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TheEffect of Youth

Margaret Laurence’s Where the World Began describes thewonderful memories of a town in the Canadian prairies. In particular,the author discusses her emotional attachment to her homeland (Cinda230). In this regard, she outlines captivating features of thelandscape and the oddities that set the town apart. She alsohighlights the playful activities she frequently engaged in withother children from the neighborhood. Margaret argues that theexperiences of youth have an indelible effect on a person`sperspective.

The author ridicules the impact of stereotypes with regards toshaping a person’s viewpoint. She states that the lowly prairietown had been severally described as “dull, bleak, flat, anduninteresting” (Laurence). Other people had also claimed that therailway trip across the country was “spectacular, except for theprairies” (Laurence). Nevertheless, she insists that an individualhad to live in a particular environment to understand and appreciateits beauty. Notably, a person’s opinions and views were alwaysdependent on their first place of settlement. Although the town couldbe called “bizarre, agonizingly repressive or cruel at times,” itcould never be labeled as “dull” (Laurence). Consequently, theauthor uses the exciting skating trips during winter school days tovalidate her claims. The beautiful, daytime vegetation wouldcomplement the nightly wildlife comprising of the coyotes.Furthermore, she uses her recollection of summertime to explain herviews on drought and depression. Farmers and other townsfolk would besaddened by the intense heat since it destroyed their source oflivelihood. In fact, many people would knock on doors requesting “fora drink of water and a sandwich” (Laurence). Such occurrences ledher to view economic challenges and drought conditions as “evildeities” (Laurence). Therefore, a person’s firsthand experienceswere more forceful in developing their perspective as compared toexternal opinions.

Besides, childhood experiences have the potential to override naturalinstincts. The author depicts the town as a “strange place” fullof “incredible happenings, splendours, and revelations” (Riegel85). For example, the aftermath of a blizzard would cause the schoolto be &quotclosed for the day&quot (Laurence). However, the town`schildren would instead travel into the desserts to pursue &quotadifferent kind of knowing&quot (Laurence). Additionally, the authorstates that her &quotvigil would be rewarded&quot when someone`shouse burnt down during the night (Laurence). Although sympathy wouldbe the usual reaction to the sight of a burning house, Margaret wasthrilled to witness the unfortunate event. Hence, she cultivated “analmost perfect callousness” that made her insensitive to the plightof others. The author also highlights several oddities thatcharacterized the town. For example, there was an elderly lady thatserved soda biscuits instead of offering egg sandwiches. Anotherwoman preferred to apply orange dye on her hair. The author’sstepmother wore a strange silver neckpiece while her Irishgrandfather had unique pronunciations. The town also had a derangedman called Andy Gump who was feared and disrespected in equalmeasure. The author uses her memories from grade school to show herleaning towards obnoxious behavior. In particular, some older girlswere undeservedly labeled as whores despite the lack of corroboratingevidence. Their speech and physique were presumed as befitting forprostitution. Moreover, Margaret pinpoints that the dead still livedin the town. In this respect, grandparents “gloomed, bearded, orbonneted from the sepia photographs in old albums” (Laurence). Theuncles would be forever viewed as “eighteen or nineteen” eventhough their names had been “carved on the granite family stones inthe cemetery” (Laurence). Notably, the author had lost both parentsby the time she turned ten. Such heartbreaking experiences hadaffected Margaret’s sense of compassion and empathy. Therefore,childhood events can cause an individual to feel and act in a mannerthat belies rational thought.

