MARCH 2014 Literature for literatureâ€™s sake In this issue:
Writer of the Month If You Forget Me: Poetry Appreciation Pigeon Coop: A Short Story Quotes of the Month Article: Grammar Police Fun Corner
BY AIKEN TANG (5F) Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) is one of the most iconic figures from late Victorian society. He is famous for his wit, humor and intelligence in his plays and writings. His most famous works include The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of being Ernest. However, his name is also associated with scandal and intrigue.
The Picture of Dorian Gray Written in 1890, The Picture of Dorian Gray is the only novel by Wilde.
The novel tells the story of an impossibly handsome young man Dorian Gray. Because of his appearance, he attracts the attention of a well-known artist Basil Hallward. He becomes the object for the artist’s painting. One day, Basil’s friend Lord Henry visits the studio. Lord Henry reminds Dorian the transient nature of beauty and youth. Troubled by the fact that his appearance will fade day by day, Dorian makes a vow to sell his soul such that the portrait of him will age rather than he himself, allowing him to be young forever. Influenced by the idea of Hedonism, Dorian pursues a life of pleasure and engages himself in debauchery. As he sinks into a life of sin and corruption, the portrait of him ages and becomes distorted every time he commits an act of immorality. The purpose of art is the most important theme in the novel. It is important for readers to consider Wilde’s personal background. In the Victorian era (Wilde’s time), it is commonly believed that art is a tool for social education and moral enlightenment. Being the leader of aestheticism, Wilde strives to liberate art from its conventional expectations and duties. In the novel, the dominant work of arts—Basil’s painting are presented a tool for gaining stimulation. That is, the painting serves a purpose: to mirror the physical deterioration of Dorian’s body which has been spared for him. Although the artist Basil advocates that all art be “unconscious, ideal and remote,” his portrait of Dorian serves as a tool of idolizing Dorian. In this sense, the novel does not bear the aesthetic philosophy of Wilde.
The Importance of Being Earnest Written in 1895, the play is arguably the most famous work by Wilde. The play is about two young gentlemen bending the truth for excitement. Jack Worthing has invented a brother, Earnest, whom he uses as an excuse to leave his dull life behind to visit a beautiful girl called Gwendolyn. The other gentleman, Algernon Montcrieff decided to take the name 'Earnest' when visiting Jackâ€™s ward Cecily at the country manor. Things start to go awry when they end up together in country and their deceptions are discovered, threatening to spoil their romantic pursuits. The theme of marriage is one of the most paramount in the play. Marriage acts as the force driving the plot as well as a topic for moral consideration and debate. The nature of marriage is debated by characters, for example between Algernon and Jack whether it is for business or personal pleasure. The play debates about whether marriage is pleasant or not. Different characters have different views. For example, the servant of Algernon says that being married is â€œa very pleasant state,â€? while Algernon disagrees. However, Algernon reconsiders this when he falls in love with Cecily. Because the play revolves around a secret, the revelation of the truth plays a key role. At the end of the play, Jack apologizes to Gwendolen for lying and she forgives him on the grounds that she thinks he is capable of change. This suggests her cynical view of the nature of marriage .
If You Forget Me by Pablo Neruda I want you to know One thing.
If you think it long and mad, The wind of banners That passes through my life,
You know how this is:
And you decide
If I look
To leave me at the shore
At the crystal moon, at the red branch
Of the heart where I have roots,
Of the slow autumn at my window,
If I touch
That on that day,
Near the fire
At that hour,
The impalpable ash
I shall lift my arms
Or the wrinkled body of the log,
And my roots will set off
Everything carries me to you,
To seek another land.
As if everything that exists, Aromas, light, metals,
Were little boats
If each day,
Toward those isles of yours that wait for me.
You feel that you are destined for me With implacable sweetness,
If each day a flower
If little by little you stop loving me
Climbs up to your lips to seek me,
I shall stop loving you little by little.
Ah my love, ah my own,
In me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
In me all that fire is repeated, You forget me
My love feeds on your love, beloved,
Do not look for me,
And as long as you live it will be in your arms
For I shall already have forgotten you.
Without leaving mine.
