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Lessons in Literature

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FC: Lessons in Literature | By John McDonough

1: Lesson One: Don’t overreact Don’t overreact; things aren’t usually as bad as they appear. There is usually some misunderstanding or miscommunication. In “Romeo and Juliet” by Shakespeare, Romeo is banished from Verona, his home. Juliet and Romeo both think it’s the worst thing in the world. When Friar Lawrence was unable to deliver the letter to Romeo, he thought Juliet was dead. Over-reacting, he killed himself. Juliet, upon waking, found her Romeo dead and took her life so to be with her Romeo. If Romeo hadn’t acted upon impulse, and spent a moment to think, they might have been together. This is very similar to a situation I was in. A few months ago, I got a text from my girlfriend saying “we are over”. I felt like it was the end of the world. I overreacted, and began to second guess everything I may have done wrong. There was simply no reason she would be breaking up with me. My mind took off like a runaway train speeding towards despair. I was so busy overreacting that I never considered she may have meant something else. I called her and asked why we were breaking up, and she had . no idea what I was talking about. She had meant that she was over at my house with my mom. She and her mom had decided to come over a while to visit with us. I was out shopping though, and I had no idea. I got all worked up over nothing.

2: Lesson Two: Don’t Obsess Over Things Don’t obsess over things. In the story “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelly, the main character, Victor, gets caught up in his research so much, he forgets about the people he loves. He later gets what he wants, and he hates it. He would have been happier if he hadn’t even wasted his time. In the story “The Scarlet Ibis”, the brother is so obsessed with his own embarrassment, he works his brother to the point of death. I had a period of time when I had an obsession, and it cost me dearly. I loved video games, I couldn’t get enough. All I used to think about while I was at school was how I was going to miss out on time playing video games. It was so bad, that when I went to see my grandfather in the hospice, I wanted to leave so I could go play video games. I remember thinking about video games the day he died. I went home and didn’t even cry. I just played video games. It was almost a week before I realized what I’d done. I could never see him again, and I could never correct my mistake. I broke that obsession and now spend as much time with my loved ones as I can. When you only focus on one thing, you can miss the things that are most important.

3: Lesson Three: Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover Don’t judge a book by its cover. In Frankenstein, the monsters appearance makes people run in fear. If people had gotten over him being unattractive, they might have seen what was inside. The only one who was able to befriend Frankenstein’s monster, was a blind man. My best friend shares a lot of my interests. I have known him since I was eight years old, and we have many things in common. You would have to look past the Metallica shirt, long hair, and scar on his left cheek to see his intelligence, and his amazing sense of right and wrong. When you don’t judge a book by its cover, it can turn out to be a pretty good story.

4: Lesson Four: Don’t hold grudges In “Romeo and Juliet”, the Montagues and the Capulets have a long standing feud and can’t seem to let go of their grudges. This ends up costing the lives of their only children. In my family, I had two great uncles that didn’t speak for almost ten years because their wives had a dispute. They missed out on each other’s children growing up. Finally, when my grandfather got sick, his two brothers came to see him. When his younger brother saw my grandfather in a wheelchair, he realized how much time had passed that he’d been away from the family. He called his estranged brother the next day. When all you have to hold is a grudge, you realize your hands are empty.

5: Lesson Five: Don’t rely too much on Technology In the Machine that Won the War, a sophisticated machine supposedly eliminates human error and makes all of the difficult decisions regarding war strategy. In reality, it is the actions of men correcting for flawed data, and even the flip of a coin that brings victory to the characters. In the Veldt, the parents have a sophisticated system to entertain their children and allow them to use their imagination. But when the children become spoiled and rebellious, the reader sees that it is old-fashioned discipline that was most needed. In both of these stories, people are all too willing to give up responsibility to allow technology to solve their problems. In my life, I have become so dependent on my phone, that I feel can’t live without it. I need it to do everything. I use it to get up in the mornings, look up words I don’t know, pass time, get the weather, and tell me my homework assignments. At times, I wonder if it is good to become so dependent on any one item.

6: Lesson Six: Without Order, Chaos Runs Free In “Lord of the Flies”, some children crash on an island without adults. Although they attempt to set up a system of rules, these rules aren’t strictly enforced. Children lack the self discipline to keep order on their own. So, with this tiny bit of freedom, there is room for chaos to squeeze in. Jack, the antagonist of the story, decides to start his own group; his group has no rules and no laws. The main camp remains somewhat orderly while the rule-free camp is full of chaos. With the destruction of the last sign of order, the conch shell, the entire island falls into chaos. While trying to catch Ralph (the protagonist of the story), Jack, lights the entire jungle on fire. Fortunately, Ralph is saved by a naval officer right before he is killed. In school, the teacher is like the conch shell. He or she represents order. The moment a teacher has to leave, chaos rules the classroom. Children throw paper balls, and do whatever they want until the authority and order returns to the classroom. It is human nature to challenge rules and push limits. However, life is better for all of us when there are some limits to keep the chaos in check.

7: Lesson 7: Don’t do things just for fame Beowulf fights many great battles and his name is known far and wide. He is mainly motivated by glory as seen in the scene where he fights Grendel. He doesn’t care about ridding the peasants of Grendel. He just wants the fame of killing this horrible monster and becoming a hero. I have been motivated by fame as well. A few weeks into the first semester, I realized that I was actually a pretty good programmer. Ever since, I have been doing extra work to show off and gain the title of best programmer in my class.

8: Lesson 8: Don’t underestimate yourself In the book Frankenstein, Doctor Frankenstein wanted to create life. It can be argued that if he really believed he could create life, perhaps he would have had a better plan. Also, in the Machine that won the war, the characters believed that they could not achieve victory on their own means because they are human and prone to error. In short, neither of these characters knew their own potential. The they set out to do the impossible, but found that it was .possible. For me, I had toyed with the idea of making a sort film for reflections. I had waited till the last minute, and put it together with no intention of winning anything. I was just keeping a promise to myself. I didn’t try my hardest, but I put some effort into it. I ended up winning first place for film at my school, and going to state to be judged where I came in sixth. “Just my trying, you do better than 80% of the world.” – my dad

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