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RETURNS REVISITED:
STUDENT WORK (1): MY BEST RETURN


In survey 4 I asked about difficult returns the students had to make and about the best returns of others, but here are some responses regarding what they considered their own best returns.

Survey question 5.10:  What would you consider your best return?  Why?  Which of the 11 kinds is it?  Or if you can’t classify it that way, how would you describe your method?  Please specify the date, the name of the post, and the person to whom you responded.

1)  The "feeling strong" return

Student Q's survey comment:  9/29- Responding to _________.  It is rethinking as well as answering.  I would say this is my best return because I felt strong about what I was typing.

Student K's serve:  I really like the realism portrayed in this novel as I am reading it, its one of the things that stuck out most to me.  Between the detached writing of the narrator and insecurity and fickleness of the protagonist I think that Crane does an excellent job of presenting a view of war that is seldom touched upon.  Henry’s self-doubt and drive for glory are two qualities that constantly compete for top priority in his decision-making, and I think the battle between serving the group and serving one’s self is a classic yet underappreciated theme.  It also illustrates the importance of group confidence and commonality in war, without glorifying war’s results or its causes.  In fact, I think that Henry's opinions of what goes on in the book actually make war seem petty and immoral, maybe because Henry's sole incentive for becoming a soldier is the glory and honorable reputation he will receive from returning from battle.  In addition, I think that even though this book is set way back in the Civil War, it is able to transcend the so-called time barrier because it presents this theme of the feeling of insecurity and loneliness, in life as well as war (they always seem to have so many similarities), and so I think it allows the reader to do a great deal of internalization.  That being said, Im actually gonna do some of the internalization I just talked about another time, but I hope some of that made sense so someone else can respond.  P.s. I’m now starting to think about why Henry is struck by fear after he approaches and wins his first battle.  Any thoughts?

Student Q's return:  Can this count for my serve as well as my return?  I want to say a few things in return and start some new ones!  The loneliness that he faces is quite different than what you would expect would have happened when Henry went to the army.  I thought for sure that all of the hard work he expressed at home would in turn be brought out as a killing machine.  War definitley is not portrayed in a good way.  The glory of battle is something I think that every young boy wants to achieve.  We all want to go into battle guns blazing killing the baddies then returning home with all of the glory and not one bullet hole.  Even before Henry sees what the enemy is really like, the glory and honor sort of gets overshadowed by the image of the enemy.  He sees them as a great monster.  He is probably mostly scared that he will fail himself and not be able to perform up to his own expectations of honor.  Henry is bored of the routine life of the army, I don't know what to make of this, maybe he is too good for the army and doesn't even know it?  I say too good meaning that he should be doing something else than just going to battle.  His heart is not in the cause of the war but in the glory.

My reflection:  Student K was a quiet, serious student with more of a literary bent than most students in the class, and he gave evidence of having studied some or all of the works in the syllabus before.  His post is quite thoughtful -- it advances ideas about the theme of the novel and about the nature of the central character, invites internalization by suggesting the novel's universal relevance, and ends with a tantalizing question of special concern to the part of the book assigned for this post.  Now Q likes his return because he was so "into" it.  We can see that in his first sentence.  He feels so brimming with ideas that he's more in serve mood and mode than return mood and mode.  He's on fire to get his ideas out.  But maybe that rampant enthusiasm is the problem here, for I'm not sure I can always follow his train of thought.  But I do see that he picks up K's cues to write about loneliness and to do some internalizing ("We all want to go into battle guns blazing"), and, as he himself recognizes, he does provide an answer to K's climactic question.  But as far as his new ideas, no, I can't follow them.  For instance, I'm just not sure what Q means by lines like "maybe he is too good for the army and doesn't even know it?  I say too good meaning that he should be doing something else than just going to battle."  That won't parse for me.  So I would give Q a thumbs up for engaging K's thoughful post but counsel that he doesn't totally deliver on his promises that would keep the conversation going yet another step.  


2)  The "feeling worthy" return

Student  A's survey comment:  i don't know.  they were all worthy posts.