The poem If You Forget Me always manages to take my breath away. This poem is frequently thought to be a love poem dedicated to Pablo’s wife Matilde Urrutia. The intense and somehow excruciating portrayal of love makes the poem beautifully yet tragically written. The poem is like a kaleidoscope, bringing out all the features of love- desire (As if everything that exists; aromas, light, metals, were little boats that sail toward those isles of yours that wait for me), disappointment (If little by little you stop loving me), lust (If suddenly you forget me, don’t not look for me, for I shall already have forgotten you) and forgiveness (In me all that fire is repeated, in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten). True affection can withstand ups and downs, and is still able to rekindle after all of the hurt it has gone through. This poem is about falling apart, finding the way back and making everything alright. The inevitable pull in it is utterly captivating, as the bitter-sweetness is a delicate tug of readers’ heartstrings. The resolve of lust at the end with forgiveness is definitely bringing out hope and in the poem, settling grieve with a new commitment. However, there is more to this poem given the historical background of it. It is a metaphor of about Pablo’s exile from his native country of Chile and his return to it. The poem was translated from Spanish as Pablo was staying in Spain during the civil war of Chile. In the second stanza, Pablo says he is always attracted to “his lover” under any circumstances. It can also be interpreted as his loyalty to his own country. During the years 1927 – 1935, Pablo took up important diplomatic roles of the country and had to sail to many places. However, his love for his country always led him back home. Things went bumpy when Pablo was forced to leave. He was a member of the communist party and he opposed the president at that time. The conflict made his power decline, which made him feel unloved and betrayed. The third stanza, the “little by little” shows his gradual disappointment toward the country with the gradually heated up hostility from his own country. The warrant of arresting Pablo issued by Chile had built up lust in Pablo’s heart, as described in the fourth to sixth stanzas. “I shall lift my arms, and my roots will set off to seek another land” is deliberately referring to his immediate exile. The “roots” is a metaphor of Pablo’s family roots and commitment to his own nation. The tone here is determined and fierce, showing the anger of Pablo as he felt betrayed. Nevertheless, the seventh stanza overwhelms readers with its forgiving and empathetic tone. Pablo returned to Chile after his exile and lived there for the rest of his life. He put the past grudges behind him and his country, and moved on. “My love feeds on your love, beloved, and as long as you live it will be in your arms without leaving mine” is referring to his omnipotent and eternal declaration of love to his country. It is believed that love takes hatred down every time. By Emily Ha 4H
Pigeon Coop By Michelle Kan (5F) From a young age, Jung had always liked to watch the birds fly by his broken apartment window. When he could, he’d used to get bits of corn left from the neighbour’s soup to lure them closer to him. Now, he’d be lucky enough to get enough food… It was now mid-September and the weather was not yet so hot that it was unbearable, and the mosquitoes were not on the rage for his blood. Jung shook himself out of his dreamy state and picked up his stubby pencil. He scratched his irritated scalp and tried to finish his Chinese calligraphy assignment before Father came back. He saw the giant word 恩 scratched onto the bare wall and he remembered a time when things were better. *** As Jung tried to remember the sequence of the strokes of the word 恩, loud noises reached his ears. “WHAT?! Are you tired of living! The rent is high enough!” “Go get a job then, lazy ass! Living off welfare doesn’t get you anywhere.” “I won’t give in, you heartless bitch–” Their screams were interrupted by a scuffle of footsteps and loud shouts. “Father! What happened to you?” Jung saw his father stagger into the room with a bloodied eye and scars on his dark face.
“It’s okay,” Jung’s father said with a grimace, “Jung , I know things may be tough now, but I promise that once I find a better paying job, you won’t need to live here anymore. “I’m fine father,” Jung said. Having his father here was a blessing enough, he thought to himself. “Always be the strong man, Jung. Now wash your hands and let’s eat our dinner together. I got some leftovers from the restaurant down the street,” he said, pointing to the stained yellow plastic bag holding a smashed polystyrene lunchbox, “there’s even some roast pork left.” Jung went out to the depilated toilet that stank of stale urine. He washed his hands slowly in the trickle of water from the pipe. The strong smell of incense drifted down the halls. Discontentment rafted through the hallway.
