Category: English 223


"A.I. Artificial Intelligence" (2001)

After reading this very unique short story, I was confused as to why Harty decided to create the character Cole as a robot. Initially, the main conflict of the story seems to be solely a father trying to save his injured son, but as the story progresses and flashes back to the past, the conflict reveals itself to be more complicated. There seems to be two external conflicts in this story: one between the father and son, and the other between the father and mother, Mike and Dana. The internal conflict, on the other hand, is within only Mike: his desire to maintain his marriage while refusing to allow the change of his son (by “upgrading” him). The couple of external conflicts that work upon Mike is successful in creating even more tension, pulling him apart in many directions, and therefore strengthening the tension of the inner conflict.

Now for the most unique decision on the author’s part – what is the effect of making Cole a robot? If the conflicts that I listed above are accurate, then couldn’t the story have been written without the inclusion of a robotic character, perhaps by creating a human son with an illness? Constantly throughout the story, the robotic son is described with human characteristics such as experiencing worry, dreams, pain, sadness, etc. The only difference is that the fact that Cole is robotic prevents his “death” in the case of physical injury. Considering that the main conflict is directly revolved around the parents’ son, the decision to make Cole robotic gains value. Every time Cole ends up in a terrible physical accident, Dana is reminded that living with this robotic boy is a “dream” (as she terms it), and wakes up to the reality that their real son is dead. Although the decision to make the son human and ill as opposed to robotic could result in the same conflicts listed above, the robotic feature is essential to the particular conflict in this story, in which the theme of accepting reality is presented. A human son with an illness does not easily allow for that. The decision for a robotic character seems unnecessary at first, but is actually the foundation for the conflict in this story.

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The mark is not disappearing. I can’t stop staring at it – a thick, jagged “X” in black, off-centered on the back of my right hand.  It’s almost as if the mark was taken from another world and branded onto my hand, as my own. My goodness, why can’t I wash it off? It sticks out its sharp tongue with a red, dangerous smile, laughing at me for trying to hide it. Erasing this is impossible. I look over to my left and see a hand clean, untainted, and glowing. I look to my right and see a bold, outrageous one, pale in comparison. I wish they were both shining goodness. I follow from my right hand to my forearm and up to my shoulder. I know it isn’t, but I think this arm is dying. My left tries to regain control, all the way from my hand to my chest, but my right overpowers it. My gaze falls upon the mark on my right hand, and I recall its birth from several nights before on a dark, empty street in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

            The sound of a bell resounds from a tower nearby on a Tuesday, flowing through the lifeless street as I nervously trek towards my first night club experience. Many people may not think going to a club is a big deal, but for me it’s like jumping into sewage with my nicest clothes on. I’m not one of those people that go out on nights just to get drunk and “have fun.” If people were honest, they would probably testify to how good of a person I am. But anyways, weirdly, everything is still, except for the occasional flickering of hazard lights from an unoccupied car. Even the red lights above road intersections forever stop, hanging in the space above. It’s crazy, I know, but I keep looking frantically around me to assure security. Just when I think the area is clear, I hear the rattling of metal chains, and sense a person about to attack me. I look back with breath held. With a sigh of relief, I see a student running with a heavy backpack in the direction opposite to me, and I continue forward in worry. My heart pounds rapidly as I arrive at the street of my destination. I stop in my tracks as I look with contempt into the distance and see the sign of the night club, protruding its uniqueness with an enticing orange light, “NECTO.”

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From the beginning of this short story, tension is created through the aggressive attitude of the protagonist, Jack. His personality is portrayed by the specific word choice on the very first page such as “humiliate,” “mercilessly,” and “rotten,” all spoken from first-person. Early on, the source of this attitude begins to reveal itself with the introduction of another character, Carl, living a happy life with a family, opposite to Jack’s. The intense interactions between Jack and Carl reveal Jack’s unreasonable hatred towards Carl, hinting at a deep, inner conflict related to his past family that leads the reader to become “hooked” to discover more. A new character is then introduced (aside from the title), Happy Chang. As Jack searches to discover the true nature of Happy’s relationship with his daughter Lori, the inner conflict and pursuit of a goal of Jack moves uphill, inevitably towards an anticipated resolution and climax. Happy Chang’s reaction to the injuring of his daughter near the end of the story triggers this, causing Jack to gain the confidence to admit his failure as an umpire, a huge change from his usual self. By now, his goal is clear and and has been confronted: to gain forgiveness from his family as a new man that accept responsibility and failure. This story is excellently crafted in such a way as to lead up to this one moment of resolution, building tension on the way through the protagonist’s external conflicts in his interactions with other characters.

