2014 ELA 20 Final Exam

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.” – John Donne, No Man Is An Island

“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.” – Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

“We have to heal our wounded world. The chaos, despair, and senseless destruction we see today are a result of the alienation that people feel from each other and their environment.” – Michael Jackson

“Wherever I was, I was happy. At peace. I knew that everyone I cared about was all right. I knew it. Time didn’t mean anything, nothing had form but I was still me, you know? And I was warm and I was loved and I was finished. Complete. I don’t understand about theology or dimensions, or any of it, really but I think I was in heaven. And now I’m not. I was torn out of there. Pulled out by my friends. Everything here is hard, and bright, and violent. Everything I feel, everything I touch this is hell. Just getting through the next moment, and the one after that knowing what I’ve lost…” – Joss Whedon

Wish You Were Here

So, so you think you can tell 
Heaven from Hell, 
Blue skys from pain. 
Can you tell a green field 
From a cold steel rail? 
A smile from a veil? 
Do you think you can tell? 

And did they get you to trade 
Your heros for ghosts? 
Hot ashes for trees? 
Hot air for a cool breeze? 
Cold comfort for change? 
And did you exchange 
A walk on part in the war 
For a lead role in a cage? 

How I wish, how I wish you were here. 
We're just two lost souls 
Swimming in a fish bowl, 
Year after year, 
Running over the same old ground. 
What have we found? 
The same old fears. 
Wish you were here.” 
- Roger Waters

“To a man utterly without a sense of belonging, mere life is all that matters. It is the only reality in an eternity of nothingness, and he clings to it with shameless despair.” – Eric Hoffer

“Once he went into the mountains on a clear, sunny day, and wandered about for a long time with a tormenting thought that refused to take shape. Before him was the shining sky, below him the lake, around him the horizon, bright and infinite, as if it went on forever. For a long time he looked and suffered. He remembered now how he had stretched out his arms to that bright, infinite blue and wept. What had tormented him was that he was a total stranger to it all. What was this banquet, what was this great everlasting feast, to which he had long been drawn, always, ever since childhood, and which he could never join? Every morning the same bright sun rises; every morning there is a rainbow over the waterfall; every evening the highest snowcapped mountain, there, far away, at the edge of the sky, burns with a crimson flame; every little fly that buzzes near him in a hot ray of sunlight participates in this whole chorus: knows its place, loves it, and is happy; every little blade of grass grows and is happy! And everything has its path, and everything knows its path, goes with a song and comes back with a song; only he knows nothing, understands nothing, neither people nor sounds, a stranger to everything and a castaway.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Idiot

“but as he plodded along a vague and almost hallucinatory pall hazed over his mind; he found himself at one point, with no notion of how it could be, a step from an almost certain fatal cliffside fall—falling humiliatingly and helplessly, he thought; on and on, with no one even to witness it. Here there existed no one to record his or anyone else’s degradation, and any courage or pride which might manifest itself here at the end would go unmarked: the dead stones, the dust-stricken weeds dry and dying, perceived nothing, recollected nothing, about him or themselves.” – Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

“At the top of the slope on the perimeter of the site, overlooking six lanes of motorway, is a diner frequented by lorry drivers who have either just unloaded or or are waiting to pick up their cargo. Anyone nursing a disappointment with domestic life would find relief in this tiled, brightly lit cafeteria with its smells of fries and petrol, for it has the reassuring feel of a place where everyone is just passing through–and which therefore has none of the close-knit or convivial atmosphere which could cast a humiliating light on one’s own alienation. It suggests itself as an ideal location for Christmas lunch for those let down by their families.” – Alain de Botton, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work

“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery–isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.” – Charles Bukowski, Factotum

“It’s not all bad. Heightened self-consciousness, apartness, an inability to join in, physical shame and self-loathing—they are not all bad. Those devils have been my angels. Without them I would never have disappeared into language, literature, the mind, laughter and all the mad intensities that made and unmade me.” – Stephen Fry, Moab Is My Washpot

“If you meet a loner, no matter what they tell you, it’s not because they enjoy solitude. It’s because they have tried to blend into the world before, and people continue to disappoint them.” – Jodi Picoult, My Sister’s Keeper

“And then one day, the songs stopped coming, and while you’ve suffered from periods of writer’s block before, albeit briefly, this is something chronic. Day after day, you face a blank page, and nothing’s coming. And those days turned to weeks, and weeks to months, and pretty soon those months have turned into years with very little to show for your efforts. No songs. So you start asking yourself questions. What have I done to offend the gods that they would abandon me so? Is the gift of songwriting taken away as easily as it seems to have been bestowed? Or perhaps there’s a more — a deeper psychological reason. It was always a Faustian pact anyway. You’re rewarded for revealing your innermost thoughts, your private emotions on the page for the entertainment of others, for the analysis, the scrutiny of others, and perhaps you’ve given enough of your privacy away.

