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The Yellow Wallpaper Anaylsis

The Yellow Wallpaper

This piece was a literary analysis of the first two pages of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, published in 1892.

This piece of fiction from The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman contains aspects of the mystery and horror genre. Narrated in first person, the writing style allows the audience into the most intimate areas of the persona’s mind. Deliberately using language which is disjointed and jumbled, Gilman paints a picture of someone who is trapped within an old house and a one sided marriage. As the passage progresses, the menacing nature of the house is brought to the forefront of the story, particularly seen in the persona’s reaction to the yellow wallpaper.

The passage starts with an informal and a conversational tone, it is clear that the persona either sees the audience as non-threatening or is unaware of their presence. The abundance of rhetorical question implies that the persona is in conversation with the audience; “Else, why should it be let so cheaply?” and “… Why have [it] stood so long untenanted?” The diction used in this passage is deliberately casual, with no words added which might challenge the reading capabilities of the average person. Bubbly quotes like “The most beautiful place!… It makes me think of English places that you read about…” builds the relationship between the audience and the housewife as they are hearing the innermost personal thoughts of the housewife and thus empathise with her.

The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?

– Jeremy Bentham

The conversational tone is reflected in the general sentence structure of the piece. The constant thought interruptions from the hyphens and short sentences break the glossy flow of logic and delivery which is to be expected from most fiction. Instead Gilman’s breaking of the traditional paragraph structure mimics the bumpy rhythm of a face to face conversation. This unusual structure is a visual metaphor alluding to the confused state of the mind of the persona; as sentences seem to be sporadic thoughts instead of contributing to a linear narrative plot progression.

This unexpected transition from the innocent recordings of an annoyed housewife to a tale much darker in tone is accentuated in the disarming and personable nature of Gilman’s writing at the beginning. Humour especially is used to endear her to the audience, “So I take phosphates or phosphites – whichever it is…” her clumsiness allows the audiences to relate to her situation of powerlessness. Likewise the persona is able to subtly chip away at the authority of the husband through the repetition of exaggerated ‘resignations to his advice’; “Personally, I believe that work… would do me good. But what is one to do?” These small moments of sarcasm are used to defang John, but also paints him as a stiff and joyless individual. During a moment where she is convinced this house has a “ghostliness” to it, “[John] said [what] I felt was a draught, and shut the window.” The humourous tone in addition to the light hearted subject matter of relocating to a new holiday house portrays the persona as someone who is preserving against small inconveniences. This changes in the final sentences of the passage, the morbid and sickly descriptions of the room heralds the unexpected emergence of the Gothic in a domestic environment.

Apart from using humour in order to convey the persona’s dissatisfaction with her husband, Gilman uses the hyphen to represent her two sided thoughts about him. On one hand, John is her husband and social expectations combined with John’s delicate care for her is appreciated; on the other hand being stuck in the top floor of this building evokes comparisons to Rapunzel. Out of a total of fourteen hyphens in Gilman’s passage, eight of them are used when discussing the topic of John and his dominating influence in her life. By intertwining John’s name with a physical break in writing, the persona conveys how ‘disruptive’ his presence is, but also hints at the possibility that she is suppressing a secondary opinion of her husband. Similarly John is mentioned in a lot of short sentence; “John is practical in the extreme.” And “I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes.” These short sentences echo a tone of finality as if John’s character can simply be summed up by a single word or adjective.

Throughout the passage, John is portrayed as the stark contrast of his wife, whereas she likes to indulge in fascinations of the mind, John is (cruelly) scientific and “scoffs openly at any talk of [such] things.” Gilmore’s linguistic choices reflecst the division between the couple; John and his wife are never spoken about as a single unit. The closest the audience gets to this is in the word “marriage” to describe their relationship (it appears once). Yet this word lacks the warmth that “family” or “lovers” carry, it’s simply used to signify their type of relationship and not the feelings attached with it. There are also no inclusive pronouns in this passage, instead the audience is constantly reminded that John and “I” are two different parties with two separate outlooks on life, “John laughs at me…” and “John says the very worst thing I can do is…”

This passage from The Yellow Wallpaper is very personal as the story is not filtered through the lens of an omnipresent narrator. Instead the audience is receiving her thoughts directly; thus firmly placing us on her ‘side’ regardless of her biases. It is only near the end of the passage, when this jumbled mess of thoughts is combined with the darker descriptions of the wallpaper that elements of horror and mental instability steep out from what seemed to be an ordinary tale of family tension.

