heart broken that day, and how they are able to cope with having three quizzes and a book report due on top of that. Or wondering who did the heart breaking. And wondering why.” This really makes the reader question everyone around them, and be able to link not only Charlie to modern day society and their own lives, but also his ideas, questions, and values.

In today’s society, teenagers and high school students will often face similar issues to those outlined in the book, such as drug and alcohol abuse, homosexuality, or physical and verbal bullying. Students who have had to go through any of these issues might struggle with coming out in the open and talking to others about them. Many times they prefer to keep their struggles to themselves. I think that Perks of Being a Wallflower is an important novel for a year twelve book club to read, because it may help these students to not only relate to the issues discussed and outlined in this book, but it can also help them realise that they are not alone, that they’re not the only people dealing with and facing these issues. Every person should aim to live their life in any way they choose, but this is often conflicted by the fact many people don’t know how to express their feelings and worries to others, without feeling like they’re being judged or laughed at, no matter the issue. “Every person has to live for his or her own life, and then make the choice to share it with other people.”

Overall, I greatly enjoyed reading about the experiences of the characters in the story, because they experienced many aspects of growing up that I haven’t previously been involved in or considered. Charlie once said “It’s strange to describe reading a book as a really great experience, but that’s kind of how it felt,” a quote in which accurately describes my feelings towards the novel. As this novel covers the undeviating truth of growing up, surviving high school, and the importance of everything, I would highly recommend this novel to a year twelve book club. Though the main purpose of the book is to show the readers the advantages of viewing the chaos of the adolescent world as Charlie did, it doesn’t set a great example of how a young person should live life. For this reason, I wouldn’t recommend it to readers younger than year twelve, or readers who are still at an impressionable mental age, as Charlie isn’t portrayed as the best of role models. I feel that the most important lesson a reader in year twelve can learn from this is that growing up may be hard, but we have the choice on whether or not we enjoy it.

“Enjoy it. Because it’s happening.”

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Personal response #5 (Short story)

The Snows of Kilimanjaro: Recommended

Author: Ernest Hemingway

It was first published in Esquire magazine in 1936

“You know the only thing I’ve ever lost is curiosity”

It is not uncommon for many people in this day and age to lose their curiosity in living. They start to question the ‘what ifs?’ They want to know if they truly got the most out of their lives, and whether their purpose was fulfilled. This short story looks into the life of a character called Harry, who ventured on an African Safari, in an attempt to rid his lazy life of luxury and procrastination. An unfortunate accident meant that a dying Harry and his wife were stranded in a small African village, while waiting for an emergency aeroplane to be sent from Nairobi. During his last few hours, we see Harry begin to reminisce over his life, and it looks into the regrettable decisions he had made. This short story greatly affected the way I viewed the world, because the author used many connections between the characters and other non-human symbols to help portray ideas and themes throughout the text. His use of language features also assisted this. The decisions made by the characters all bring important life lessons that readers in year twelve can learn from, which is why I would recommend this short story to other people my age. The author, Ernest Hemingway, is a well known American author, and is a very talented writer. I would also recommend other works of his to a year twelve book club.

I loved reading the symbolism that was used throughout the text, because it allowed me to easily make links between the story and modern day issues. For example, the mountain was represented as a place of purity and happiness in the story. After some research on what this symbol could represent, I found that historically, it was common for civilisations to chose the tallest mountain in their area to represent where God, or his immortality lives. This not only helped me understand this symbol in the story, but also in today’s society. I feel that without symbolism like this, the story would be hard to relate to as it was written in 1936, and has fewer ideas that other year twelves and myself could relate to modern day, compared to other texts I have studied. The author also used his writing style to project these ideas to the audience in a systematic way, by adapting his sentence structure and language features, depending on the ideas, messages, or themes he was attempting to portray. As the symbol of the mountain represented happiness and religion, it allowed me to understand the connection between Harry’s desperation for a positive afterlife, and why he thought he would find this on the mountain. In the story, Harry saw it as a symbol of an idealistic life that was pure and true. This helped me understand the perspective of a dying person, and why they suddenly began religious practices. This was a perspective I hadn’t previously considered as I have never been in that situation before. At the beginning of the story I didn’t like Harry’s character, as he was very lazy, and used people for the benefits they could provide, as shown by the quote “He had destroyed his talent by not using it, by betrayals of himself and what he believed in, by drinking so much that he blunted the edge of his perceptions, by laziness, by sloth, and by snobbery, by pride and by prejudice, by hook and by crook…It was strange, too, wasn’t it, that when he fell in love with another woman, that woman should always have more money than the last one?”. However, by the end of the text I felt pity for him, as he mistook taking advantage of his life, for taking advantage of people and was only now realising it, realising that he’d taken so much for advantage and now his time was running out, as shown by the quote “He had seen the world change … He had been in it and he had watched it and it was his duty to write of it; but now he never would.” This links to today’s society because many people are terrified of dying because they feel they haven’t achieved everything they set out to do, but it teaches us that sometimes kindness, even in the smallest of forms, allows us be happy anyway.

An underlying theme in the text was unrequited love, shown in the text as the relationship between Harry and his wife, Helen. Harry explains that he never really loved her, but simply stuck with her because she was able to provide the income and outrageous lifestyle he so desperately desired. This can be linked to the character of Charlie, in Perks of Being a Wallflower, who felt an unrequited love for his best friend. This link may help the reader understand Harry and Helen’s relationship, as Charlie’s feeling would be more relatable to a teenage audience, and was shown from an opposite perspective. He felt guilty for using her like this, but also felt that “if he lived by a lie he should try to die by it.” The author managed to portray these feelings in a way that it was easy to understand Harry’s perspective on this issue, through anecdotes of stories from Harry’s past. While reading this part of the story, I felt that it was unfair of Harry to use Helen for her money, but I also felt that even though he didn’t love her, she still loved him, and he still made her feel much, much happier. It was because of this that I found I wasn’t as angry with Harry over his choices, because in the end, they were both happy with the outcome. This taught me that even though we can make wrong choices in life; these wrong choices can still make us happy, even if it isn’t in the way that was initially intended. The lesson I learnt from this would also be important for other people my age to learn, because many young teenagers often make many mistakes, no matter what areas of their lives it’s in. This teaches us that even if we make mistakes, it’s not the end of the world, and even if things doesn’t go exactly as we planned, good things can still arise from them.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this short story. In some parts I found it hard to understand the wording because it was written a very long time ago, but you can still understand what the author is trying to portray. The lessons, ideals, symbols, and underlying themes that are written throughout the text really show the authors capabilities, and will help readers of any age understand complicated, modern day issues, in a simple and understandable manner. It was because of this that I would recommend this short story to a year twelve book club.

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Personal response #4 (Documentary)

The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz:  Recommended

Director: Brian Knappenberger

Category: Film (Documentary)

When I watched this documentary, I truly believed it would be another film on some unknown guy that made something that changed the world. However, I did not expect to be so outraged at the American justice system, and to feel motivated to stand up for the rights of people from all over the world. The Internet’s Own Boy is a documentary on a man called Aaron Swartz. He was a child prodigy, and a gifted computer programmer. “If you had a magical power, would you use it for doing good in the world, or for making piles of money?” Aaron believed that programming was a super power. He started working on projects for the good of the people, he started to fight the government when they wanted to pass bills that could harm internet users, he stood up for everything he believed in, and then fought the justice system with it tirelessly. He made me realise that the world was far from perfect, and that that’s okay, through the message that anyone, anywhere, can help change the world, you just have to start by fighting for what you believe in. Young adults and other people in year twelve need to watch this documentary because it enlightens the viewer on how badly corrupted the world is, and how it’s vital that we start to change that. This lesson is invaluable to learn because it’s shaping the future we’re about to grow up in, the future our children will grow up in.