Introduction

Days of crying, fighting, raging, dying – all results of extreme emotion – most accurately describe the revision process of my poetry portfolio, which I am proud to present in its polished form.  Through my first experience in writing poetry, I have learned to appreciate it infinitely times more. Truly, the revising process was humbling, especially when forced to “cut” my lines (and sometimes whole stanzas). This is particularly true in the revision of one of my portfolio’s poems, “Don’t Touch My Stuff.”

My new enjoyment and respect of poetry most likely arose while working with this poem, the one formal verse out of all others in my portfolio. This poem was not at all even close in similarity to its first draft. The only similarity would be the fact that a father exists in both pieces. In my opinion, the first draft had nice literary effects, emotional invitations, and a simile that I completely dreaded to surrender when scrapping them. I could have continued the theme of that draft. During the revision process, however, I felt that the poem led to meanings that were very different from what I initially intended. With the existence of multiplicity in direction, the poem was confusing and unclear, so I tried to ask myself questions as a reader and attempted to reply to them as a writer.

These difficult questions are really what caused great ideas to pop in my head. An important question that caused a complete change of my poem, for example, was, “What if the poem was about a father and son that doesn’t represent the relationship between you and your dad?”  As I searched for answers, I knew that changing the poem to be about something starkly different from my personal background would be uncomfortable, unsafe, and unsure. For the sake of good poetry, however, I began to accept this possibility. Suddenly, explosions of ideas came in from every direction, striking my brain to turn with each hit. One vital idea to the building of this poem is that the father’s son in the poem is specifically a child. This inevitably led to “Don’t Touch My Stuff,” a poem that is preoccupied with the dangerous effect a father has on his innocent child. This then caused many other ideas to form, including the scenes running through my imagination that I described in the poem. After much cutting and re-writing, it finished.

During the revision process for each of my poems, one grand question continued to scratch at me for an answer: “What is a good poem?” There may not be a valid, universal standard of “good poems,” but after diving directly into the jaws of poetry I have begun to realize that the question should be flipped; I should be trying to answer the question: “What makes a poem good?” Although subtlety different, that question helped me to discover a handful of traits in poetry that contribute to its powerful effects, fully motivating me to use them in my own poems in this portfolio: concise and descriptive action instead of an overload of adverbs and adjectives, consistent grammar and structure that aids the unique flow of a poem, a title that effectively adds to a poem’s meaning, a vivid setting that immerses the reader, moments that are lasting and memorable,  and specific word choice that prevents confusion and vagueness that also implies inherent meaning – all to facilitate the reader’s emotional adventure from one place to another.

I hope that my poems do all of this and more. I serve you with my portfolio. First off, “Don’t Touch My Stuff.” Please enjoy.

I’m safe because of his rules. I tip-toe

into his room at night and gaze at his

trophies, sparkling like crystals, sleeping snug

in the warmth of a lamp. I reach for one

and wrap my arms around it, rocking it

gently side-to-side, talking to it like

daddy always does. But then his shadow

looms over me. My body freezes. I

turn, but don’t see daddy’s Hollywood smile.

 

Sometimes daddy cares too much. Spanking hurts

him more. My own Hollywood smile appears

as I look at the hot bruises left by

my fault, and realize how much he loves

such a terrible, bad boy like me.

Legs stagger

Steel stilts that merely act as legs

I ponder, “When did I get this tall?”

 

I reach my destination

do business

flush toilet

go to sink

wash hands

look into mirror…

 

With water still running

With hands soaped

With eyes wide open

I ask him who he is

 

We meet at the mirror and I glare

Faces nearly touching

Flaws glow:

Bumps, dryness, unnatural facial hair

I recoil in shock as I unmistakably hear,

 

“You’re so handsome!”

“You have a girlfriend, don’t you?”

“What would it be like to be you –“

 

Burning with rage I stop him

with a sharp stab of my finger

 

You want to be

This?

You’ve forgotten this face was

Bright, shining and smiling day by day,

Emanating joy and innocence

We could hold like a

Sphere of pure, white light

In the palm of our hands

 

What would it be like to

Be me now, you say?

 

I jerk away

Slamming the door and find

Tears falling from my eyes.