Whilst the very start of the passage foreshadows the mysterious and Gothic nature of this house; “There is something strange about the house – I can feel it.” And “… I would say a haunted house…” The final lines of this passage are drastically different and really dispel away the tone of innocence from her previous ‘trivial’ ramblings. There is a very noticeable contrast between the room the persona wants with “… roses all over the window…” compared to the wallpaper which is “… repellent, almost revolting.” The words chosen to describe the room depict it as almost a living flesh wound on the building; “… a smoulder unclean yellow [wallpaper]…” and “It is a dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sickly sulphur tint in others.” This sense of the room being alive is also reflected in the personification of the ‘artistically sinful’ wallpaper that “… suddenly commit suicide.” The connotations of the words “sin” and “suicide” convey that the room is not just uncomfortable to look at but that there is something inherently evil or malicious about its nature.

The literary techniques used in this passage from The Yellow Wallpaper are effectively in accomplishing the goals it sets out to meet. The use of first person, simple and familiar diction combined with the plight of a mistreated wife charms the audience into allying themselves with the persona. However, only near the end of this passage, do the audience start to peer behind the veil of banter and good faith. The combination of imagery and personification presents the room as an animate object with its own frightening agency causes the audience to suspect the terror hidden within this building, but also the possible seeds of mental instability within the persona.

 

MythBusters: Learning Styles

“If there’s something strange in you neighborhood
Who you gonna call? (mythbusters)
If there’s something weird
And it don’t look good
Who you gonna call? (mythbusters).”

What the Research says about Learning Styles?

Background:

For the purposes of this assignment, we have chosen to suggest an approach for a school in the Western suburbs of Sydney, with an ethnically and linguistically diverse student body. Being engaged in professional development, the school has noticed the discourse of learning styles in professional spheres and wants to investigate before adopting it as school practice. The following is a paper evaluating the research on learning styles, and suggests an approach for the school to take.

Introduction:

The term “learning styles” is the constructed concept that “individuals differ in regard to what mode of instruction or study that is most effective for them”. Over the last fifty years, the myth of ‘Learning Styles’ has become one of the most popular aspects of educational theory, with it gaining traction amongst the wider academic circles. Pashler et al., states this education theory is very alluring because it presents an easy solution to the paradox of teaching inherently different students within a mass production system. However the popularity of this myth ventures into the field of pseudo-science as its catchy narrative is overwhelmingly unsupported by the current research. Furthermore Pashler et al. states that with the constant active promotion from vendors offering different tests, assessment devices and online technologies, it has allowed educational institutions to easily identify students learning styles, and adapt their instructional approaches accordingly.

It cannot be denied that it is important to recognise that students are diverse and learn differently, whether it is culturally, linguistically or cognitively. The concept of learning styles may seem like a credible approach to cater for this diversity, however there has been limited evidence supporting it. There is some evidence of neural correlation with a preferred learning preference, for example Kraemer, Rosenberg & Thompson-Schill (2008) had the first set of data that showed a neural correlation with a stated style preference, which suggested that those who are associated with the verbal style have a tendency to convert pictorial information into linguistic representations. However, in the majority of the research on learning styles, students who used their preferred learning styles did not fare significantly better than students who were prevented from using their preferred style. It is therefore important that educators are aware that learning styles are not reliable predictors of the most appropriate learning style for any given student.

Alternatively, Huebner suggests the use of “differentiated instruction to effectively address all students’ learning needs”. It cannot be denied that students come from complex backgrounds with a diversity of language, ability and prior knowledge in any given area. They will also have a preference with the way that they learn and retain information. However, evidence suggests that implementing differentiated instruction, rather than teaching to a single style or ability, proves to be the most effective when addressing diverse student learning needs. Instead of grouping students into learning styles, understanding how to promote student engagement and motivation, assessing student readiness and having effective classroom management procedures can enrich the student learning process. Huebner further affirms this statement by stating it is important to understand that with differentiated instruction, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ model, instead it builds upon the prior knowledge, interests and abilities that students bring to the classroom.

The Myth of Learning Styles

Massa and Meyer’s study was very effective at highlighting the wide divide between what is the popular narrative and what is academically supported. Altogether Massa and Meyer performed three separate experiments to test whether or not ‘visual learners’ and ‘verbal learners’ excelled when multimedia instruction was given in their respective fields, in a total of 51 cases, 49 showed little or no evidence, for learning styles, with some even showing evidence against.

When Massa and Meyer’s first experiment involving 52 participants showed no evidence to support the learning styles education system, they attempted the exact same experiment in a different context. In the first experiment, the mean age was 18 years old with all the participants coming from the Psychology pool at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In experiment two it, the participants were non-college educated adults, with 15 out of the 61 having high school as their highest level of education. However despite the shift in demographics, the results to experiment two were very similar, with no significant increases in academic scoring in 14 of the 15 experiments.