Throughout the film, Aaron signified my ideas on how important it is to change the modern day culture we are forced to live with, and symbolised the links between the individual struggles he faced in the documentary, and modern day society. The lessons he taught in the documentary showed me how ordinary people from ordinary places really do have an undeniable power that will allow us to adapt the political opinions of billions of people. This was represented in the text through his tireless attempts at fighting the government, when the freedom of speech and innovation online was threatened. “On the internet, everyone gets a license to speak, it’s a question of who gets heard”. This quote represents his idea on how the digital freedom of our society is important, especially as technology is ever evolving in this day and age, because the internet has proposed a way in which people from all walks of life have the opportunity to advertise their opinions, and the choice of who gets heard between these millions of people, should be up to us. Not the government. This is why when the government was passing a bill that threatened this freedom, Aaron was right up there trying to stop it getting passed. I greatly admired Aaron’s courage to stand up to such a powerful political body, and now believe in the importance of Aaron’s willingness to sacrifice all he had done, for the good of the people. He saw a problem with the government, and set out to fix it using the power of people. This made me question why the American government was so adamant on keeping the bill, when so many people were against it, and showed me the perspective of someone who felt powerless to the hands of the government, a perspective I hadn’t previously considered. He taught me that it’s easy to feel powerless and like you can’t make a difference in the world, but if you keep persisting and protesting, and doing everything in your power to change something, sometimes you really can. I greatly enjoyed this part of the documentary because it surprised me on how much they achieved. It taught me how powerful a group of people can be. I also think that this part of the film would be valuable for year twelves to see, because it shows how effective protesting is, and how important it is to develop our society.

“Aaron wasn’t trying to make the world work. He was trying to fix it.” This quote portrays Aaron’s ideas on this, where we can understand how he believes that the world doesn’t need to just “work”, it’s already pretty good, we just need to fix it a little bit. By doing this, we can make a safer and more positive environment for everyone. I found this was an important mindset to consider, and enjoyed seeing this message delivered to the people through the eyes of Aaron. “Aaron believed that you ought to be asking yourself all of the time “What is the most important thing I could be working on in the world right now?” and if you’re not out working on that, why aren’t you?” From the whole documentary, I think that this quote had the biggest impact on my views, and the most relation to today’s society, because it showed me that there are so many problems that wouldn’t even exist if people just took their daily lives, and worked on the things that were wrong, the most important taking priority. This message can also be related to the message given in the poem So You Want to be a Writer?, where it shows the importance of pursuing activities that you’re passionate about and can change the world with. Young adults and year twelve could learn so much from this, because not only does this quote aim to push change, but it would also create more positive lives for people. Aaron’s ideas were well portrayed in the documentary, and I felt that the lessons I have highlighted would be very important for year twelves to learn, and therefore I would highly recommend this to other people my age. This part of the film shows how desperately we need change in order for our society to move forward. We are letting modern day be decided by the old world “He was the internet’s own boy, and the old world killed him.” Today, too many people believe that things should be as they were, because that’s how it’s always been, and we need to change that.

The reason I would recommend this documentary so highly to a year twelve book club, is because it showed me the perspectives of victims who hadn’t done anything drastically wrong. People who were actually doing more good than bad by breaking the law, something I hadn’t previously considered. That, for me, really showed how corrupted the American justice system is, if they’re willing to prosecute and bring people to suicide who could be the reason we find the cure to cancer. It made me consider whether sometimes the ethical ways of society are more realistic than the law. Several of the research papers that Aaron gave out helped a young scientist to find a way to detect pancreatic cancer early, a cancer that previously was only detected when it was too late. The American justice system killed Aaron, even though he could be the reason that their children get to live longer, happier lives. If that doesn’t prove there’s a problem, I don’t know what does. I think year twelves would also be interested in understanding the things that Aaron fought for, because even if you don’t go and try to bring down laws and government actions, it’s equally important to question everything.

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Personal response #3 (Film)

The Imitation Game: Highly recommended

Director: Morten Tyldum

Category: Film

“Sometimes it is the people no one can imagine anything of who do the things no one can imagine.”

The Imitation Game is a war movie, in which the characters are ordinary people, with ordinary lives, from ordinary parts of the world, doing seemingly ordinary tasks. However, they created history. They were the war heroes no one knew, because they fired maths equations rather than bullets. The Imitation Game has characters that we can relate to even though it was based on times far before our ours, and this is possibly why it’s a good recommendation for year 12 students. They can have an understandable and relatable insight into what life was like for those that didn’t go to war, but still changed the world.

Alan, the main character in the movie, was a very strange man. He saw things very differently from everyone else, which was a reason why seeing his character in the movie was so interesting to watch. He thinks logically, and doesn’t let feelings sway his verdicts on how to solve problems, as shown by the quote, “Sometimes we can’t do what feels good. We have to do what is logical.” We get so used to thinking like everyone else, being like everyone else, acting like everyone else, that seeing someone do the opposite shows just how different human beings can be from one another. Personally, Alan was one of my favourite characters in the film because he showed me that humans are still the same, even if perceive and react to situations differently. I preferred him to the other characters, because he was so very different, and made me see how superficial humans can sometimes act in order to impress others. I also thought that this part of the film related well to society because many people worry that being different is wrong. “Now, if you wish you could have been normal… I can promise you I do not. The world is an infinitely better place precisely because you weren’t.” This is another quote said by Joan, telling Alan that his difference is what changed the world. That because he thought and saw things differently, he made the world different. Better. This is a very important lesson for young adults to learn, that we should embrace our differences, rather than reject them. The film was about a very strange, and different man, who changed the world with his difference. However, it was the same world that changed him. He altered the history of the world. He saved more lives than any soldier could have, yet the world still looked down upon his difference, even when it was the very thing that saved it’s humanity. So many people in today’s society try to be like everyone else because they feel that that’s what the world needs, but one of Alan’s most memorable flaws was that he believed in this too. Alan didn’t want his difference. He wanted to be normal, and to be allowed to live like a normal person. We need to teach people that this is the wrong way of thinking. Joan was one of the few characters who told him: No. The world is better because of you, you might want to be normal but normal doesn’t want to be you. Different does. And that’s okay. I thought that this part of the film was the most relatable because it teaches us that different is okay, and that different is what changes things, not normality, similar to the ideas of accepting who you are written about in Perks of Being a Wallflower, a previous text I read about.