Student S's serve:  As I read the section on the line of injured men I could not help but question the definition of injury in terms of war.  Although Henry envied the injured men because they had injuries that were visable and Henry appeared to have injuries that were more mental and dealing with the war.  He was fresh off his mothers farm and really was ill prepared for war and had no business in the war to begin with.  Therefore it is totally expected that he would have mental injuries.  Although I feel at the time there was no such thing as post war syndrome that has become a recent phenomenon.  And I was wondering if anyone thinks that Crane was attempting to show a little bit of that through Henry.  More than just the youth ill prepared for battle and trying to deal with it.

Student A's return:  That's an awesome thought!  I learned about post war syndrome in psych., and it's really interesting.  And just because humans didn't come up with that theory earlier, doesn't mean that it didn't exist even in Beowulf's time.  Maybe Crane had know someone who was really messed up from a war, and decided to portray such side effects through Henry.  It's a stab, but hey...

My reflection:  Hubris, Mr. A, hubris!  Now S's serve is not a knock-out.  It asks a question, but somehow it seems to me that all the answer calls for is a plain "yes" or "no."  End of discussion.  But A's return is surely not worthy.  It's perfunctory.  Unimaginative.  And the "awesome" exclamation in the opening sentence surely is over the edge.  There is nothing really in the serve that warrants that exaggerated kind of applause.  I might feel more merciful to A, but both his slim and undescriminating survey comment as well as the lean and good-buddyish return are characteristic of his work throughout the course.  He is just going through the motions.  It would tax a good student to keep this conversation going, though -- another instance where some examples of how to engage rather dead-end posts would be helpful.  I suppose the thing here would be to somehow turn the server back to thinking in more depth about Henry's mental trauma.  Whether or not Crane is a pre-cursor of post-traumatic syndrome is of no concern to our understanding of the novel.  But analyzing the shifting stages of Henry's mental life certainly is.  So, S recognizes that the center of attention should be Henry's mind, which is good, and the return goal would be to get her to explore what is happening there rather than to just put a label on it.


3)  The "looking deeper" return

Student C's survey comment:  I think my best return was my reply to _______'s "Trying to Figure Out Henry" on 9/29.  After having discussed the novel to some degree and reading her post I was able to see Henry in a different light.  I didn't view him as this war-hero most of us tend to see when we finish the story. I was able to look deeper into Henry's character and start to form some completely different opions about him.

Student G's serve:   Hey All- I can't exactly figure out what Crane is trying to do with Henry's character. Its really giving me a hard time.  Looking over the notes that i have made in the margins throughout the book, it can't seem to make out the progression of Henry.  Is there a progression?  Is his progression for the worse?  He starts out as a naive youth, who has these romantizied visions of what war is like in his head.  He imagines himself in battle, yet at no point do his visions ever include instances of death- his or others.  Then, once he is in the army, he begins to wonder if he will run.  When he does run, he rationalizes it as almost a "survival of the fittest" theory.  He said, correct me if I'm wrong, that just like animals run when they are in danger, he ran.  Yet, isn't this a contradiction on his earlier questioning of himself?  Does he run out of fear?  I'm so confused.  And why, towards the end of the novel, does Henry suddenly feel that he knows everything about war and about what the generals should or shouldn't be doing?  What suddenly gave him the right to question the things that he questions?  He suffered a small wound in the head, yet he acts like his leg was cut off.  Why does he do this?  I'm still so confused.  I guess I'm just throwing questions out there.  I'm wondering if anyone really thought about these things as much as I did.  Or am I the only one that these issues are giving problems to?  There is another part of chapter ten that I highlighted and had noidea what it meant.  Speaking of Henry-"He now thought that he wished he was dead.  He believed that he envied those men whose bodies lay strewn over the grass of the fields and on the fall leaves of the forest."  Why did Henry wish here that he was dead?  Is this becuase he feels guilty becuase he has not yet suffered like the other men have?  Yet, if this is true, then why does Henry seem to forget the whole point of the war be the end of the novel.  At one point he thinks of getting revenge on the officer who sent the where they wouldn't be coming back.  Well- enough of my confusion- Hope my confusion dosen't confuse anyone-

