Victorian Era Project

Lewis Carolls’ novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, was published November 26th, 1865 and follows the tale of Alice. One summer day, she spots a white rabbit and follows it down a rabbit hole. This leads her into a series of strange rooms. Alice eats a cake and drinks a strange potion, causing her to shrink and grow to fit through a series of doors so that she can continue chasing the rabbit. She meets a mouse, then a caterpillar who tells her each side of the mushroom will make her shrink or grow. When she shrinks, she meets the Duchess, the Cheshire Cat, a baby, and a Cook. The Chesire cat tells Alice “Oh, you can’t help that, we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.” (pg. 82) and then sends her to the March Hare’s house. It is here that Alice meets the March Hare, the Mad Hatter, and the Dormouse having a tea party that they are stuck in because they all wronged Time. She then continues into the forest, through a door, and into the garden, where she saves the gardeners from the Queen of Hearts, who then joins Alice in a game of croquet. Afterwards, she meets the Gryphon and Mock Turtle, and tells them about her strange adventures. They hear a trail is beginning for the Knave of Hearts because he ate the Queen of Hearts’ tarts. The Mad Hatter, the Cook, and lastly Alice, are all called to the witness stand. When the White Rabbit presents the court with a poem as evidence, the King takes it as an admission of Alice’s guilt. When the Queen orders her to be beheaded, she grows to be humongous and ruins the queen’s whole army of cards. 

Diary Entry:03/07/1906

Dear Diary, 

Today marks the first day of practicing self isolation. Whooping cough has rapidly spread across the country, infecting more and more people every minute. My family decided to practice keeping our distances from others and keeping to ourselves to lower the possibility of contracting the virus. So far, I have felt very lonely and have taken many walks to try and find something to do but always end up feeling even more lost and alone. On my last walk of the day, I watched the sunset from afar in a meadow full of white daisies. It was very peaceful and calming. On my way back to get ready for slumber,  I snuck into the kitchen to grab a bite to eat. I noticed a strange bowl sitting on the counter filled with a substance that to me looked like cake batter. Out of curiosity, I decided to taste test the batter looking substance intrigued by what the strange substance tasted like. Hesitant of tasting the substance, I scooped a small amount onto my fingers and licked them clean. Strangely, the batter tastes exactly like mangos. I then ate more and more until before I knew it the entire bowl was empty. I then decided to go straight to my room to get ready to go to sleep for the night before I got caught eating the batter. I instantly fell asleep when I got into bed. The next morning, I woke up to a strange white rabbit running frantically outside my window, exclaiming “he was late” while looking at his pocket watch. I decided to follow him to see where he led me. I ended up down a tunnel into a strange hall filled with hundreds of different doors. I lost the white rabbit and was lost trying to find him again. 

Diary Entry: 03/10/1906

Dear Diary, 

I’ve felt so off since eating the strange batter the other night. I’ve continuously dreamt about chasing a white rabbit and meeting strange characters on my journey to finding the white rabbit to fill my curiosity of wondering what he is late for. For example, once I left the strange hallway of doors I came upon a shore filled with many different, weird animals. A mouse came up to me and accompanied me to go and meet the rest of the animals. I started talking about how dearly I missed my cat, dinah and ended up scaring the animals off. I found myself feeling more alone than ever. I decided to continue to find the white rabbit and continued to walk down a path. I finally then found the white rabbit and he had mistaken me as a servant and started ordering me around to do many tasks for him. While in the white rabbits home I decided to drink an unmarked bottle. I then started to grow into the size of the white rabbits room. I had no idea why I was suddenly a giant. The white rabbit freaked out and gathered animals to throw rocks at me to get me out of the house. Strangely the rocks turned into cakes as they entered the house. I ate one and then shrunk down into a smaller size. I then ran off into the words to avoid the animals who were trying to hurt me. I stumbled upon a caterpillar smoking a hookah. We then got into an argument but before he shriveled away he told me one side of the mushroom will make me shrink, while the other will make me grow. I decided to take a taste and rapidly grew taller and taller through the trees. I had a pigeon nest on my head filled with her eggs. She started attacking me, accusing me of being a hungry serpent trying to eat her eggs. I then ate the other side of the mushroom and shrank down to a tinier size. Afterwards, I am awakened by a burning sensation in my body. The sun had come up and I was sweating and sneezing continuously. Mother had then called the doctors. 