The ideas and themes shown in the film is possibly one of the reasons it had such a big impact on my view of the world. It’s relatable because it’s main message is that people need to be real, be themselves to change the world. A main idea that runs throughout the movie is this perception of the world where anything is possible, similar to the ideas and actions taken by characters in The Internet’s Own Boy, a documentary I also watched. A few men built a supercomputer to crack a code thought to be impossible. There are few lessons more important to teach young adults than the idea that anything is possible, and therefore makes this film such a good recommendation. The plot is filled with unexpected surprises and life changing decisions – not only for the characters, but also for us. The storyline was deep and imaginative, and so were the characters. They were portrayed in such an ordinary way, that it’s easy to relate to them, to understand what they did, even on a basic level, and therefore understand what historic roles they played. They’re the war heroes that make sense. The war heroes that saved more lives than any soldiers, and probably killed more too, just from a room in small town England. Throughout the film, you slowly develop a much better understanding of the characters, and how the roles they played changed the world for good. This film was loosely based on a true story, and therefore students in year 12 would both immensely enjoy the film, and learn many historical things from it.This part of the film taught me the importance of opinions and perspectives. The machine was able to crack the German codes, and allow the British to know exactly where the Germans were, and where they were headed. Alan’s colleagues saw this as a way to save everyone in the firing line of the Germans, but Alan knew that they couldn’t do that. They had to let people die to make sure the German’s didn’t know they’d cracked the code. His unemotional response to killing British soldiers is why people began to question his humanity, and therefore compare him to a machine. “Was I god? No. Because God didn’t win the war. We did.” This quote explains how during the war, they played God. They chose who lived and who died. They sent warnings to people, they ignored others. They defied moral authority. But, like they said, the real god didn’t win the war. The real god didn’t alter history and change who won. They did. The opinions and perspectives of these characters showed sides of war that haven’t previously been portrayed effectively in other war movies. This is another reason why I greatly enjoyed the film, and why it would be such a good recommendation to other people my age.

I would highly recommend this film to a year twelve group because it has taught me so many invaluable lessons that many people are yet to learn. This age group is still impressionable, and can learn some very real, hard hitting lessons that are hard to learn in today’s society, such as the importance of patience and sacrifice. I felt that I could relate easily to Alan through his contrast with the other characters. I feel that people can appreciate how the ideas and messages in the text weren’t sad, depressing, and filled with death and darkness, unlike many other war films or documentaries. War heroes are usually portrayed as innocent boys forced to grow up to be killers, and if they didn’t kill, they would get killed. They make the characters almost unrelatable because of the things they’re put through, and as as result, many people struggle to relate to them because the setting of the film is such a contrast to their own. This film is different. It’s not just a story of war and death. It’s not another depressing, action packed, murderous film, nor is it a scientific documentary on the technological advancements war created. No. It’s a story about a boy, who grows up to be more than anyone could have imagined. It’s a love story. It’s a thriller. It’s a comedy. It’s very relatable for teenagers today, allowing us to learn many important lessons from the characters, and this is why I would recommend this film to a year twelve book club.

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Personal response #2 (Poem)

So you want to be a writer?: Recommended

Poet: Charles Bukowski

Category: Poetry

Poets and fiction writers gain their fame and fortune by making stuff up. They lie, they cheat, the words they use are deceitful. This poem is different. It tells the cold, hard, undeviating truth of so many things – do what you love and love what you do. If what you’re doing doesn’t make you excited, if you’re not passionate about doing it, don’t do it. Even if you believe that this is what the world needs, whether that be more writers, doctors, etc., do not do it unless you love it. This is the main message in the poem, in which the author accurately portrays easily. When I researched other poems by this author, they had very similar themes and styles but changes in topic, meaning I would also recommend other pieces by this poet as well.

Possibly one of the parts I enjoyed most about the poem was the way the author wrote it. He managed to write such a complicated truth so simply, in a way that’s not only easy to read, but allows you to really think about what the poem is trying to explain. To me, this is an important quality of any piece of text, and has been developed well in this poem. I think that people could perceive this poem to be promoting not becoming a writer because of the way it’s worded and laid out. He has structured this poem exactly as we would organise our own thoughts on the matter, in a repetitive and structured manner that manages to make as much and as little sense as possible, all at the same time, giving it a more immature feel. However, I believe that this poem explains that writing, and any other career, should not be something you need to force, it shouldn’t be difficult or cause stress, and it shouldn’t be something you tell yourself you should do because it’s what other people are doing. Do not follow other people’s passions. Follow your own. What he means is while writing, it should just happen, it should flow from you and should be your natural way of expressing yourself. He also explains that just because writing may not be your passion, it doesn’t mean that you’re passionless, it simply means you haven’t found yours yet. And that’s okay. As this poem has been written in such a focused, easy to understand way, the use of language features and structured ideas has created a format for the poem that would greatly help a year twelve understand the mess of ideas discussed.

I personally believe that the message and ideas of having a love and passion for what you do with your life that this poem explains, is so relatable to people of many ages, especially young adults. This may be because we are still bouncing ideas around of what we want to do, and who we want to be, we are still ignited by a passionate, frenetic energy that hasn’t yet been substituted for broken dreams and too many debts. This idea can be linked to the messages and themes present in short stories such as The Snows of Kilimanjaro. Charles Bukowski has managed to guide us with his ideas on only following your passions, which is a critical lesson teenagers must learn before making any future choices or decisions. I personally felt that the ideas in this poem were relatable because of this repetitive mantra shown in excerpts like “if you’re doing it for money or/fame,/don’t do it,” where the author explains the real reasons for doing something. Young adults and teenagers can relate to this well because we are all in situations where we need to start deciding on careers, on our future goals, on our lives, and this poem teaches us an important lesson of never do something for its rewards, always follow your passions because the rewards you’d reap from that would be far more valuable than any amount of money or fame could be to you, which can be shown by comparing this poem with the character of Harry in the short story I mentioned previously. My response to this is that these ideas the poet portrayed have been written so angrily and seriously that it makes you want to listen. I like that a poet can draw your attention and make you try and understand the deeper meanings of their poems because it makes the piece of writing more influential on you and your life, and makes you really consider exactly what the poem conveys, and exactly why it was written. This is why it would be an excellent piece of writing for a year 12 book club to read.

I would definitely recommend this poem to a year twelve book club because it has hard-hitting messages that are so relevant. The links between the topic of writing in the poem, and a career is very clear, and can also be related to other aspects of society. In general, a good thing to keep in mind is that you shouldn’t pursue something because you think that is what’s needed to make a positive change, whether that be becoming a doctor, or a volunteer firefighter, you should pursue something because you can make it into something that changes the world, no matter how insignificant it might seem to you now. This poem is a good recommendation for a year twelve book club, and is important because it shows Charles Bukowski writing as if he were reflecting his own poem – passionate.

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Looking for Alaska: Highly recommended

Author: John Green

Category: Teen fiction (novel)

Publisher: HarperCollins

The novel Looking For Alaska by John Green, is a novel looking into the lives of three teenagers from very different backgrounds, who live together in an American boarding school for their senior year. Together they act like your average reckless teenagers: drinking, swearing, pulling pranks, and breaking almost every rule in the book. This is possibly why the characters are so easily relatable and hilarious to read about, because they are based off the stereotypes of today’s generation of teenagers. “The nice thing about the constant threat of expulsion at Culver Creek is that it lends excitement to every moment of illicit pleasure. The bad thing, of course, is that there is always the possibility of actual expulsion”. By taking every opportunity to do something reckless, dangerous, daring, or just plain stupid, the characters in the book are exactly what we want to be, and do the very things that we’ve never quite had the guts to attempt. It takes the time to explain the thought process behind many activities performed by teenagers, and as a result, produces many different lessons that a year twelve book club can learn from.