And yet, if you look at your work, could it be argued that your best work wasn’t about you at all, it was about somebody else? Did your best work occur when you sidestepped your own ego and you stopped telling your story, but told someone else’s story, someone perhaps without a voice, where empathetically, you stood in his shoes for a while or saw the world through his eyes?

Well they say, write what you know. If you can’t write about yourself anymore, then who do you write about? So it’s ironic that the landscape I’d worked so hard to escape from, and the community that I’d more or less abandoned and exiled myself from should be the very landscape, the very community I would have to return to to find my missing muse.” – Sting How I Started Writing Songs Again

“People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles. This is the first thing I hear when I come back to the city. Blair picks me up from LAX and mutters this under her breath as she drives up the onramp. She says, “People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles.” Though that sentence shouldn’t bother me, it stays in my mind for an uncomfortably long time. Nothing else seems to matter. Not the fact that I’m eighteen and it’s December and the ride on the plane had been rough and the couple from Santa Barbara, who were sitting across from me in first class, had gotten pretty drunk. Not the mud that had splattered on the legs of my jeans, which felt kind of cold and loose, earlier that day at an airport in New Hampshire. Not the stain on the arm of the wrinkled, damp shirt I wear, a shirt which looked fresh and clean this morning. Not the tear on the neck of my gray argyle vest, which seems vaguely more eastern than before, especially next to Blair’s clean tight jeans and her pale-blue shirt. All of this seems irrelevant next to that one sentence. It seems easier to hear that people are afraid to merge than “I’m pretty sure Muriel is anorexic” or the singer on the radio crying out about magnetic waves. Nothing else seems to matter to me but those ten words. Not the warm winds, which seem to propel the car down the empty asphalt freeway, or the faded smell of marijuana which still faintly permeates Blaire’s car. All it comes down to is the fact that I’m a boy coming home for a month and meeting someone whom I haven’t seen for four months and people are afraid to merge.” – Bret Easton Ellis, Less Than Zero

“You’re always saying people don’t like you but people can’t like something that’s not there.” – Cath Crowley, A Little Wanting Song

Not Waving but Drowning 

Nobody heard him, the dead man, 
But still he lay moaning: 
I was much further out than you thought 
And not waving but drowning. 

Poor chap, he always loved larking 
And now he's dead 
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way, 
They said. 

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always 
(Still the dead one lay moaning) 
I was much too far out all my life 
And not waving but drowning.” 
- Stevie Smith, Collected Poems

“No man, proclaimed Donne, is an Island, and he was wrong. If we were not islands, we would be lost, drowned in each other’s tragedies. We are insulated (a word that means, literally, remember, made into an island) from the tragedy of others, by our island nature, and by the repetitive shape and form of the stories. The shape does not change: there was a human being who was born, lived, and then, by some means or another, died. There. You may fill in the details from your own experience. As unoriginal as any other tale, as unique as any other life. Lives are snowflakes—forming patterns we have seen before, as like one another as peas in a pod (and have you ever looked at peas in a pod? I mean, really looked at them? There’s not a chance you’d mistake one for another, after a minute’s close inspection), but still unique.” – Neil Gaiman, American Gods

“But most days,
I wander around feeling invisible.
Like I'm a speck of dust
floating in the air
that can only be seen
when a shaft of light hits it.
- Sonya Sones, One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies

ASSIGNMENT 1: Personal/Creative Response to Texts(suggested time: 45 minutes)
What do these texts suggest to you about isolation and alienation? Relate the text(s) you have chosen to your own experience and/or observation of alienation and isolation. Support your ideas with reference to one or more of the the texts presented and your previous knowledge or experience.

In your writing, you must

  • use a prose form: personal essay, narrative
  • connect one or more of the texts provided in this examination to your own ideas and impressions

ASSIGNMENT 2: Critical/Analytical Response to Literature(suggested time: 90 minutes)
Discuss the ideas raised by Martha Ostenso or Sinclair Ross about isolation and alienation.

In your planning and writing, consider the following instructions. –

  • Carefully consider your controlling idea and how you will create a strong unifying effect in your response.
  • As you develop your ideas, support them with appropriate, relevant, and meaningful examples from your choice of literary text(s).

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Original post by Mr. D. Sader

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