Furthermore, trying to establish new habits that were different froma person’s upbringing was always futile. At 18, the author was sofrustrated with the town’s culture that she desired to moveelsewhere. Nonetheless, she later discovered that the land and townwould remain entrenched into her skull. In fact, her writing careerwas inspired by the experiences she had in the prairie town.Inevitably, the excruciating pain of losing her parents could notdesert her. The exuberant memories of winter and summer lingered longafter her departure. Her distance from the town did not diminish hersentimental attachment. Margaret acknowledged that the life sincerelocation was defined by attempts to understand her youth. Theauthor extols the implications of living in her neighborhood duringher formative years. She regrets that the country previously lived“under the huge shadows” of “Uncle Sam and Britannia”(Laurence). Notwithstanding, citizens had learned to recognize theirpotential and treasure their heritage. Granted, some issues incurredthe author’s rage. For example, lakes and rivers had been pollutedwith industrialized wastes. The country’s natural resources andindustries had also been placed under American control. The authorwas disgusted to contemplate how Canadians had sold their birthrightin exchange “for a mess of plastic Congress” (Laurence). Herexperiences in the prairie town had bolstered her appreciation forher country and its natural resources. Although she had lived inEngland and Africa, none of these places had as much influence overher as compared to her homeland. Spending four months in southernOntario could not be surpassed by living for many years in foreigncountries. Margaret’s childhood had also caused her to develop ahealthy “fear and mistrust of cities” (Laurence). She rememberedthe time when she gave a public talk at her old college in Winnipeg. An old man approached her and claimed to have worked for her“great-grandfather, Robert Wemyss” (Laurence). Although herfamily had originally come from Ireland and Scotland, she wasconvinced that her &quottrue roots&quot lay in Canada (Laurence).Granted, Margaret adopted a neutral stance on the country`s social,political, and literary issues. Notwithstanding, the author humblyappreciates the town`s role as the place where she &quotlearned thesight of her particular eyes&quot (Laurence). Therefore, anyattempts to act contrary to her upbringing would be fruitless.

Indeed, the experiences of youth have lasting effects on anindividual`s perspective. Stereotypes and other external views cannotbe used to draw conclusions about a particular place. A person had tomake judgments based on firsthand experiences. The prairie town hadbeen seen as dull and uninteresting. However, the author mentionedseveral childhood experiences to disprove the assertion that herneighborhood lacked vitality. She also showed how her views ondepression and drought developed through local events. Additionally,traumatic childhood experiences can distort the natural feelings ofempathy and compassion. The death of her parents coupled with thetown`s oddities had made the author calloused. Also, an individualcould not possibly overcome the patterns of behavior entrenchedduring their youth. Despite living in splendid foreign countries, heryouth had an enduring impact on her writing.

Works Cited

Laurence, Margaret. &quotWhere the world began.&quot The NortonReader: An anthology of expository prose (1992). Web. 8 Aug.2016.

Cinda, Gault. National and female identity in Canadian literature,1965-1980 the fiction of Margaret Laurence, Margaret Atwood, andMarian Engel. Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press, 2012. Print.

Riegel, Christian. &quotLiterary Development in the 19405.&quot TheLiterary History of Saskatchewan: Volume 1 1 (2013): 85. Print.

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Ben Fountain`s Billy Lynn`s long halftime walk depicts thestory of eight members of an army unit acclaimed as war heroes.Sadly, two former soldiers in the Bravo squad had succumbed toinjuries during an intense firefight at Al-Ansakar Canal. The eliteteam was honored with a two-week victory tour after surviving thebattle frontlines. The book features various excerpts from their lastday before deployment. In particular, the soldiers were to be paradedduring the halftime show at the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium onThanksgiving night.

Chapter 15 of the book portrays the Bravo squad’s meeting withtheir event coordinator, Josh. The latter apologizes for leaving thegroup stranded after half-time due to “logistics” (Fountain 250).Although the soldiers are intent on attending an after-party withDestiny’s Child, Josh supposes that the pop group had “alreadyleft the stadium” (Fountain 252). Subsequently, the troops move tothe concourse where Lodis, Mango, and Crack attend to injuriessustained in an earlier fight. However, others decide to phone theirloved ones. The rest of the plot in chapter 15 features Billy Lynn’sphone call conversation with his mother, Denise, and two sisters,Kathryn and Patty.

The section features several themes such as media, war, patriotism,brotherhood, politics, family, and duty. Subtle arguments are alsoraised concerning some of the thematic elements. The media is shownto provide false presentations of facts. For example, Patty supposedthat Billy was praying when he was captured looking at the sky.Nevertheless, Billy mentioned that he had been “trying to get someair” (Fountain 255). Although Patty and the other Bravo soldierswere drawn towards Beyoncé, Kathryn supposed that the singer had anirritating personality. Furthermore, Patty manifests an intenseinterest in the celebrities whom Billy had met during the halftimeshow. Additionally, Denise berates the media for its airing of “lewdgyrations” (Fountain 268). Therefore, doubts are raised to questionthe media’s morality, accuracy, and reliability.