John Green has managed to pull off a writing style that is both an easy and challenging read, but accurately defines how teenagers act and think through how we communicate best: our actions, arguments, conversations, and confusing mixed signals. He has used witty comments, and quick comebacks, items taken from everyday dialogue, most commonly seen in the vocabulary of teenagers. It’s just a book that’s fun to read. You create a connection with the characters. They make you laugh, cry, worry, and feel like you’re almost as much as part of the story as they are. He describes the characters through conversations between themselves, and is able to express their feelings and perspectives without it being heavy and hard to read. This relates well to society because when we meet new people, we find out who they are through conversations both with the person and with other people about them. He has described and portrayed the characters in a way that we would meet others in real life, rather than just writing down exactly who they were, what they looked like, and how they thought. This connection not only allows us to contrast it with today’s society, but also be introduced to the characters as if we were meeting them on the street, as if they’re actual people. Depending on the topic of conversation, Green is able to alter his style of writing depending on what he wants the reader to understand. For example, the bits of arguments and action between the characters and their relationships are often fast paced dialogue to allow him to fit more into the story, whereas the parts where he wants you to understand deeper meanings and philosophical concepts, he uses long paragraphs with detailed descriptions that are easy to follow, just to ensure the reader doesn’t get too confused. By stretching out these parts of the story, he allows the reader time to absorb the information he’s feeding, and to revitalise the story before speeding off into the next fast paced section of the book. I have found that this makes the story easier to read, and means that you are always able to understand what’s going on in the book. All of the reasons here means it makes Looking for Alaska a good recommendation for a year twelve book club.

“How will I ever escape this Labyrinth?” A simple question that could lead to a million answers, possibilities, and never ending confusion. What is the Labyrinth, and how to escape it is exactly what Miles, Chip, and Alaska spend much of their time wondering, and one of the few constant ideas through a story line packed with mischief, friendship, unrequited love, and life changing plot twists. I loved learning about this because it draws readers in to conclude their own ideas on what the labyrinth is. I think that for young people, the Labyrinth is an important idea that represents this never ending maze of long school days, and what happens when we are no longer teenagers. The characters in the book link it to what happens after you die, but for a teenage audience, this can easily be related to what happens after you leave home – because in some ways, it’s almost like you’re losing one life to start on another. You spend each day searching this maze, learning new paths and occasionally getting a grasp on where you are, where you’re going, and what you’re doing, just as the maze changes, turns, or flips upside down. It represents the idea that we are not able to leave home and go find our way in the world, we’re too young. But we’re also too old to be shown around and told what to do and how to act. Instead we are stuck in this middle ground, the Labyrinth, where nothing is ever as it seems, and the only constant is change and confusion. Looking for Alaska taught me that there is no escape to the Labyrinth, you just have to keep on going, and take every piece of advice and information you can. To escape, you have to try, to get out of your comfort zone, to make new friends, lose old friends, do stupid and reckless activities. But the only way to escape, is to enjoy and value you the time that you have there, because once you escape you’re all on your own – you don’t even have the high walls and shelter from the real world to keep you company.

This book is such a good recommendation for a year 12 book club because gives subtle insight into a deeper meaning for our own lives. It is a book directed at teens, yet has challenging content that has been portrayed in an easy to understand way by involving them into such ordinary lives.

This novel looks into very deep and detailed themes that are very interesting to learn about. I found that the reason I enjoyed this novel was because it had characters who symbolised people that I would want to be friends with in real life, and taught me lessons I wouldn’t have previously learnt about. This can be linked to the themes discussed in another novel, Perks of Being a Wallflower, where the characters teach the reader the importance of getting involved. These two texts contrast each other nicely, and back up the messages portrayed in both stories: the importance of getting involved, and the struggles of high school. This is why I would so highly recommend this novel to a year twelve book club.

English exam reflection

To Kill a Mockingbird:

Overall, I think that the novel essay went well because I remembered most of the content I needed, and managed to adapt the essay to the question I wrote about. There were many areas I think I can improve on however, such as a deeper link to conclude each paragraph, or better relation between the theme and characters.

Unfamiliar:

The first two questions of unfamiliar went well, as I thought I understood the questions quite well, but I think I need to work on answering the question more specifically, as I kind of made some parts up that I know I could probably answer, if I had worked a bit harder on unfamiliar text revision. The third question was slightly harder, and took a bit more understanding to answer the question properly.

Overall, I think that I understood the questions and essay, but there are definitely areas to improve in.

Essay questions

There are 6 essay questions from the 8 provided on the list that I will be able to answer after researching characters in To Kill a Mockingbird. These are:

  1. Analyse how shifts in power were used to illustrate one or more themes in the written text(s).
  2. Analyse how language features were used to reveal the attitudes of one or more characters or individuals in the written text.
  3. Couldn’t be answered
  4. Couldn’t be answered
  5. Analyse how language features were used to shape your reaction to one or more ideas in the written text(s).
  6. Analyse how one or more significant events were used to comment on an aspect of society in the written text(s)
  7. Analyse how cruel or kind behaviour was used to show one or more ideas in the written text(s).
  8. Analyse how the ending created a satisfying outcome in the written text(s)

Personal response #6 (Novel 2)

Perks of being a wallflower: Highly recommended

Author: Shephen Chbosky

Published: February 1st, 1999

“He’s a wallflower. You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand.”

Perks of being a wallflower is an enticing coming of age novel that depicts common struggles and issues that have been shaping teenage society for decades. The author discusses deep but often underlying themes such as love, family, friendship, passivity, and sadness, in a way in which the reader can either relate to their own lives, or understand easily. I personally found this book showed me a perspective on the life of a teenager I hadn’t previously seen, read about, or experienced, as many of the issues and actions taken by the characters in the book where not things that have happened to me before. This helped me understand the divergence that is often seen between teenage individuals, and how experiences shape the way we think, act, and understand. I greatly enjoyed reading about the experiences of the characters in the story, because the issues and themes discussed were written in an interesting and often over simplified way that was hard to decipher in some parts. This difficulty, however, only made the story more interesting, because it made you want to see things from the perspectives of the characters, which made the book an enticing and interesting read. It was because of this, and the fact it covered alternative themes and issues in teenage society to my own life, that I would highly recommend this to other readers my age.

Perhaps the part of the story that I found the most interesting was how it was written. The author had formatted the book so that it was a collection of letters from the main character, Charlie, to an unnamed source. The whole book is written solely from one perspective, and is only showing the parts of his life that he deems the most important. This allowed the reader to learn more about the character in a very unique way that profoundly opposes the way we would meet each other in modern day society. In real life and in other books, we meet people or characters through snippets of conversation, by how they treat certain people, by surviving or imagining all kinds of different experiences with them. This story just has Charlie telling you the experiences of his day to day life, but takes the time to expand on how these events have affected him emotionally, and how it has affected the way he views things. “I walk around the school hallways and look at the people. I look at the teachers and wonder why they’re here. If they like their jobs. Or us. And I wonder how smart they were when they were fifteen. Not in a mean way. In a curious way. It’s like looking at all the students and wondering who’s had their heart broken that day, and how they are able to cope with having three quizzes and a book report due on top of that. Or wondering who did the heart breaking. And wondering why.” This quote depicts how Charlie used the letters as a way to express how he was feeling to the reader, and allows us to view him in a way we wouldn’t normally see a person. This quote doesn’t show his perspective or experience of his school life, but rather how he always questions seemingly insignificant events that occur inside his school, and how they flow on to affect the world he lives in. His character was interesting to read about, because you start to engage with his constant curiosity. Instead of reading about a character who saved the world, or who fell in love, you get to see inside this characters mind, you get to empathise with his perceptions and emotions, rather than his actions. This helps the reader to gain a more in depth understanding both of Charlie, and the story. I really enjoyed reading these parts because it also allows you to consider how these seemingly insignificant things have impacted our lives, and the lives of those around us, and how it has affected us more than we could ever know or understand. It is uncommon to find a story that expresses the effects of daily events on our daily lives, and gives the reader a new perspective on how these things have affected more than just the people the events belong to. I think that this way of explaining things in a story to the reader is a kind of universal language, that doesn’t need to be adapted for people from different cultures or backgrounds to understand. This is why I would highly recommend this story to a year 12 book club.