“Quit the crap! As if the smell here isn’t bad enough with you in here!” “You’ll burn us down soon! Do you want me to worship you here next?” “Go away if you’re burning incense! I can’t breathe properly!” Jung went to his bunk and sat down at the opening. He stared at his father, who handed him the cold rice leftovers. “Father, why can’t I have my own pocket money like all my other classmates? I want to eat snacks at recesses, too.” His father lowered his gaze to the floor, and remained silent. He stroked the beads at his neck and said slowly, “Jung , haven’t I taught you that life isn’t as smooth as plain sailing, but you’ve got to appreciate the things we have in life.” “See, we’ve got roast pork for dinner today. We’ve got a bed for us to sleep. We don’t need to sleep on the streets on plastic bags. I promise we’ll have a good meal once we get public housing. God gave us all these hardships, because he wants us to learn to persevere.”
Jung sat inanimately looking through the metal lattice surrounding his being. He thought about things he could appreciate like how his father taught him to. “For one, I’ve got a bed. I can go to school and I have friends to tell my secrets to. I’ve got a home I can go to. I can look up to the sky and feel the wind in my face and see the birds flying freely in the sky without restraints and most importantly, I’ve got my father.” *** Jung fervently scribbled down answers for his Maths worksheet. He’d just infuriate Father if he didn’t finish his homework before he came back and he always came back early on Wednesday. Chirping resonated in his ears.
Jung trembled with a feeling of déjà vu and found a black shadow looming over him.. “What are you doing, son?” “My Maths homework – ” A fierce shadow passed father’s face. Jung shuddered and bowed his head. “You fool, you’re so stupid. You won’t get past college. Stop wasting my money!” The figure drew dark elongated shadows around him. It rose a limb up high and – “SMACK!” Jung touched his smarting cheeks.
This is not my father. This is not my father. Definitely not. When “drug addict Fai” passed by in the corridor, he found a shivering Jung lying on the floor. “Jung , wake up.” Fai slapped Jung on the face lightly and slurred out a warning, “someone from the Housing Department is coming.” Jung opened his eyes slowly. He saw the leaky ceiling from their rooftop residence. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Mesmerized, Jung watched globs of yellow liquid drip on his face and slid down to his collarbones and off his body. He saw the cage in front of him. But he didn’t only see the cage. He thought of the time when he went down to the bird emporium to see the animals. There were puppies and kittens, but what caught his eye were the birds. The parakeets, the parrots, the swallows. He asked, why do they like the cages? Don’t they want to fly? He thought of the time when he walked out of that prison and looked up and saw the pigeons moving swiftly forward in the azure sky. Why do some birds get to see the sky and others don’t? Why was life so unfair? Once at school, he got a treat from a sponsor. He was ecstatic when he got home. He told his Father about seeing red-crown cranes strutting up and down their mini-paradise behind the glass. Some of his richer classmates mocked Jung, telling him he deserved to be with the penguins, and dubbed him the flightless bird. He remembered his Father bumping his fist on his chest, promising “You are who you decide who to be.”
I am who I decide who I am going to be, Jung thought, lying on the cold stone.
On Christmas night, Jung was treated by Mrs. Lee with a sweet. He was so thankful. He ran back home in the ruthless wind. There were no birds that night. Father was already there. “Useless fool! You’re back now?!” Father yelled at him, gripping the bottle of beer, the sick yellow liquid sloshed up and down the bottle. “These Christmas lights are unbearable! Who the hell is doing this? Are you doing this?” Bloodshot eyes glared at him, unforgiving. Jung squeezed his eyes shut and stared at the cracked paved floor. The shadows depicted a game of the python gulping down the bird. The bird couldn’t fly away or escape, as hard as it tried, because it was still a bird, no matter what. Fai put on his earplugs and climbed into his coop. Jung woke up in the heat. He was lying in the toilet with urine stains all over the walls. He steadied his thumping head, stood up, and stared at the person staring back in the cracked mirror. He remembered how Father would tell him, “Be thankful of what you have, even though we don’t have the best.” Jung lay on the floor, his limbs were numb yet he felt the heat consuming him. He put his palms together and pointed his fingers up to the sky like how the teachers at school taught him.
Dear God, me.
How are you doing up there? Sr. Margaret said that I’m supposed to ask you for help and thank you for what you’ve done for
I just want to say that I’m very happy that Ms. Chiu gave me a sticker to show my parents. I hope that you’ll tell my mom. I don’t know where she is. I came on this world because of your making, so I want to do my best in everything. I want to the pigeon that flies without restraint, not behind bars. I’ll be who I want to be. I’ll make my father proud.