Out of the 51 cases, 52.94% (27/51) of the time, the results showed a minute leaning towards the expected direction (visual learners getting slightly better results on visual instruction), whilst 47.05% (24/51) the results headed towards the opposite direction. These scores highlight how inconsistent this educational theory is and that there was close to an equal chance of a person either benefiting or not benefitting from learning styles classrooms.

Instead it was found that adding images to aid any form of instruction was a benefit to both ‘visual’ and ‘verbal’ learners, further discrediting the notion that people can be cleanly categorized into either element. This has been validated by studies such as Mayer and Moreno (2002) and Austin (2009) who found multimedia which incorporated animation and narration were consistently shown to be the most effective when it came to student’s retention of knowledge and academic scores.

The Argument for Learning Styles

One of the most significant reasons that the learning style theory gained momentum was due to educators realising that each child is different in the way that they learn and process knowledge. In their book “The Importance of Learning Styles,” Sims and Sims assert that learning opportunities need to be designed with the strengths and weakness of the child in mind. This is an argument which stands true to this day, even though the nuances of the words ‘strengths and weaknesses’ have evolved since then. In Sims and Sims’ time, the goal of learning styles assessment was to “make distinctions that lead to meaningful differences”. This was carried out through theories such as the Experiential Learning Theory presented by Kolb and the Learning Styles model proposed by Grasha-Reichmann. Both of these researchers were making nascent responses to the dilemma which arose from the acknowledgement of individual differences, or perhaps preferences, for perceiving and processing information. Since then, research on differentiated instruction by ability level and all forms of expression have developed these ideas.

The preconceived notions of some researchers have inhibited the critical analysis of data leading some to believe that what was measured was an indicator of different learning styles. Sprenger states that differentiation strategies such as tweaking the content or making instructional changes, need to be implemented after analysing the student’s “learning profile” or style of learning (2008, p.xvi). For qualitative researchers such as Sprenger (2008), who work with small scale case studies or take part in action research in their own classrooms, the idea that a child’s behaviour can indicate the child’s cognitive processes would have been almost self evident as it would have been observable evidence.

Massa and Mayer (2006), although critical of the learning style theory, acknowledges that in their study a correlation between cognitive style measures and processing measures were found where an individual’s professed learning style (visual or verbal) matched with how heavily they relied on help represented through the two styles. However, these findings are few and far between. Given the dominance of the learning styles discourse, it is very possible that researchers and participants alike were unwittingly primed to form these conclusions.

Conclusion

The basic idea of cognitive styles, that different individuals process certain types of information differently, has appeared in many forms and has been part of many theories in various avenues of psychological research. Despite this widespread interest, however, a precise description of what constitutes a cognitive style, both from a behavioral and from a biological perspective, remains elusive.

Although many schools are still inclined to adopt the concept of learning styles into their pedagogy, we would advise not to use it as a basis for teacher practice due to the lack of evidence for it. An overwhelming proportion of the evidence is based on ‘preferences’ instead of an assessment of cognition, or contain flawed and insufficient methodology. Furthermore, numerous studies have shown that in fact, what can be described as ‘learning styles’ has no significant impact on achievement.

Given these findings, we encourage the school to adopt the approach of differentiation, where pedagogy is designed to treat students as individuals based on their ability, prior knowledge, literacy and appropriate forms of engagement and management.

This was written by Gi Eun Lee, Kasturi Murugavel, Erica Sung and myself; SC. Thank you for being an amazing team, even if it was for a short period of time.

The ANZAC Legend and Gallipoli Myth; Dangerous National Narratives

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The ANZAC myth that became indistinguishable from the Gallipoli campaign has become one of the foundations of the Australian identity. The myth romanticised anti- authoritarian larrikin who faced death with a song and a joke, the white male who was willing to give his life for his mates and country. The Gallipoli campaign has become a political tool used by politicians to reinforce a singular understanding of the Australian ethos; Anglo-Saxon and hyper-masculinity. Likewise, the glorification of the campaign and the ANZACs highlight the tension between popular history with a nationalistic agenda and more accurate forms of history which do not neatly fit a preconceived purpose. The changing interpretations of the Gallipoli campaign and the ANZACs involved in the conflict reflected the continuity and change of cultural narratives.

The ANZAC tradition was not always so significant in the Australian psyche, it’s important to acknowledge how the different routes that history could have walked down. In 1973, amongst the surge of anti-militaristic feelings, the Labor government even considered dropping ANZAC day and instead transforming in a day of peace. Only in the recent decades has ANZAC become a day of patriotic celebration, inherently linked with being a ‘good’ Australian.