Diary Entry: 04/17/1906

Dear Diary, 

It’s been almost a month since i’ve written my last entry. I contracted the disease my family and I have desperately been trying to keep safe from. It all started the morning after I had eaten the batter. I continually envisioned seeing the white rabbit running outside my window. Even though i’ve felt completely worse than usual, curiosity got the best of me and I decided to follow him again. While walking in the woods to find him I came upon a duchess trying to calm a crying baby as well as a smiling cheshire cat and a cook. The duchess was very rude towards me and then left to prepare for her game of croquet with the queen. She then hands me the baby who i soon discover was not a baby at all but in fact was a pig. I then let the pig go and continued on my search for the white rabbit. I then came upon the cheshire cat who then continued to explain to me that everyone in wonderland was mad. The cat then gave me directions to the March Hare’s house and then disappeared. I then made my way to the March Hare’s house, where I found the March Hare, Mad Hatter, and the Dormouse having a tea party. All three were very rude towards me so I decided to leave and continue in search of the white rabbit. I found my way back in the garden from before and came upon a very angry queen who invited me to play a strange game of croquet with her. The duchess from the woods earlier came up to me and tried to befriend me but I felt very uneasy around her. The queen then runs the duchess off and then I hear an announcement of a trial taking place. I attended the trial where the Knaves of Hearts was accused of stealing the queen’s tarts. I felt the king was wrongly accusing the Knaves of Hearts and decided to speak up and tell the king. The queen took great defense and ordered for her men to behead me. I then grew to a larger size and knocked all of them down. I then was awoken to the sound of my mother’s voice. The doctors had said I wouldn’t make it through the night. I then started telling my sister and mother about the white rabbit and all the strange characters I came upon until I drifted off into a peaceful, forever sleep.

Dr. Frankenstein’s Rose

This painting, The Sick Rose, is done by William Blake, visualizing an excerpt of his own poem titled Songs of Innocence. Blake depicts the wilted rose, its leaves being eaten away by caterpillars accompanied by women melting into both the stem and blossom, looking as they too are half-rotted, only clinging onto life. The poem talks of this rose and a worm which finds out this rose’s “bed of crimson joy” and thus, though the worm’s own need, it ends up slowly destroying the life of the rose it was so drawn to. The same theme can be said of Frankenstein. Dr. Frankenstein brings his vision to life in creating the monster as a way to battle his own loneliness and of course at first it is as he envisioned and it is, in its way, beautiful to him. However, he created this monster for his own selfish needs, which are the results of its eventual end. Though, like the rose in the poem, the monster was once ideal, its mind and body both slowly decay- both only ever being outlets to the needs of Dr. Frankenstein and the caterpillar.

The Mental Effects of Scrabble

Throughout the semester in my English 112 class, we have had many “Wordplay Days”. On these days, our entire class period is dedicated to playing Scrabble in teams of two. Scrabble is a fun game to play- but at the same time, almost without our notice, anyone playing is being mentally stimulated and using puzzle-solving skills. While there was a lack of articles, the ones I did find were mostly all in favor of Scrabble and suggested that it could have positive effects both in class and in the real world. 

I’ve always enjoyed the days our class plays Scrabble. I like that it gets my brain working, and it always feels like a nice break from the day-to-day work in all of my classes. Because of this, I wanted to make Scrabble the topic of my research paper. I was curious to know the positive mental effects it could have on mine and my classmates minds, or if there were any negative effects at all. 

If, theoretically, my annotated bibliography were to develop into a project outside of the classroom, I believe it would be developed into a psychology-driven study. It would be interesting to turn it into a project conducted with all ages, in all settings. Also, it would conclusively gather results on every positive mental effect of playing Scrabble both casually and as an expert. In the future I believe I’ll continue looking into the effects of Scrabble.

Annotated Bibliography

‘Scrabble accelerates mental growth’. (2014, Apr 12). The New Indian Express Retrieved December 4, 2019 from https://login.proxy032.nclive.org/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1515090411?accountid=9935 

In this source, Dr. Rhao, a psychologist, explains the effects of Scrabble. According to Dr. Rhao, it is “intellectually stimulating, and accelerates your mental growth and capacity”. She says that while it is a mental workout, Scrabble is extremely simplistic. Unlike chess, it is more laid back, right-brain oriented, and doesn’t require knowledge of strategies and methods. All one needs is a dictionary. 

While Rhao’s statements are less study based, they all ring true and put the positive effects of playing Scrabble into simple terms.

Sophia, Hargreaves, S., I., Zdrazilova, Lenka, Hart, … Hees. (2016, October 25). Testing the Limits of Skill Transfer for Scrabble Experts in Behavior and Brain. Retrieved December 4, 2019, from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2016.00564/full.