 

I left him alone

Unchanged, forever reflecting

The face of betrayal

By his only trusted friend.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Art by Brent Lynch)

 

He almost takes a sip when He hears

Her order. Skeptical of Her class, He

peers at Her, only to be caught by Her

lush glow. She has already made the

 

first move. One point for Her. He

breaks this trance to make the next.

Confidence seeps through His cigar.

He lights it with a crisp, and draws

 

Her gaze to His. One point for Him.

The bartender interrupts their game

and hands Her a martini. The smooth,

silk garment slides down Her arm,

 

shoulder to wrist, like a river effortlessly

flows across ground. He is pulled. Two

points for Her. But somehow His body

resists and anchors itself to His own

 

glistening drink. The bartender fades,

along with the sound of polishing wine

glasses, and a silent chasm forms

between them. They wait–

 

He smokes his cigar to fill Himself

with what pride remains, but it

vanishes like the smoke He exhales

into the dying air. He looks at Her

and sees a goddess giving life to His

 

heart. He sets down His cigar. He pries

His hand from the martini. And He

Takes the first step into the space

between.

Breathing turns to fiendish growls.

Shoulders hunch and my back rises

A despicable creature.

 

I scan the endless forest

Surrounding me to ensure solitude.

A sweet breeze attempts to help,

But uninvited, is instead

Received by moaning trees.

 

Impatient eyes fall on the path

My journey into darkness continues.

A ferocious cry explodes from my chest

Like that of a beast in captivity,

Frantically demanding release.

 

My face becomes distorted as this

Ominous presence

Materializes from within.

Hideous, I think,

Unlike anything I could imagine

And at this realization, I stop.

 

My heart beating rapidly.

This thing inside me,

Seeming to have come

From darkness itself.

 

Unless

 

It has always been a part of me.

Dormant like a dog

Performing the only trick he was taught–

To play dead–

Since he was born.

In all honesty, when I read the very first sentence of this short story, “Lately I don’t dream about Anthony. I dream about the rotary.” my expectations were set pretty low. Before finishing a page of the story, I already had an expectation that the plot would be cliche, unimpressive, and simply, boring. “A plot about a relationship between a girl and a guy? A plot about a rotary?” I thought skeptically. Giving the short story a chance, however, I soon realized the depth of meaning within the story I had initially thought to be so simple. Despite the plot weighing heavily on the seemingly bland topic of a rotary, the powerful effect that this factor had on a deeper meaning of the story is incredible.

Constantly throughout the story, the main character’s internal conflict with driving through a rotary is paralleled so well with her unwillingness to get involved with her boyfriend Anthony sexually. If this short story was merely about the conflict between the main character and Anthony, I feel that it would be portrayed much less effectively. The plot of the main character’s situation with the rotary serves as a great analogy to that of her relationship with Anthony, and describes it with much more depth than the method of trying to describe the relationship directly. What I expected to be so irrelevant and ineffective turned out to be vital in making this short story have a lasting effect. Now that I think about it, everything that the author has written serves an important purpose for the meaning of the story. Especially the colloquial tone that the main character uses in itself portrays her personality more effectively, and therefore, helps to complicate the meaning of the entire story. Taking even the inherently simple and uncreative and using it in a completely unexpected way proves to be very creative in Dessen’s short story. This method also reminds me of poetry, how a situation or object is described in ways never before explained.

Poetry 180 Summary/Reflection

The poem that I chose to present in my Creative Writing class was “The Blizzard,” by Phillis Levin. The first thing that that struck me while reading this was the chilling imagery that is created in the third stanza.”Igloos rise,” “gargoyles fly,” icicles shatter,” “paralyzed avenues” – all of these phrases are described to create an emotional response in addition to the imagery that is so nicely drawn here. That emotion for me was fear. What’ amazing is that the very next line after the third stanza is “Verify every fear.” This suggests that the third stanza was written to create a better sense of this fear that the people in the blizzard were experiencing, and the transition between the third and fourth stanza is especially smooth and flowing.

The structure of this poem is strictly three lines per stanza, with relatively similar lengths in lines. This presents the poem formally, exuding a more formal poem than poems of free verse. This structure choice really helps focus on the meaning of the poem. Through analysis, I noticed that this poem has many potential meanings, layered behind each other. For instance, is the poem just about how devastating a natural disaster is for a community? Or could it have a deeper meaning, such as the narrator’s possible disapproval of technology (shown through the hindsight written and the joy that is revealed when people are talking to each other in person due to the lack of phone use). All of these meanings are pretty serious topics – they’re not meanings that can be taken so lightly – and the seriousness of them is emphasized through the formal structure of this poem