“Drug addict Fai” was on one of his frenzies today. When Jung came back from school hurriedly, Fai threw him a finished beer. His aim was clumsy and the glass shattered into a thousand crystalline pieces in the toilet. Neon lights shone in through the window. Bright hues reflected from the panes onto Jung’s face as he concentrated on his subtractions.
Fai staggered by and threw up at the door. The acrid smell of beer hung around the air like a death draft. Jung looked out. A pigeon landed lightly, pecking at the window ledge. Suddenly, it looked up and into the eyes of Jung, frightened. The corpse dropped. Slowly. Into the chasm of humanity down under. When Jung’s father came back home, he seemed strangely pacified. Father knelt down in front of Jung and sighed. He stood up and handed him a beer. “Look, son, you’re a big boy now. Drink up.” The two sat there face-to-face in their little coop. Jung tried the beer and could not imagine what would lead one to drink the liquid. He took small sips and almost gagged. His Father suddenly stood up and retrieved the envelopes lying around the floor. He flipped through them. Jung glimpsed at them and he saw very nicely-printed letters like the seven birthday cards he got from school in a biscuit box.
Jung looked at his Father and saw a stranger. He was once a victor who worked diligently at a factory. He now had a back hung with sorrow and loss. He noticed the wrinkles stacked on his forehead and the downward curving lips. He saw a downtrodden man who had fallen limp on his restraints. Jung went over and hugged his Father. “Father, I love you. I’m thankful enough to have you here with me. Let’s celebrate our unity together.” So Father started the prayer:
Dear God, I would like to thank you for this family. And even though we don’t have the best, may our poor souls be intertwined together. Amen. They looked at each other, but Father looked away. Silence. *** Jung woke up in the heat. He gasped. Could – Not – Breathe. What was happening? He tried breathing in. No avail. He felt his head splitting into a million pieces. A grey blanket masked his vision. And he suddenly felt a sense of relief. He felt like he was lying in blooming flowers. Cages were open like decorations while the birds pecked at the flowers around
him. He felt even more rejuvenated when he saw a shining Father. Father patted his head and they fist bumped. Pigeons flew down slowly to perch on his shoulder. Father stroked it carefully. Suddenly and out of nowhere, a snake came out of nowhere towards them, his Father had disappeared. Shocked, Jung woke up to reality. He limply dragged himself across the floor, where he saw his Father sprawled on the ground with a match in his blackened hand. A coal stove stood, sending up warning fumes of black drafts. “Father, father! Are you okay? Wake up! It’s not good to sleep on the floor…” “I love you, Father – ” *** It was a blessing for them as Fai opened the door groggily with sleep and jerked to reality when he saw father and son slumped dreamless on the floor surrounded by soot. A letter in his hand. “Damn him! Now, ain’t I gonna sell this flat to someone else?!” “It’ll be fine, Fai,” someone called back, mockingly, “everyone loves a good old sturdy cage.” Fai threw down the letter, from the Housing Department, saying that they had successfully applied for public housing. “They should be celebrating,” Fai thought to himself, as he turned his back towards the black coop.
QUOTE OF THE MONTH: 'All media exist to invest our lives with artificial perceptions and arbitrary values.'- Marshal McLuhan Polly Chan 5D
With the advent of countless media channels in public life, the media has become an indispensable part of our daily lives. Media is just about everywhere we go, but are we aware of what the media is subconsciously doing to our minds? The Dove advertisement seems to give a more positive message about women. Often brainwashed, we think that models are the only ones who can portray beauty. However, in the advertisement, no supermodels are in sight but rather six real-sized and curvy women with confidence. Not only does the advertisement take a positive attitude towards the women's flaws, but it also challenges the general perception of beauty. The slogan at the bottom of the ad 'As tested on real curves' suggests that women do not have to look like models in order to be beautiful. Another subtle message conveyed in this advertisement is equality, which can be seen in the racial mixture of the women models, hinting that beauty is not confined to a specific race but rather any confident individuals. At first sight, this Dove advertisement gives the audience the impression that the company embraces diversity and equality. Despite its attempt to make women feel great by broadening their stereotypical view of beauty, this Dove advertisement conveys a hidden message that people who are not represented in the advertisement are not good enough to be represented. On closer inspection, it is plausible that Dove is still conforming to the general accepted standards of female models. Although their bodies and features are more varied than those of typical models, the women are still toned and attractive models who are carefully selected. The definition of beauty is still limited to women who are close-to-perfect. How would you feel if you were not even close to what the Dove advertisement reaffirmed as true beauty? You would probably feel even worse about yourself. This is a compelling example to illustrate the adverse impact of the media on the mentality of women out there who are still struggling to look like the 'real-sized' women in the advertisement. Ordinary people are often bombarded with advertisements suggesting how they should look and what beauty is. As a result, many teenagers are influenced by their peers to reconstruct their physical appearances so as to work towards their aesthetic ideals. However, conforming to the stereotypical view of beauty reflected in the media devalues one's individuality. Instead of being slaves to whatever that is presented to us, we should learn to see through things that mold our perceptions and values. Most importantly, we should never let our individuality get crushed.