Eight researchers from the University of Calgary did an extensive study on the limits of skill transfer for expert Scrabble players. Firstly, they studied the transfer of enhanced long-term working memory for stimuli presented vertically. For this they found no significant difference between Scrabble experts and anyone else. However for the SDT (symbol decision task), their fMRI and EEG data showed that these experts’ Scrabble skills transferred into real world skills in various domains. While performing Scrabble related abilities, researchers found the brain activity of Scrabble experts “included regions associated with visual-spatial processing and long-term working memory, and overlapped with regions previously shown to be associated with Scrabble expertise in the near transfer task (LDT).” The results of their studies suggests that Scrabble experts have stronger memory capacity, performed the research tasks more efficiently, and have transferable Scrabble skills for everyday life.

The work by these researchers essentially proves that Scrabble positively impacts us in psychological terms and that we can apply these acquired skills into our daily lives.

Ferguson, E. (2015, Sep 30). Scrabble may aid brain injury victims; teaching neurons to mimic lost ability. The Windsor Star Retrieved December 4, 2019, from https://login.proxy032.nclive.org/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1718047067?accountid=9935

University of Chicago postdoctoral scholar and brain and language researcher, Sophia Van Hees believes that Scrabble could potentially aid those with brain injuries. Before becoming a professional Scrabble player, one undergoes years of highly specialized training in memorizing words and different word combinations. Hees believes that this, paired with the fact that in Scrabble people use their visual processing centers to come up with words, could yield results when practiced by those with brain injuries or seniors with memory-affecting illnesses. Dr Peter Sargious, Van Hees’s colleague, says that Scrabble, as a repeated process, ”Does access memory in a different way. There is potential to look at neuro-plasticity, and see once you’ve lost certain neurons you can still access other neurons and use them differently so they can adequately mimic what you’ve lost.”

This source opens a new window of possibilities for Scrabbles mental effects. If research proved that Scrabble could help those with brain injuries or illnesses, The game could take on a whole new level of usefulness.

Hebert, K. (2003). Scrabble players don’t know the meaning of words. Student BMJ Retrieved December 4, 2019, http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/sbmj.0306181

Karen Hebert discusses the fact that while Scrabble players may know and use words, they don’t necessarily always know the meanings of these words. A study conducted by Diane Halpern of Claremont McKenna College in California and her colleague Jonathan Wai found that when tested on word definitions, high ranked Scrabble players did only slightly better than low ranked players. According to Halpern, the results of this study show that expert Scrabble players are more concerned about the length and composition of words rather than the meaning, thus it may not actually effectively improve vocabulary.

While proved in the other sources, Scrabble does most likely have many positive mental effects. However, this study suggests that it might not always be that cut and dry.

Educated: Family Vs. Freedom

Tara Westover’s Educated is a memoir following her adolescent life in which she was raised in an extremely conservative, close-minded, christian household. Because of her family’s beliefs, Westover is homeschooled; however, she does not receive proper education. This book follows her journey in breaking away from the only life she has ever known in order to receive the proper education she longs for and to make a life for herself apart from her family. One of the most detrimental flaws in her upbringing is how she is treated as a female in a wholly patriarchal, strictly religious culture.

Throughout her youth, Westover is trapped on the losing side of a never-ending power dynamic expressed violently by the men in life life, most damagingly by one of her older brothers, Shawn. She was never allowed to look, dress, speak, or behave the way she would have liked to without some form of backlash. It started with “minor” issues. When Tara tried out wearing makeup, Shawn told her she looked like a whore and drove her to tears with verbal abuse. Additionally, neither her or her mother could wear any clothing that would be considered “revealing” to or by the men around them. These things didn’t seem like much of an issue at first and were excused by religion and lifestyle, but it became obvious as time passed that the situation would only worsen.

The abuse truly begins coming to light in Chapter 12. Whenever Tara is in a Walmart parking lot one day with Shawn, he teaches her a martial arts trick. He tells her “If you know what you’re doing … you can incapacitate a man with minimal effort. You can control someone’s whole body with two fingers. It’s about knowing where the weak points are and how to exploit them.” (Westover, 105). He then performs the trick on her, folding her wrists, bending her fingers down inside her forearms to an uncomfortable point, and adding pressure. He tells her he could immobilize her if he wanted, but it would “hurt like hell”. Later that night, when only Tara and Shawn are awake, she spills a glass of water on him. When he tells her to apologize and she doesn’t, he then uses the martial arts move on her and pins her down until she finally does so. 

After the incident between Shawn and Tara, things only become worse and worse. In chapter 14, Shawn gets into a serious construction accident and must be airlifted to a hospital. Tara finds herself terribly concerned but is relieved later in the chapter to find that he turned out to be okay. She begins using the pain he must be feeling as an excuse for his actions, convincing herself he was not abusive beforehand. Tara is taught again and again that this cannot be Shawn’s fault and thus finds reasoning, again and again, to prove as much. Like any abuser, Shawn shows just enough kindness to Westover to keep her under his delusions, but never enough so that she is comfortable for the slightest moment. Thus the cycle continues. Tara continues to suffer at the hands of Shawn, waking up to being choked by him, being humiliated and abused in front of her boyfriend at a family dinner and many other instances, but in turn, this only makes her more determined than ever to get away to college.