The last few decades have seen the elevation of Gallipoli and ANZAC day to a national story, both which represent the defining characteristics of Australia and its citizens. The rise in the popularity of the ANZAC legend can be linked to the end of the White Australia Policy, the opening up of the country to immigration threatened to delude the white Australian culture. The white community started to embody the legendary mateship displayed by the diggers who united against a foreign enemy. Even if Australia has slowly embraced multiculturalism, the ANZAC myth has remained inherently white, a distinct line of separation between Anglo-Saxons and other immigrants.

This line of segregation was even extended towards Indigenous soldiers who still fight to get their acknowledgement and respect for participating in this war. However, whilst the narrative of the ANZAC soldiers and the sacrifice at Gallipoli still unquestionably forwards white nationalism, the creation of the ‘Yininmadyemi Thou didst let fall’ sculpture to recognise Indigenous participation reflects a growing trend to widen or question this legendary mythos.

Tony Abbott’s speech on Remembrance Day of 2014 evokes the sense of nationalism and romanticises not only the notion of violence but presents the Gallipoli campaign as self-righteous, ignoring the fact it was supposed to be an invasion of the Ottoman Empire. However most frighteningly is how the ANZAC tradition legitimises the use of violence to combat the alien, the white masculine body charged with the defence of the nation’s borders. This is distinctively reflected in Abbott’s words “Today, we will remember the courage, achievements, pain and loss of all who have served in our name…And we draw strength from their memory.”

The events at Gallipoli and the ANZAC myth are often seen as the baptism of Australia, with the nation maturing and taking their position on the world stage. However, these myths reinforce an insular and exclusive nationhood, with the ANZACs defining ultimately themselves against their allies. The ANZAC’s famous larrikin humour is presented as friendly and charming, whilst in reality their anti-authoritarian mentality often resulted in a lot of troops being ‘Absent Without Leave.’ Their ‘prejudice’ against the British which is also often presented as a positive and a defining characteristic of ANZAC soldiers, which subconsciously reflects modern day Australia’s growing sense of independence from her mother country.

By questioning the ANZAC traditions and the glorification of the Gallipoli campaign, individuals can understand how history is selective, reflecting the dominant culture. They will gain a deeper understanding how facts and statistics may be ignored when they challenge an established notion. For an example, it is popularly accepted that the ANZACs were landed in the wrong location and thus once again let down by their British superiors, however this has been verified as an urban myth by many respected Australian historians. This tale attempts to shift the blame from the Australian and New Zealand soldiers onto another party and instead of acknowledging the failure of the Australian forces to conquer a land which put offense at a severe disadvantage. Furthering the belief that participating in World War I was responsible for establishing the generous and laid-back Australian culture, John Howard famously states the war allowed Australia to tap into “The most admirable aspects of Australia’s national character.” However, this simple and flattering narrative of the ANZACs fails to account for their racist attitudes, frequently calling Egyptians “gyppos” and Indians “niggers”, thus such information is discarded as society no longer accepts blatant racism.

The study of Gallipoli and the ANZAC myth is a fascinating and absorbing topic, when approached from a different angle which contradicts the patriotic story fashioned by politicians and the biased media. The events at Gallipoli and the glorified traits of the ANZACs have left a last impression upon the Australian identity, though with any national history, the simplicity of it can be damaging as it serves to reflect the dominant discourse. Ultimately, popular history which is created for public consumption, with little regard for historical accuracy, can be used to indoctrinate the younger generation for a political agenda. In a modernizing world where people of different ethnicities and cultures are becoming more integrated due to globalisation, it is important to construct an inclusive society that doesn’t marginalise selected portions of society. Australia can start breaking down its racist attitude by first exploring the ANZAC legend, a myth which ultimately defines an Australian.

Obama’s Yes We Can: Rhetorical Analysis. (A Dime A Dozen)

Question: The purpose of this exercise is to apply rhetorical analysis techniques to a published argument in any format. (1000 words)

(To all my American readers, please understand I am writing in Australian English, thus the spelling may differ slightly, this is done intentionally since I am submitting this piece to an Australian university)

If you are interested in reading another rhetorical analysis I wrote about another American politician, the click here.

Barack Obama’s election in 2008 symbolised a change in American culture and social thinking. For a nation which had prided itself on equality and freedom, Obama’s presidential victory marked the first time a non-Anglo-Saxon man had taken office. His now famous Yes We Can speech was addressed to his Democrats in Chicago, an audience who generally sided with leftist liberal thinking. This aspect he clearly uses to his advantage in his speech. In addition to building upon a very favourable ethos, the speech attempts to use pathos to connect with the audience by uniting them through a shared sense of patriotism. The celebratory nature of the speech meant that logos was rarely used, however this was a deliberate choice and arguably strengthened the speech. The Yes We Can speech is an outstanding example of a highly skilled orator’s ability to persuade, manipulate and influence an audience.