The devastating effects of war on the family setup are also portrayedin Billy’s conversation with Kathryn. In fact, grief inundatesBilly as he contemplates the possibility of dying in Iraq. He alsodisplays a commendable sense of patriotism that propelled him toenlist for war. Besides, President Bush had “penned medals” onthe soldiers for their bravery (Fountain 265). Billy manifests aremarkable spirit of brotherhood in his willingness to return to thewar. In fact, he stated that he was compelled to accompany the squadand fight the enemies alongside his brothers. Moreover, Billy ishaunted by frequent thoughts of dead comrades such as Shroom.Consequently, he could never abandon the Bravo squad.

Besides, the endearing love among family members is reflected inKathryn’s tears as she tries to dissuade Billy from returning toIraq. She had even shared his contact with some lawyers who could“plead temporary sanity” in his case (Fountain 263).Additionally, tender compassion can be seen in Billy’s declarationof love for both his mother and his family. Despite the risks, heknows that remaining alive will be “good for the family”(Fountain 269). Notably, Billy had lovingly warned Patty to imploreher son, Brian, “never to join the Army” (Fountain 263). Politicsis also discussed during Kathryn’s conversation with Billy. In thisregard, she criticizes the country’s leaders for lying to thepublic to sanction the war. Nevertheless, Billy shows his strongsense of duty when he claims that he must return to Iraq because he“signed up” (Fountain 264).


1. Why do youthink Billy decided to return to Iraq? What points would you haveused to counter this reason?

2. Should Billyhave accepted his sister’s suggestion? If yes, would the plan haveworked? If not, why?

3. Why do youthink Billy wished for his nephew never to participate in war? Isthis reason valid enough to question his patriotism? What does theanswer reveal about his personality?

4. Do you agree with Kathryn’s assessment that a country withdishonest leaders did not merit self-sacrificing soldiers? Givereasons as to why or why not.

Work Cited

Fountain, Ben. Billy Lynn`s long halftime walk. New York:Ecco, 2012. Print.

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CriticalAnalysis of Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Hamlet by William Shakespeare depicts the story of a rulingking, Claudius, married to his sister, Gertrude. Claudius hadmurdered the previous king named Hamlet and usurped the throne of hisson, also named Hamlet. Gertrude was the boy’s biological mother.The plot shows how Hamlet grapples with thoughts of avenging hisfather’s death and reclaiming his rightful kingship. Ultimately,his bid is unsuccessful as it leads to the death of many characters.Hamlet’s tragic flaw is his inability to make sound decisions andact in a rational manner.

Hamlet is incapable of committing suicide despite his assessment ofhow meaningless his life had become. In fact, he states thateverything seemed to be “weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable”(Shakespeare and Klein 96). Nevertheless, he wishes that suicide wasnot a sinful practice since God had “fixed his canon’ againstself-slaughter” (Shakespeare and Klein 96). Hamlet decides not toend his life because he was ruled by fear of the unknown. Hamlet’sgrief concerning his father’s murder is so profound that he spendsconsiderable time in a paralyzed state of mind. Consequently, he isunwilling to act on his thoughts or carry out any progressive plans.Such a dilemma magnifies his flawed qualities of indecision andinaction.

Furthermore, Hamlet is in denial about his mother’s actions. Inparticular, he could not accept that his mother had violated hermarriage vows. Although Hamlet considers killing his mother, he foundreasons not to end her life. Hamlet confronts Gertrude and admonishesher to be virtuous although he knew that she was evil. In addition,he tells Gertrude to repent rather than acting to punish her. Infact, he tried to lay bare her sins by commanding her to neithershare Claudius’s bed nor let him caress her neck (Shakespeare andKlein 86). The interactions with his mother show his knack foravoidance. Hamlet preferred not to mete out due punishment to hismother for her deplorable behavior.

Besides, Hamlet failed to act on his intention to kill his uncle.Claudius was responsible for the former king`s death. Moreover, thelatter had seized the throne despite Hamlet being the legitimateheir. Claudius had also taken the dead king’s wife as his. In fact,the ghost of Gertrude`s husband had instructed Hamlet to avenge hisunjust murder. Despite the clear depictions of his uncle`s guilt,Hamlet assumes that the specter was leading him to damnation(Shakespeare and Klein 73). Cautiously, he decides to establish theking’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Hamlet puts on a play for theking while hoping to see manifestations of culpability. Thedramatization had a reenacted scene that reminded Claudius of hismurderous actions. Subsequently, the king stopped the play afterwitnessing the murder scene. Hamlet procrastinates the decision tokill Claudius since he needed to be certain of his uncle’s role inhis father`s death. Hamlet`s delay reveals the internal conflictbetween awareness and action.