Student C's return:   Hey- no your not the only one that is confused by many of his acts.  When I was reading your post the only thing I could thing of is that he must live in a bubble.  It's his own little world, and he thinks he is invinsible to everything.  He never seems to upset when other people die, yet like you said he's complaining like a baby about his injury( that he lies about).  He deserved it!!  I go back to what I said in a few of my replies-- he's not in the war for any of the right reasons.  He wants someone to bow down to him, praise him, and honor him for something he didn't do!  I was thinking that he wasn't a half bad person for giving war a shot because it is a pretty brave thing to do...but now I'm just starting to view him as a joke.  He's trying to figure out the mysteries of life himself.  BUTTTTT Do you have to be in a war to do that?  It makes me wonder if he even has a clue what he is fighting for.  Should we be letting people like him have guns?  Maybe Crane is trying to point out that we should think a little bit more before we act.  I don't really think there are any real answers to some of your questions- I just think Henry isn't where he belongs in life and is too immature to be handling the situation.  Anyone else agree--or am I way off in my thinking?

My reflection:  It strikes me that G's serve is more like I envisioned serves should be instead of the more polished posts that occasioned my serving socially document.  G's in a quandary, and she starts a sort of stream of consciousness dialogue with her group dotted with questions.  This is a good example of the proper way to do a question post, I think.  The questions do not come mechanically and perfunctorily, but, rather, you see them come at points in her thinking, and thus you understand precisely why they are questions.  Those posts in which people immediately jump to a litany of questions without context just don't seem to engage me -- and feel as if the poster is just going through the motions of keeping the conversation going.  But here we get a sense of a real live person wrestling with a problem.  Nicely, C returns in the same spirit.  Joining the hunt for some resolution posed by Crane's problematic central character.  She jumps on the bandwagon of problems with the character, enthusiastically supporting G's uncertainty, and then heads toward a more definite position about him when she says, " I was thinking that he wasn't a half bad person for giving war a shot because it is a pretty brave thing to do...but now I'm just starting to view him as a joke."  C runs with that idea for a bit in an engagingly exaggerated way ("Should we be letting people like him have guns?") and then turns the subject back out to the group again.  An effective interchange, I think.


4)  The "agreeing in a slightly different way" return

Student F's survey comment:  My retuen on 10/1 to "You in or out Henry?" to _______.  I agreed with ________ and saw eye to eye with him- so it is definitely agreeing.  I feel that it is my best return because while I agree with _________ I show in a slightly different appeal how and why I agree with him. 

Student D's serve:  Life seems to be tossing Henry around.  Henry goes from cowardley running away from battle to running toward it to see the battle.  Henry is then hard on himself because he ran away and feels he can never be a hero.  Yet, then Henry must once again rationlize his escape from battle so he reasons that if his army had been defeated he was right to flee, but quickley goes back his thoughts of being a coward and wishing he was dead.  Henry accidentally "gains his red badge" from a person in his own army in the heat of a retreat.  This accident turns out to be the best thing possible to happen to Henry.  With his accidental wound, Henry is able to return to his army without looking like a fool.  This accident gives Henry a second chance to become a "hero".  Why doesnt Henry understand that being a hero is not the most important part of war?  Doesnt he realize that his fellow soldiers would be satisfied knowing that he is still alive and not critisize him for his failure in battle. 

Student F's return:  I agree with you __________, however I think that with Henry's original attitude towards war and cowardly actions, the Union would regard him (had he come back unwounded) with little appreciation for his life as they would rationalize that since he disengaged himself from battle it is not amazing he is in fact alive and well.  However, I think it is pathetic that Henry uses his head wound as sense to rejoin and face the soldiers.  If Henry would have put forth a strong and dedicated initial effort toward the war, and not come out a "hero" he would have still been considered heroic because he gave it his best shot.  Henry is way too wrapped up in what others will think of him and he feels the need to come out a hero rather than a coward.  If he would have tried his best he would have come out more a hero and nothing of a coward.