Fostering a positive ethos is an essential part in creating rapport between the orator and the audience; it disarms any suspicions or concerns which they might have originally held. Obama, a shrewd politician attempts to emphasise his American patriotism in order to establish a common connection between him and his primary demographic; liberal Americans. He does this by standing in front of American flags, dressed in a suit, a symbol of power and might particularly in the western world. In order to create trust, it is important to establish the essence of ‘good will’ in one’s character, by presenting himself or herself in a friendly and respectful manner to their audiences. In doing so Obama gives the image that he is someone who understands the culture of America’s traditions. The appearance of the Obama family on stage is also done in order to highlight his role of the ‘family man.’ By portraying the most powerful man in America as a relatable middle class man, Obama is subconsciously trying to establish an emotional connection between his projected ethos and the audience.

Obama’s efforts to maintain his American ethos is reflected within his speech as well and clearly he has a strong understanding of his target audience. Obama taps into this stream of patriotism in the quotes “who still wonders if the dreams of our founders is alive in our time” and “a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this earth” By referencing the most influential and respected men in American history, Obama is building a metaphorical bridge between himself and these men who stood for the American ideals of justice, freedom and liberty. By quoting Abraham Lincoln; a man whose roots come from the city he is speaking in, Obama is able to lend credibility to his ethos by associating himself with a past president. Obama is also connecting his presidency with the romanticized American past and ideals and gives the notion that America will continue to stand as a beacon of hope against tyranny and injustice.

A skilled orator will be able to manipulate pathos in order to get the audience to emotionally invest into their message. Whilst pathos lacks the science and reason which logos presents, the ability to inspire is an immensely powerful tool to create social change. The underlying sense of nationalism is evident in the quote “let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility” and “our stories are singular but our destiny is shared, a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.” Within both these quotes, Obama transcends the physical by giving the impression that his election victory stands as a watershed in American history. The hyperbole whips the crowd into a frenzy since human nature instinctively longs to feel like it has contributed to something that surpasses them as an individual. The allusion that Obama requires the full participation of the nation to bring about change is a nod towards the democratic foundation of America. It also builds trust between the audience and himself as now there is a feeling of mutual benefits which underlines both parties’ relationship with each other.

As a politician it is important to sustain the support and loyalty of the nation. Obama’s Yes We Can speech attempts to reach out and connect with every demographic especially the Republican voters who have yet to show allegiance towards Obama. This is seen in the quote “it’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled” Understanding that the audience was mainly comprised of Democrats who usually hold a more liberal perspective, there was a huge roar of approval when Obama mentioned “gay.” By reaffirming the values of his target audience, Obama was able to reinforce the credibility and his ‘good sense.’ By specifically mentioning every demographic, Obama is attempting to create a personal relationship with all Americans and highlight the inclusive and welcoming nature of his liberal government. It should be noted this quote is strangely reminiscent of the lists within Whitman’s poetry; Whitman the quintessential American poet believed that lists was a democratic method of presenting information.

Slowly there is build-up of emotion within Obama’s speech until the energy peaks, resulting in a release of emotions as the crowd chants “yes we can.” This crescendo of emotion continues as Obama promises them that the “timeless American creed” combined with united support from his followers will overcome all external difficulties. “When there was despair in the Dust Bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself… Yes we can” By alluding to times of crisis before quickly presenting his presidency as the solution, Obama convinces the audiences to emotionally invest into him as a symbol of hope, presenting himself as the more attractive alternative juxtaposed to famine and poverty. Obama’s word attempt to rejuvenate a nation when notions of American supremacy was rocked by the Global Financial Crisis of 2008.

The Yes We Can speech stands as a testament to the power a skilled orator can hold over a crowd and how the arts of persuasion and communication created in Ancient Greece still influences today’s modern society. Whilst most speeches contain elements of pathos, logos and ethos, Obama decided to largely forgo logical arguments since they were already explored in the speeches leading up to his victory. However this doesn’t weaken Obama’s message, in fact the strong themes of hope and persistence may have revitalised the nation during a bleak period of financial collapse. Personally I believe this speech stands as the crowning moment in Obama’s political career, it was beautifully constructed and delivered even more powerfully. Reflecting how a great orator can cut across the social division within a community and inspire all with their words.

Chingy out.

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