Another fascinating question the story poses but doesn’t cover, is whether Charlie is the one who needs saving, or whether Charlie is the one who saves everyone else. The main basis of the book is that Charlie has a teenage life that is harder than most. His social issues become increasingly apparent as the book progresses, as it outlines how hard it is for him to make friends. This means that when he eventually does conform to a group, he finds it difficult to decipher simple things, like whose side to take in a petty argument, or what he feels about the perspectives of each side. He is such a different to character to those that surround him, that this realisation often has a kind of jarring effect. Charlie is a damaged character, a result of a troubled childhood. But even with all of his imperfections, he still changes the lives of others, by bringing a kind of social balance between the different friendships and relationships in which he observed and participated in. One of the most admirable qualities of Charlie is that he was always willing to help his friends. If it were a story of one of his friends, Charlie would likely be a side character that was known for not saying much and not being considered a valued member of the group, but in Charlie’s story, everyone he talked about he valued and admired. “It’s just hard to see a friend hurt this much. Especially when you can’t do anything except ‘be there.’ I just want to make him stop hurting, but I can’t. So I just follow him around whenever he wants to show me his world.” The quote helps to elaborate on his kindness to those that surrounded him, and that when he didn’t understand what he could do to make a friends bad situation good again, he simply kept them company as they fixed it themselves. He stayed out of the way so he didn’t make the problem worse, he assisted in trying to make it better. Charlie helped me understand the importance of kindness, and how being nice to others can also make you feel just as good. Humans are selfish creatures, and don’t often do things unless it will involve personal gain. This is why the authors approach to explaining the way Charlie was nice to people showed the reader that often being kind can have a bigger impact on you than you would think. This would make people more willing to actually take this characteristic and implement it into their lives, especially teenagers who are often very impressionable to this kind of character. This is why I would recommend this book to a year 12 book club, or other readers my age.

Charlie and his story had a bigger impact on my life than I could have imagined. He taught me the importance of getting involved with things you didn’t think you could do, and how this had the potential to make your life something you wanted to remember, rather than something you had to. His character development was astounding to read, as we watched him grow from a shy, timid wallflower, into a budding and growing sunflower. He went from avoiding every social interaction he could and living life through observations, to realising that sometimes the best thing to do was just get in the middle of it all. “Standing on the fringes of life… offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.” This quote describes how living life in your comfort zone all of the time, can often be quite boring. It shows how there comes a point in life where you just have to get in the middle of it all, you have to get well out of your comfort zone to realise that maybe it’s time to broaden your horizons a little. I think this lesson would be important for some teenagers to learn, as it is becoming more common for people to distance themselves from others, because it’s easier to watch everyone else going through all of these struggles than to have to go through them yourself. “Enjoy it. Because it’s happening.”  This part of the story showed that you can’t go through life as an observer, and that it’s of utmost importance that you get involved sometimes, no matter how badly you’d rather not.

After finishing the book, I found I had gained a far better understanding of how everything we do shapes who we are. “So, I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we’ll never know most of them. But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.” It taught me that no matter how many bad decisions we make, we will always have the opportunity to make better ones, and that we don’t have to be stuck inside cycles of confusion and negativity. This can be easily related to today’s society, especially teenagers, because it’s something that I think everyone needs to keep in mind: just because you may have done bad things, or made some bad choices, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. Just start making some better decisions with your life. Even though I am surrounded by, and am a teenager, this book helped me understand the reasons behind our actions in a positive way. It showed me how no matter how we act, we will still have the memory of these times for years to come, and whether they’re good or bad, they’re the only ones we’ll get. “Maybe it’s sad that these are now memories. And maybe it’s not” The most important lesson this book has to offer is that nothing is more valuable than getting involved. Growing up may be hard, but we have the choice on whether or not we enjoy it.

“Things change. And friends leave. Life doesn’t stop for anybody.”

Personal response #5 (Short story)

The Snows of Kilimanjaro: Recommended

Author: Ernest Hemingway

It was first published in Esquire magazine in 1936

“You know the only thing I’ve ever lost is curiosity”

It is not uncommon for many people in this day and age to lose their curiosity in living. They start to question the ‘what ifs?’ They want to know if they truly got the most out of their lives, and whether their purpose was fulfilled. But as we grow older, this curiosity for what life can bring starts to turn into an unhealthy obsession where we question if we utilised all of the opportunities life has brought. This short story looks into the life of a character called Harry, who started an African safari in an attempt to get rid of his lazy life of luxury and procrastination. He needed to be reminded what it felt like to work for something, to struggle with something, to feel like he was living, instead of the constant, declining cycle of feeling his artistic talents drain as he lived off his wife’s wealth. An unfortunate accident meant that a dying Harry and his wife were stranded in a small African village, while waiting for an emergency aeroplane to be sent from Nairobi. During his last few hours, we see Harry begin to reminisce over his life, and it looks into the regrettable decisions he had made. This short story greatly affected the way I viewed the world, because the author used many connections between the characters and other non-human symbols to help portray ideas and themes throughout the text. His use of language features also assisted this. The decisions made by the characters all bring important life lessons that readers in year twelve can learn from, which is why I would recommend this short story to other people my age.

As we watch Harry begin the dreary, depressing decent to death, we see him begin to re-evaluate his life. He begins to realise he will never “write the things that he had saved to write until he knew enough to write them well.” He begins to understand that it’s now too late to do anything about this wasted talent, and he will never get the opportunity to record the many wondrous events of his life, and see “if he could have written them.” His agonizingly slow departure to death makes him realize how often and how much he squandered his life, while avoiding writing down all the stories he now desperately wishes to. Here, the author adeptly contrasts two prominent themes in the text: this man’s engagement with death, and his failings to pursue his artistic dreams. This contrast is relatable to today’s society because many people, just like Harry, tell themselves that they will wait to complete these artistic endeavours because they don’t have the time, or they can’t think of a way to compile their ideas together. All they’re really doing, however, is wasting their time procrastinating all of the things they really want to be doing. It is common in today’s society to procrastinate activities we don’t want to be doing, to put off tasks because we feel they’re too difficult to be completed today, or we just simply can’t be bothered. This hesitation to simply do the things we don’t want to do starts become a habit, starts to become part of your routine. This habit will start to fester into everything you’re doing and suddenly you begin to procrastinate the things you actually want to be doing, because that’s how you deal with all of the other tasks you’re supposed to be dealing with. This can be a very dangerous and regrettable trait, as Harry discovers, and something which we shouldn’t allow to happen. This part of the story showed me how putting things off now can have much larger effects on us later in life. It taught me that the consequences of putting things off can include feeling huge amounts of regret and remorse for the amount of time you wished you’d spent doing the things you love. This is an important story for young readers to read because it teaches us that sometimes it’s better to just get on with the things that need doing, because the only thing you’re really procrastinating is your life. The reason Harry procrastinated writing all of the stories and experiences he’d had, was because he knew that writing wouldn’t earn him a wealthy living. Instead of writing, he married rich women and survived off their incomes, and began to veer onto the trail of wealth, rather than that of passion. “It was strange, too, wasn’t it, that when he fell in love with another woman, that woman should always have more money than the last one? But when he no longer was in love, when he was only lying, as to this woman, now, who had the most money of all, who had all the money there was, who had had a husband and children, who had taken lovers and been dissatisfied with them, and who loved him dearly as a writer, as a man, as a companion and as a proud possession; it was strange that when he did not love her at all and was lying, that he should be able to give her more for her money than when he had really loved.” This mistake of choosing money over your passions and what you love is common in today’s society, for people to do jobs for the money, rather than because they actually enjoy what they’re doing. So many people are wasting their lives trying to earn more money than everyone else, to buy material goods that don’t really make them much happier. This idea that money buys happiness is a fake ideal that is starting to trick the younger generations into pursuing careers they hate, because they want to reap the rewards. I was easily able to relate this part of the story to my own life, because it reminded me that I need to look into careers that I will actually enjoy, rather than ones that will earn me the most money. This relation will also help many others my age and in my position, and shows why it is an important story for young people in year twelve to read. It teaches us that life isn’t always about being rich rather than poor, and that it’s better to pursue a career you love than one you hate, no matter what the price tag is.