Grammar POLICE Joanna Chan 5G
Take a quiet moment, and imagine a world without grammar. You may jump up and break into a dance and thank all the higher powers you can think of, “Yay! No more dreadful GE papers!” or you may be worried, “My GE papers have always been my paper with the highest score – what do I depend on to pull up my average score now?” Specific examinations in grammar are perhaps a characteristic of Asia countries, such as HK and India, where English is a predominantly second or even third language, and a tool by which a lot of students are judged based on their different levels of proficiency. One may argue that the role of other languages, especially Chinese, is of exponentially increasing importance in this modern world of trade and commerce where China has proudly emerged as one of the greatest powers, and the English language is consequently, not that important on the international stage any more. However, being the “common tongue” still across the globe, the importance of English is not to be underestimated. Still, why is grammar important? And, why on earth should we care about it when there are starving children unnecessarily suffering from contagious diseases at this very moment as I type away on my computer and as you read this February issue of the Literary Magazine? The reason is simple. Without grammar, which is a set of rules that govern the infinite combinations (or permutations, as my mathematics teacher may be happy to correct me) of the 26 letters of the alphabet – which we call words – we cannot effectively communicate. And isn’t communication one of the most important elements that make up our daily lives? I believe we are all fully aware of the consequences of ineffective communication. Today, people’s common grammatical mistakes vary by degree, importance, and memorability (i.e. scale of embarrassment). From a carelessly constructed remark, “I baked soufflé yesterday night,” to a thoroughly humiliating viral video on YouTube, “This is completely rubbish,” silly or not, grammatical mistakes have always been picked on, and are especially prone to be, perhaps, not the best thing that people are remembered for. (As of right now, you are probably very much critical of the preposition by which I ended my previous sentence and are questioning what I
was thinking about, preaching the importance of grammar.) Without grammar, not only would we have less to laugh at people about – which I trust most of us never did and never would – the language of English would also no longer exist as it would be bound to die without a systematic set of rules to govern its use on such an extensive scale. And with it, literary masterpieces ranging from Romeo and Juliet, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, to Da Vinci Code, A Song Of Ice And Fire, Sherlock Holmes, and SPCC English Society Literary Magazines – just to name a few. Of course, my argument is based on the assumption that one cannot simply ignore the grammatical rules – which brings us to the question: what about literature? Not uncommon in poetry, grammar is often slightly altered or bent to fit the poet/ songwriter’s intended structure of his/ her work. This is the perfect illustration of the descriptive approach to grammar, as opposed to the prescriptive, ‘formulated’ use of grammar. And this, contrary to your GE exam requirements, is often deemed correct and appropriate. Take E.E. Cummings’ poem, anyone lived in a pretty how town, as an example. (No I didn’t make a mistake – he really did dismiss all capital letters in the title and in the poem.) The first stanza is as follows: anyone lived in a pretty how town (with up so floating many bells down) spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn’t he danced his did. With the poet’s deliberate foregoing of grammatical rules, a special effect is created by the tone, rhythm and structure of the poem that is otherwise impossible to achieve. The bending of rules should be handled with care, however, because if one does so because of one’s ignorance, it will definitely show – and not in a good way, naturally. Nevertheless, in everyday language, perhaps we should really just stick to the rules – imagine receiving an email with neither punctuation nor capital letters. I think you get the idea. Simply put, without grammar, the beautiful language of English would no longer be governed by the rules that make it beautiful (that is, with the exception of the employment of poetic license). It may not even be here for us to judge whether it is beautiful or not. Therefore, I urge you my friends, be thankful for grammar. And more importantly: make sure you get it right.