My reflection:  D's serve is pretty straightforward, almost mechanical.  He outlines and summarizes the situation of the main character and ends with two questions.  Those questions do have potential to open up discussion.  F's comment indicates that she sees her return as "enhancing" (to use the language from my response options document) D's point, and we can see the "agree . . . however" in her opening sentence.  I am pleased to see this because F has been stuck at the "agreeing" level and has been one of the least effective posters in the class.  But F's effort to do a higher level post is not successful, in my opinion, because of its weak content.   Since Henry's cowardice would not be known, I'm not sure this point makes good sense: "the Union would regard him (had he come back unwounded) with little appreciation for his life as they would rationalize that since he disengaged himself from battle it is not amazing he is in fact alive and well."  And comments like this seem totally unrealistic: "If he would have tried his best he would have come out more a hero and nothing of a coward."  The level of thought in F's return is simply not compelling.


5)   The "another way of looking at it" return

Student G's survey comment:  I think my best return was to _______'s post, He's so Vain, on 10/1.  I saw his point and its relevance, but also brought up another way to look at his post.

Student K's serve:  This book almost makes me upset at how vain and self-absorbed Henry can be sometimes.  He is always concerned with what his fellow soldiers will think of him, rather than what he thinks of himself.  He is always making comments about the war and how it is going just to prove himself to his comrades, just to get them to acknowledge that he is as much a part of the war as they are.  The only times that he strays from his conceited viewpoint are when he actually engages in battle, which is probably just shock and survival instinct, and afterward he doesn't even know what happened, he just bathes in the admiration of his comrades for him.  However, at times Henry does instill a bit of sympathy in me, because he really is only human.  Many of the feelings he encounters are part of human nature, and many of his actions are probably things that a lot of other people would have done too.  On another note, I really liked the very small conversation he has with the cheerful soldier.  The man is completely optimistic about the war and his role in it.  In a way, I think that this is Crane's way of creating a bit of anti-war sentiment, because Henry doesn't even ever see the man's face; in a sense he isn't real.  If such a man doesn't exist, then what is that saying about war?  I'd say its showing that there is no place for optimism in war because it is such a horrible part of human life.  whatever, i hope to hear from someone else.

Student G's return:  Henry is very vain.  You would think that becuase he is so concerned about what others will think of him, he would begin to act more like they do.  Rather, he seems to have a personal agenda for being there.   While it does seem like Henry's actions are Human nature, homecome there aren't too many other soldiers who seem to be acting like he is.  I think rather than human nature, it seems to be immaturity.

My reflection:  Student G and Student K have already appeared above in this document.  You know, I am gaining more and more respect for K's discussion-board contributions as the class progresses.  Maybe there's a lesson to be learned here.  In class, K was not "live," and I was more than once frustrated by his seeming lack of response and engagement.   He just didn't seem "with it."  But here again we see a carefully crafted, mature in ideas, and thoughtful post presented in a modestly social way.  Very nice indeed.  And I stroked G above for an engaging serve, but I must admit that here I am disappointed in her work.   Her serve above is delightfully full, this return distressingly lean.   G picks up on two keywords in  K's serve -- "vain" and "human nature" -- and presents alternatives.  Her points are good, even very good, but they are presented in such clipped one-shot fashion that I do not think they would especially lubricate further conversation.  I think that they need (and deserve) much more elaboration to be engaging.  For instance, that's a neat observation about Henry not acting more like the other soldiers, and it triggers a view of Henry not as vain but with a personal agenda.  But then that point is abruptly dropped.  What is the personal agenda?  Is that necessarily incompatible with vanity?  It's also useful to consider that Henry acts out of immaturity rather than human nature.  But, again, what does that mean, and are the two terms incompatible?  And I think G should have considered bringing her two points together into a concluding point that related back to K's point.  As is, G's return seems to stay up in the air.