Symbolism is evident throughout the text, and is used by the author to link many ideas that wouldn’t previously be connected. For example, in the beginning of the story, the author writes a note about Mt. Kilimanjaro, where it says “Kilimanjaro is a snow-covered mountain 19,710 feet high, and is said to be the highest mountain in Africa. Its western summit is called the Masai “Ngaje Ngai,” the House of God. Close to the western summit there is the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard. No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude.” This mountain is represented in the story as a place of warmth and happiness, despite its height and freezing temperatures. This symbol was often linked to the symbol of the African plains, which stretch for miles below the towering mountain, and is connected to negative connotations of death and darkness through the text. Throughout history, civilisations have chosen the tallest mountain in their area to represent where God, or his immortality lives. It has been suggested that the leopard mentioned was searching for a form of immortality while it was stalking the treacherous peaks of Mt. Kilimanjaro, and was frozen while on its journey. The idea of immortality is common in today’s society, as few people want to die. People look for it in all kinds of ways, but they all have the common denominator of trying to live forever. People are comforted by the idea that they don’t have to die, and is why there are so many legends surrounding immortality. In the text, the author manages to project these ideas to the audience in a systematic way, where he explains that when we get close to dying, all we want to do is live forever, to do all the things we wish we had all those years ago. This part of the text helped me understand why people are often very religious when they know they’re going to die, because they’re seeking help from their God to allow them to keep on living. It allowed me to understand the perspective of a dying person, and why they suddenly began religious practices. This was a perspective I hadn’t previously considered.  However, the mountain doesn’t always symbolise religion and immortality. In the story, Harry saw it as a symbol of an idealistic life that was pure and true. When he looks at the mountain, he is reminded that sometimes life is good, and can remember all of the good experiences he has been privileged to partake in. That is why when he finally dies; there is a kind of tragic irony. The leopard mentioned previously, died in search of a happier life, in search of immortal ideals, on a mountain that was clean, simple, and had the views of a God. In contrast, Harry was killed by his own rotting flesh, surrounded by the smell of death, in the presence of the plains. The author allows the reader to interpret that Harry died the way he lived, by wasting his life as his body wasted away, while drowning in nostalgia for all the things he never did. This part of the story helped me understand that even though we can do many good things in our lives, we don’t always die heroically. On the contrary, we can do bad things for most of our lives and die in search of good.  This is an important lesson for young readers in year twelve to learn, because it represents the idea that things aren’t always as they seem. At the end of the story, the author has written the ending in a way to make the author assume that Harry’s soul went to the summit of the mountain, as God’s way of saying thank you for all the sacrifices he made to ease the suffering of the characters that surrounded him. The leopard was seen stalking the plains, taking Harry’s life and represented that although he searched for positive ideals, he wasn’t given the same ending as Harry. The afterlife experiences shown in the story brought a stark contrast to the way the characters died. This part of the story made me feel that the leopard was given an unfair ending, and presented me with the idea that although everyone starts out in life the same way, we don’t all have to go out the same way. By this I mean that when someone or something dies, it doesn’t necessarily have to go to the same place. As Harry’s soul moved to the mountain, the leopard was reincarnated. Or maybe Harry was reincarnated into the leopard, and the leopard’s soul rested on the mountain. Either way, it showed me that there might not be only one way out of life, which is a big perception to make over such a short story. This links to today’s society because many people are terrified of dying because they feel they haven’t deserved happy ending, but it teaches us that sometimes kindness, even in the smallest of forms, allows us be happy anyway. This can often be a very positive way of looking at death, which can be a good thing for readers to keep in mind.

An underlying development in the text was the relationship between Harry and his wife, Helen. Harry explains that he never really loved her, but simply stuck with her because she was able to provide the income and outrageous lifestyle he so desperately desired. He felt guilty for using her like this, but also felt that “if he lived by a lie he should try to die by it.” He felt he owed it to her to leave her as he’d met her, by lying about how he felt to try in an attempt to minimise the pain it would cause her to know the truth. This relationship was portrayed as though she had made him happy throughout their relationship, but he’d never quite felt like he loved her. The author managed to portray these feelings in a way that it was easy to understand Harry’s perspective on this issue. While reading this part of the story, I felt that it was unfair of Harry to use Helen for her money, but I also felt that even though he didn’t love her, she still loved him, and he still made her feel much, much happier. It was because of this that I found I wasn’t as angry with Harry over his choices, because in the end, they were both happy with the outcome. This taught me that even though we can make wrong choices in life; these wrong choices can still make us happy, even if it isn’t in the way that was initially intended. The lesson I learnt from this would also be important for other people my age to learn, because many young teenagers often make many mistakes, no matter what areas of their lives it’s in. This teaches us that even if we make mistakes, it’s not the end of the world, and it can often make us just as happy and content with our lives even if it isn’t how we’d originally planned it to be. This part of the story relates well to society, because it isn’t uncommon for people to go into relationships with people they don’t care about for financial reward. This shows us that lying about our feelings isn’t always the best thing to do, because you’ll likely regret your decision. However, as the story progresses and Harry begins to die, he gets in a few arguments with Helen, and blames her for many of the bad things that have happened in his life. He tells her he doesn’t love her, but quickly retracts the statement telling her that he wasn’t feeling quite right and to not take what he says to heart. He explains in the story that he wants to destroy what he has so he can die with nothing: “I don’t like to leave anything,” the man said. “I don’t like to leave things behind.” We can relate this to society because people always change their minds. He decided he couldn’t die without telling her the truth about his feelings, but once he saw how it affected her, he changed his mind and decided it was better she was happy with a lie, than upset and angry at the truth. It also relates to today’s society because it’s common for people to not want to leave things unsaid. People don’t like the idea that they can die without telling people the truth about everything, because now that they’re dying, the repercussions of telling the truth will have little effect on them. Sometimes, however, it is better to leave things unsaid, and let people live on happily with a lie than to let them live sadly with the truth. This lesson is important for people my age to learn because it shows us that the best thing to do is to just tell the truth from the beginning. But it also teaches us that if we do lie, sometimes it’s better to let that person stay happy, rather than make them feel awful, especially if neither option will have much of an effect on you.

Overall I really enjoyed reading this short story. In some parts I found it hard to understand the wording because it was written a very long time ago, but you can still understand what the author is trying to portray. The lessons, ideals, symbols, and underlying themes that are written throughout the text really show the authors capabilities, and will help readers of any age understand complicated, modern day issues, in a simple and understandable manner. It was because of this that I would recommend this short story to a year twelve book club.