In addition, Hamlet decides not to kill Claudius while the kingseemed to be praying. He was sure that acting in such a manner wouldamount to &quothire and salary, not revenge” (Shakespeare andKlein 103). In fact, Hamlet rationalizes that murdering Claudiuswould send the latter to heaven while condemning himself to eternaldamnation. Hamlet also reasons that his uncle must have repented ofhis sins during prayer. He is mortified that Claudius could ascend toheaven, yet his slain father had not been afforded the opportunity torepent. Nonetheless, the revelation is made that the king was notactually praying. Therefore, Hamlet passed up a prime opportunity toavenge his father’s death and finally attain peace. He concludesthat his father’s ghost appeared to him for a second time since hecould not kill Claudius despite having the “will and strength andmeans” (Shakespeare and Klein 126). Hamlet’s hesitation isjuxtaposed with Laertes`s readiness to slit the throat of hisfather`s murderer while in the church. The futility of Hamlet`sspiritual ideals brings his indecision into sharp focus.

It could be argued that Hamlet’s downfall occurred due to hisnobility. His values as an idealist led him to assign the bestintentions to the people around him (Lupton and Reinhard 47). Forexample, he did not rush into presuming his uncle’s guilt. Hamletgave his uncle the benefit of the doubt by seeking to find proof.Also, he is hesitant to commit murder since he believed thatvengeance belonged to God. In addition, he decides against killinghis uncle since he assumed that the king had manifested penance.Therefore, murdering him would be tantamount to condemning aninnocent individual. Besides, Hamlet nobly sought proof that theghost could be trusted. His concerns were valid since he believedthat some spirits could descend from the spirit world with theintention of ensnaring innocent persons into eternal condemnation ina fiery Hell. Moreover, Hamlet seemed unwilling to kill his mothersince he was giving her an opportunity to ponder over her incestuousbehavior. He entertains the hope that she could reason on the matterand change her actions. Notwithstanding, Hamlet`s naivety led to themurder of several of his childhood friends. He also acted rashly bystabbing and killing Polonius, albeit mistakenly.

Psychoanalytic criticism shows that Hamlet was suffering from OedipusComplex. Consequently, he had a mild sexual interest in his motherwhile wishing to murder his father (Lupton and Reinhard 29). In thisregard, Hamlet could not avenge his uncle since he felt somewhatguilty. If Claudius were worthy of death, then Hamlet would alsodeserve the same fate (Lupton and Reinhard 32). Such a conclusionarises from his unconscious desire to kill his father and henceinherit the throne. Consequently, Hamlet reproaches himself severallyas he contemplates murdering the king. His erotic affection for hismother was displayed when he warned her not to defile herself inClaudius’s tainted sheets. Therefore, Hamlet’s inability to actcauses him to act impulsively rather than rationally.

Hamlet’s indecision and inaction ultimately led to his death. Theking’s instincts lead him to banish Hamlet and organize a wickedmurder plot. Hamlet hatches elaborate plans to feign craziness in thehope that Claudius would confess his crimes. His delay provided theking with an opportunity to kill Hamlet by sending the latter toEngland (Shakespeare and Klein 111). His mother also died fromdrinking poison. Other characters such as Laertes and Ophelia alsosuffer deaths arising from Hamlet’s actions. Consequently, thefinal outcome shows that Hamlet was tragically flawed due to hishesitation.

Indeed, Hamlet’s tragic flaw lies in his inability to make promptdecisions and act in the right manner. He could not kill himselfdespite his misery and anguish. He also could not kill Claudiusdespite finding the king in a moment of weakness. Furthermore, heoffered his mother a weak rebuke rather than punishing her forincest. Hamlet was also hesitant in believing his father’s ghost.Although his inaction could be attributed to his nobility, theultimate death of many characters, including himself, reveals hisinaction.


Lupton, Julia, and Kenneth Reinhard. After Oedipus: Shakespeare inpsychoanalysis. Aurora Colo.: Davies Group Publishers, 2009.Print.

Shakespeare, William, and Holger Michael Klein. Hamlet.Stuttgart: Reclam, 2014. Print.