Tuesday, April 15, 2014

I Didn't Think We'd Ever Get Here

This was probably one of the hardest papers that I have ever written. It wasn't that I was ill-prepared or anything. I just had a very hard time pulling the trigger and spilling my soul onto the page. I chose very early on to write about Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. I had reread the novel just a few months ago, and it was still fresh in my mind. I connected to Hemingway's "Lost Generation" and wished to write something that would do them justice. I mentioned this in my personal literary narrative. I particularly connected with the story's protagonist, Jake Barnes. I thought that he was such an interesting and complex character. He was deeply flawed and injured, both emotionally and physically. I had heard that The Sun was a story was without heroes. How could this be? How could these characters that I had grown to love and care for be villains or cowards. I remember the lesson when Dr. Burton taught that a thesis should be arguable, provocative, and divide a literary audience. The lights clicked on, and I knew that I had to defend my literary friends from the common perceptions and literary thoughts that marked them as antiheroes. My task was set.

I started out by throwing some ideas around with my closest friends. I talked with my sister and my friend Darian about some of my ideas. I was able to talk about what I was feeling and concluded that I would try to defend the character from The Sun by blaming their actions on their generation and the Great War that had altered the face of the world, literally and metaphorically. I concluded that it had been the awful brutality of war that had shaped the characters, eventually leading to their loss of innocence. I believed in this idea, and I also thought that I could draw a strong parallel between the Lost Generation's universe and Alice's changing universe in Carroll's work. I thought that this would be a good idea, but I wanted some validation from my peers.

I turned to my classmates for feedback. As I read some of their posts, I tried to make comments that would spark conversations about topics we shared. I also relied on some of the comments that I received from them on my blog. Again, I turned to my sister for help and feedback, as well. After talking with these people, I concluded that I would add the element of identity in my paper and how the changing atmosphere after WWI had led to this loss of identity. I thought that I was cruising, now.

Once I had a clear idea about what I wanted to write, I turned to my primary source in search of some quotes that would help me build my paper. I wanted to find passages that proved how the changing generation had led to this loss of identity amongst my main subjects. I found a couple of interesting quotes and expounded on them. I eventually used some of my original insights in my final paper.

After analyzing more of my novel, I began to have some doubt about my thesis. It had too many holes, and I was having a hard time find enough evidence to back my claim. I would have to start from scratch and really stretch myself if I were to defend my thesis. I was willing to do that until I talked with one of my classmates from another English course about my ideas. She brought up a good point that I couldn't defend every character from The Sun. They were all different, and some of them were actually pretty rotten. So, I decided to back track and think about why I wanted to write what I did.

In my post about why I cared so much to write about The Sun, I mentioned how I was still a little uneasy about my thesis. I had already written a few potential paragraphs for my paper that centered around a loss of innocence. At this point, I was still on the fence about what I was going to write. However, as I wrote more about my motives, I realized more that I wasn't arguing for the Lost Generation, but for the character that most personified it, Jake Barnes. As I continued thinking my ideas over, I realized more that I needed to narrow my focus to him.

My last bit of help came when I reached out to an enthusiastic blogger who had published some writing about Hemingway. Her blog had given me some ideas, and although she was not a primary source of help, she did turn me in the right direction. She pointed me to the works of a professional Hemingway scholar who had written about the Lost Generation. He argued in their favor saying that Hemingway did not sell them out in his novels. As I read some of his work, I realized that I was on the right track with this Jake Barnes thing.

I finally decided on a short, clear thesis statement about two weeks before the final draft was due. This gave me time to research about Jake Barnes and gather evidence in his favor. I was able to find a lot because he is the protagonist. As I studied more about him, I found that I connected with him more and more on different emotional levels. It made it easier to write about him because as I did so, I felt as though I were defending myself. I was able to gather some really good quotes from different sources in journals and critical essays. I found a few interviews with Hemingway that I did not cite in the end, but used as inspiration and guides. A few days before the paper was due, I had about 500 words and could go no further. I was blocked. However, I used a free writing technique that unlocked my brain at about midnight and I wrote for hours. I stopped before it got too late and began again the next day. I finished my paper on Sunday afternoon and had it peer reviewed by my sister. She gave me some good insights and helped me organize my thoughts better. I fixed a few minor errors that helped my tone sound more professional and then I was done.

Like I said earlier, this was one of the hardest papers that I've had to write. The process was useful because it helped me get to my ultimate thesis, but I had to pass through a LOT of ideas before I settled on that one. Eventually, I wrote the paper that I was supposed to write, and I felt proud of the result.

If you decide to read my paper, I hope you enjoy it, and I thank you for giving it your time.

"but the earth abideth forever. And the sun also ariseth."

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