Personal response #4 (Documentary)

The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz:  Recommended

Director: Brian Knappenberger

Category: Film (Documentary)

When I watched this documentary, I truly believed it would be another film on some unknown guy that made something that changed the world. However, I did not expect to be so outraged at the American justice system, and to feel motivated to stand up for the rights of people from all over the world. The Internets Own Boy is a documentary on a man called Aaron Swartz. He was a child prodigy, and a gifted computer programmer. “If you had a magical power, would you use it for doing good in the world, or for making piles of money?” Aaron believed that programming was a super power. By the age of 19, he was already a millionaire, having built hundreds of websites and further developed business through. However, as he grew older he wanted to make a bigger difference. He started working on projects for the good of the people, he started to fight the government when they wanted to pass bills that could harm internet users, he stood up for everything he believed in, and then fought the justice system with it tirelessly. He made me realise that the world was far from perfect, and that that’s okay. Anyone, anywhere, can help change the world, you just have to start by fighting for what you believe in, and if your rights have already been stood up for, then go stand up for someone else’s. Young adults and other people in year twelve need to watch this documentary, because it enlightens the viewer on how badly corrupted the world is, and how it’s vital that we start to change that. This lesson is invaluable to learn because it’s shaping the future we’re about to grow up in, the future our children will grow up in.

Throughout the film, Aaron signified our ideas on changing the modern day culture we are forced to live with, and symbolised the links between the individual struggles he faced in the documentary, and modern day society. The lesson he taught in the documentary showed us how ordinary people from ordinary places really do have an undeniable power that will allow us to adapt the political opinions of billions of people. He tirelessly fought the government when the freedom of speech and innovation online was threatened. “On the internet, everyone gets a license to speak, it’s a question of who gets heard”. This quote represents his idea on how the digital freedom of our society is important, because the internet has proposed a way in which people from all walks of life have the opportunity to advertise their opinions, and the choice of who gets heard between these millions of people, should be up to us. Not the government. This is why when the government was passing a bill that threatened this freedom, Aaron was right up there trying to stop it getting passed. This is an important lesson, where it teaches young people to stand up for their rights and what they believe in, even if it goes against what the governments and people in positions power want. For young adults in year twelve, this lesson is something we need to keep in mind as we grow up, because it’s up to us to create the future we want to live in. “You know it’s easy sometimes to think like you’re powerless, like when you come out on the streets and you march and you yell, and nobody hears you. But I’m here to tell you that you are powerful. You can stop this bill”. This was a quote taken from Aaron during the protests to stop SOPA, and the bill that threatened digital freedom. He saw a problem with the government, and set out to fix it using the power of people. He told them that it’s easy to feel powerless and like you can’t make a difference in the world, but if you keep persisting and protesting, and doing everything in your power to change something, sometimes you really can. And they did. I greatly enjoyed this part of the documentary because it surprised me on how much they achieved. It taught me how powerful a group of people can be. I also think that this part of the film would be valuable for year twelves to see, because it shows how effective protesting is, and how important it is to develop our society.

Aaron had an ideology, where he believed he could change the world by simply informing people about it. He thought that by explaining the problems our world faces to everyone, that we could all realise how we can fix it. “Aaron wasn’t trying to make the world work. He was trying to fix it.” This quote represents Aaron’s ideas on this, where we can understand how he believes that the world doesn’t need to just “work”, it’s already pretty good, we just need to fix it a little bit. By doing this, we can make a safer and more positive environment for everyone. At the age of 19, Aaron was already a millionaire and chose to leave the money behind to persue more fulfilling activities. He wanted to use his computer programming skills for the good of the people, by pushing for political change, and putting himself on the line to gain public access to documents that should be public anyway. This is important for young people to learn these days, because people like Aaron are the ones who do change the world. They can see an opportunity where they have a chance to make a positive difference to so many people’s lives, and they leave the money behind to pursue that. “Aaron believed that you ought to be asking yourself all of the time “What is the most important thing I could be working on in the world right now?” and if you’re not out working on that, why aren’t you?”. From the whole documentary, I think that this quote has the most relation to today’s society. There are so many problems that wouldn’t even exist if people just took their daily lives, and worked on the things that were wrong, the most important taking priority. Young adults and year twelve could learn so much from this, because not only does this quote aim to push change, but it would also create more positive lives for people. Aaron’s ideas were well portrayed in the documentary, and I felt that the lessons I have highlighted would be very important for year twelves to learn, and therefore I would highly recommend this to other people my age.

One of the constant ideas through the text was Aaron’s interference with the law. The American government wanted to stop everything Aaron was doing, because they knew it wouldn’t benefit them. The laws against certain computer uses are too out of date. Almost all of them are based on a fictional film called “War Games” where the main character accidentally started a nuclear war from his computer. 11 of the 13 charges against Aaron hadn’t been updated since 1986. The amount that our lives have changed since then is extraordinary, why would they enforce laws that are almost redundant to modern day society? Nearly everyone has broken at least one of them, simply by using social media, Google, or copying facts for a research assignment. Aaron’s constant struggles with the law were supposedly due to the government wanting to make an example of him. They made a huge deal over his prosecution, because they didn’t want other Americans to access information like Aaron, and threaten the government. Knowledge really is power in this case, and the American government knew this. This part of the film shows how desperately we need change in order for our society to move forward. These laws are so outdated that almost everyone beaks them, so rather than trying to catch everyday citizens that mean no harm by their actions, why not create laws that will stop dangerous computer hackers, that pose more of a threat to American citizens than the citizens themselves? We are letting modern day be decided by the old world “He was the internet’s own boy, and the old world killed him”. Today, too many people believe that things should be as they were, because that’s how it’s always been. That we don’t need to change the world, because this is how it’s always been, and that’s worked pretty well for us, but that’s not true. “Growing up, I slowly had this process of realising that all the things around me that people had told me was just the natural way things were, the way things always would be. They weren’t natural at all, they were things that could be changed, and they were things that more importantly were wrong, and things that should change. As soon as I started to realise that, there was really kind of no going back”. This quote shows Aaron’s perspective on this, and how he believed that the old laws, and the old justice system cannot dictate modern day life, because it just won’t work. It present a distorted version of today’s society, and the more we enforce these, the worse it’s going to get. This is very important for young people my age to learn, because they’re the people who are going to go out there and bring the change. That is why I would highly recommend this documentary to year twelve.

This film is very important, because it showed me the perspectives of victims who hadn’t done anything drastically wrong. People who were actually doing more good than bad by breaking the law, something I hadn’t previously considered. That, for me, really showed how corrupted the American justice system is, if they’re willing to prosecute and bring people to suicide who could be the reason we find the cure to cancer. Aaron took hundreds of thousands of research papers that were legally public property, and gave them to the people who needed them. MIT and other educational institutes were previously charging for the downloading of each document, causing many professors and researchers to just not bother because it wasn’t worth the hassle. However, at the end of the documentary it was noted how one of the papers Aaron gave out, helped a young scientist to find a way to detect pancreatic cancer early, a cancer that previously was only detected when it was too late. The American justice system killed Aaron, even though he could be the reason that their children get to live longer, happier lives. If that doesn’t prove there’s a problem, I don’t know what does. This film is important because it showed me the perspectives of people like Aaron, a set of opinions I hadn’t previously considered. I think that it’s important for people to understand the things that Aaron fought for, because even if you don’t go and try to bring down laws and government actions, it’s equally important to question everything. “I feel very strongly that it’s not enough to just live in the world as it is, to just take what you’re given, and follow the things that adults told you to do, or parents told you to do, or society told you to do, I think you should always be questioning.”. Aaron couldn’t have done everything he did by going and doing things as people had told him before. If no one broke out of what’s normal, then nothing would change, and nothing would progress. Questioning things is how we learn about the world and how we can change it. If we didn’t question things, we would still be living like cavemen. If we didn’t question things, we would still have slavery, and no electricity. Questioning things is vital to human development. I highly recommend this documentary because it teaches you to question things and to do the things that people often try and prevent you from doing in a way that helps you understand it’s necessity and urgency.