As time passes, Tara gets accepted and begins attending BYU and Shawn gets married to another girl. While Tara no longer suffers at the abusive hands of Shawn, word eventually gets back that he is treating his wife, Emily, this way now as well. In chapter 30 after Emily bought the wrong kind of crackers, Shawn attacked her, flung her into the cold snow, and locked her out of the house. One day she receives an email from Audrey addressing Shawn’s abuses over the years. Audrey apologizes for not protecting Tara from Shawn and that she has tried to tell their mother of the horrible memories Shawn has stained her mind with, but that their mother has insisted the claims must be false. 

Over the next months, Tara begins attempting to communicate with everyone in her family about Shawn. Her mom promises to her and her sisters to fix the “ugliness that Shawn has brought into the house”. However, when Tara confronts her parents in person, it ends with Shawn arriving and dropping a bloody knife in her hand. She later says she learned from her mother “Shawn had stepped outside and slashed the [family] dog to death, while his young son, only feet away, listened to the dog scream.” (Westover, 288). Her parents continuously dismiss everything she says as delusional. She and her siblings are all met with threats from Shawn to kick them out of the family if they keep trying to convince others of his abuse, and uses Tara as an example that he is capable of doing so. He eventually even convinces many of them to forgive him and cut off Tara from their lives. Tara is forced to move on from all memories of her family and start a new life for herself away from all of this immediately.

Through the endless examples, It becomes clear – Shawn’s manipulative, cruel behavior towards the women in his life, particularly Tara. He uses emotions and family as a way to manipulate her into submission and bend everyone to his will. Through years of this behavior, he eventually gets what he wants as Tara is completely estranged from her whole family, and he is once again painted in a pure light by their family. This all goes to show how toxic religion, patriarchy, and upbringing can alter someone’s entire life forever.

Citations

Westover, Tara. Educated. Thorpe, Charnwood, 2018.

Growth: A Reflection on Researching

Throughout my many english classes along with various other classes, I’ve been assigned countless essays. One of my favorite and most memorable papers out of all these I’ve written was a research paper though. I wrote this particular paper in the second semester of freshman year in my English I Honors class. While I had not written many research papers before this point and felt like I wouldn’t be able to do well at all, both the subject we were given and the instruction made this paper feasible and interesting.

To write this research paper, our class had to go through many steps beforehand. We started by watching a documentary called The True Cost (2015) that reveals how fast fashion is really produced around the world in sweatshops and through shockingly low-paying jobs in hazardous conditions. After watching, I picked the topic of child labor for my essay. I then used academic websites to access academic papers and gather my facts and sources and put them down on google slides. I used all of these slides with facts and sources to create a rough draft, which I then revised twice to create my final essay. Throughout this process I wanted to skip many of the steps. However, these steps resulted in a final result I was very proud of and got an A on, which goes to show how important the  process is in writing research papers.

Now, flash forward to the first semester of my junior year in which I’m taking English 112, a college english course. Since that research essay in my freshman class, I’ve written countless more essays and can accredit their value back to some of those things I learned in the past. Now, I am learning values like this in my current class through both my teacher and the Norton Field Guide book we’ve been assigned to read chapters of throughout the semester. Chapters 24-26 of the Norton Field Guide talks about writing in disciplines, which it says “share ways of seeing the universe, doing research, and presenting information–each through a different lens” (Bullock et al. 291). Through this class and its readings, I hope to learn and grow my writing skills for any future writing I have to do.

Through that research paper freshman year, I found that I like writing about social matters that are important to me. I like having an effective voice on subjects that I feel like people need to know about. Through all the english classes I’ve had since then, I have been able to better learn how to articulate what I want to say about the matters that I speak on. I truly hope to grow and refine this skill for the rest of my life. 

Works cited

Bullock, Richard, et al. Chapter 24: “Fields of Study.” The Norton Field Guide to Writing with Readings and Handbook. 5th ed. Norton, 2019. pp. 291-93. PDF.

 Bullock, Richard, et al. Chapter 25: “Reading Across Fields of Study.” The Norton Field Guide to Writing with Readings and Handbook. 5th ed. Norton, 2019. pp. 294-304. PDF.

Bullock, Richard, et al. Chapter 26: “Writing in Academic Fields of Study.” The Norton Field Guide to Writing with Readings and Handbook. 5th ed. Norton, 2019. pp. 305-320. PDF.