This documentary greatly adapted the way I viewed the world. Everything that happened to Aaron was completely unjust. He was brought to his death by providing the truth for the good of the people. We have given people who we think to be important such power over defendants, to which they use in a way we didn’t want them too – they try and force people to plea, break them. “Governments have an insatiable desire to control,” as said in the documentary, and we are sitting back and giving them even more control over us, giving them more power, even though what they’re doing is wrong. 97% of people in the American justice system plea, claiming they’ve done something wrong even if they haven’t, and going to jail for it simply because they feel they have no other option. Another recent study has shown that around 10,000 innocent people in America are wrongly convicted each year. The number of people in jail is overwhelming. We are in a position now where the justice system needs to be fixed, and we should be angry about that. By giving these people this power, we are saying to them “we think that what you’re doing is okay, and we want you to keep prosecuting and destroying people for even the smallest, most insignificant crimes”. But the truth is, it’s not okay. We are not okay with the justice system, we are not okay with the problems in the world, and we are going to do something about that. This film wants to highlight these errors in the justice system and help people to understand why we need to change it, and how we can. This documentary has outlined modern day issues that need to be resolved, and helped me to understand that it’s vitally important to fix them. It’s relation to today’s society was overwhelming, and deeply engrained throughout, by explaining everything in an easy to understand way. But overall, the main reason why I would recommend this documentary to other year twelves, is because of this: Everything that happened to Aaron shouldn’t have. It would be criminal for us to sit back and let government’s control and manipulate innocent people. “Aaron was willing to put himself at risk for the causes that he believed in”. Now it’s our turn.

By Dharma Bratley

Portfolio writing #2 (formal)

A single bullet sparked World War One.

Just one single gunshot lead to the mobilisation of 65,038,810 forces.

One death led to 8,528,831 others.

21,189,154 injuries.

That’s 37,466,904 casualties that were counted. 274,111 Anzacs.

It doesn’t include the 7,750,919 men that didn’t return home because they were prisoners, or simply were never seen again.

That’s 45,217,823 men that didn’t go home without injury.

19,820,987 men were the lucky few who only lost their minds and hearts on those battle fields.

Just one bullet.

But of course, history has never made a simple mistake. It made many. These soldiers were the creators of history. Their letters, poems, seemingly insignificant memories are what we remember them by. Sad, lost, boys who left home looking for a sense of adventure, and gained far more than they needed. Understanding the reasons behind such catastrophic casualty rates is like trying to understand why a butterfly can fly: there isn’t a reason so much as it could. It could fly so it did. The war could happen, so it did. But looking into the process of a flying butterfly, of the creation of war, is where it gets interesting.

We all know a butterflies cycle. The first step is the egg. Now a butterfly egg is quite small and seems rather insignificant compared to the other stages of the cycle, but it is the beginning, and therefore one of the most important. German aggression was the egg of the war. Kaiser Wilhelm the second was the king of Germany, and had a twisted view of the world. He believed Germany should be a world power, and thereby introduced Weltpolitik to achieve this. The policies of Weltpolitik varied, but together they produced an arms race. This was where Germany wanted to try and get more land to seem more powerful, and the only way to do that was to take it from other people. So Germany tried to take more land, and everyone else tried to protect theirs and get more themselves, thus causing an arms race where everyone tried to get bigger guns to both protect their country and use it to get rid of anyone who tried to stop them taking other land. This led to the development of the Schlieffen plan, where Germany attempted to invade France and take Alsace Lorraine, a strip of land between the two counties. In theory this was a good plan. As Germany is a landlocked country, shutting down one border would mean they would only have to fight on one side rather than two if war were to break out. However, the execution of this plan went a bit pear shaped, and resulted in France getting angry at Germany, who didn’t get the land, and had to fight even harder on two fronts. So the egg of the war was been planted, and the European countries were both angry, and wanted to show off their guns to prove how much of a world power they were – a deadly combination.

The second part of the cycle is the caterpillar. A bug with lots of legs that can move and eat and meet other caterpillars like itself. The caterpillar is a strange creature, much like a human. Of course, we’re not 5 centimetres long, green and yellow striped, with too many legs, but we share the quality of strangeness and predictable unpredictable-ness. Almost everyone ever born has a certain patriotic streak for their country. If not the country you were born in, then certainly one you grew up in or spent a while exploring. Patriotism is good. Patriotism is the reason so many soldiers stalked the dead men before them into such a blood and bodied wasteland. But nationalism is not. Nationalism is the extremity of patriotism, where people put down other countries to make their own sound better. The anger and resentment was widespread across Europe, and it wasn’t long before nationalism seeped into education and literature. The effects of these were not positive. Children were being brought up in a society that openly degraded and blamed other nations for their own failures. French children were told Germany had tried to steal their two children: Alsace and Lorraine, while Germans were taught that they were surrounded by enemies who could not be trusted. These ideas meant the generations were bred to despise each other, and never looked upon each other kindly. This would only fuel the war further. Literature romanticised war, and encouraged the ideology that war was a good thing, and would quickly and effectively solve disputes between nations. They explained that war was a necessity for history, and further for the developments of mankind. It started the ideas of nationalism which were further promoted by newspapers. Newspapers often stretched the truth for publicity, and brought an intensity to the idealisation of of war. Nationalism was the moving, growing, evolving caterpillar for the war.

The third stage of the cycle is the cocoon, where the caterpillar winds itself up into a little comfortable pouch, and develops into a glorious butterfly. However, as an analogy for war, this stage is closely linked to the relationships, alliances, and diplomacy that developed in the years leading to the war, as this is where it’s developments and creation finally start to develop. The first was the French/German rivalry that developed after the dire attempt of invasion by German forces: the Schlieffen plan. The relationship between these two nations was not at its best. The second was the triple entente, an alliance between France, Russia, and England, something that shocked Germany because France was known for being indecisive about what side they were on: a quality the English had a strong distaste for. However, although Germany was mad, they still decided to create the dual alliance with Austria-Hungary, because neither country stood any chance against the triple entente. This further led to the third development, the treaty of London. This treaty was between England and Belgium, whereby Britain swore to protect Belgium as it was a neutral country.

This of course led to the butterfly. On 28 June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand (the son of the emperor of Austria-Hungary) was shot dead in Sarajevo by six Serbian assassins. The reason for his death was an attempt to break off Austria-Hungary’s South Slav provinces so they could be combined into a Yugoslavia. Austria-Hungary was mad at Serbia for this, and after much debate over the punishment of the assassins, Serbia decided to begin an invasion by mobilising its army. They sent a few members of their military across the river between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, while the Austro-Hungarian soldiers fired warning shots. Austria-Hungary then declared war and mobilised its army, and due to the Dual Alliance, Germany was obliged to support Austria-Hungary in these endeavours. However, under the Secret Treaty of 1892, Russia and France were forced to mobilise their armies if any member of the Triple Entente mobilised. As Russia was such a strong world power, their mobilisation was reacted to by Austria-Hungary and Germany by full mobilisations. It wasn’t long before all of the great world powers had picked sides and gone to war. Except Italy.

So I suppose all that is left is the flight of that poor innocent butterfly. As it opens its heavy, brightly coloured wings for the first time, it’s potential is still unknown. But for World War One? It was the greatest war, the bloodiest battle, one of the worst periods of history that the world had ever seen.

By Dharma Bratley