RETURNS REVISITED: STUDENT WORK (3): RETURN CLUSTERS
The students were in groups of 5-6, so each serve might receive as many as 4-5 returns. What does that cluster of returns look like? Taken together, what is the "payback" to the server? How do those returns relate to each other? Are the groups acting as learning communities? Does knowledge advance as the conversation advances? Which strategies advance conversation and which don't? Those are some of the valuable questions one might investigate by looking at the full "package" -- the full sequence of returns to each serve. Below find one cluster (the serve and all of its returns) from each of the five class groups, one cluster out of the maximum 15-18 done in the unit by each group and chosen so as not to duplicate posts that have been examined in other student work in this unit.
Student J's serve (Sunday 9:02pm): Henry is a moron Henry Flemming is one of those kids who dreamed being a soldier so he could be surrounded by all the glory and respect that appears to come with the job. I think this is a very normal emfatuation for a kid to have. When I was a freshman in high school I wanted to go to the Naval Academy with hopes of becoming a pilot. The thing is, I soon realized that I could never live with someone telling me what to do all the time and the military life just wasn't for me. Unfortunately Flemming never gave himself the chance to come to this realization. This kid was not made for war. I don't have a problem with the fact that he was afraid of battle and unsure of how he would react. I don't know how I would react if I were put in his shoes. My criticism of Flemming is how, until the very end of the novel, he acts as though he is God's gift to mankind. He sits on the frontline and criticizes the decisions of his commanding officers, as if he knew how to command a battle. He can't even command himself. As an ordinary soldier you are insignifficant in the big picture, just a single person's existance is miniscule when compared to the grand scheme of the universe. A soldier's job is to follow orders. By the time Henry realizes this we have reached the climax of the novel. Woohoo, Flemming learns that he isn't special. Did he really need to join the army to realize this? He endangered the lives of countless other soldiers by having an internal war right on the battlefield. Henry should have had his mental makeover at home in the safety of his own bed. I found it very hard to sympathize with him and the novel as a whole had less of an effect on me because of this.
My reflection on Student J's serve: From the title "Henry is a moron" on down J is delightfully blunt and confrontational. His negative criticism of Henry is framed by sympathetic internalizing but is ultimately brutal: "He can't even command himself" and "Henry should have had his mental makeover at home in the safety of his own bed." J's strategy seems quite effective. His in-your-face tone licenses others who want to take a negative view to find even stronger ways to express their criticism, and it also operates as a stark challenge to those who want to defend or at least to empathize with Henry. J was one of the top 3-4 in the class, and his serve has excellent potential to kickoff a conversation.
Student H's return (Sunday 10:48pm): Although I just posted in dire contrast to what you have written, I can agree with some of your statements and am willing to consider the selfishness that Henry displayed throughout the novel. I do agree that he endangered the lives of other due to problems he was facing within himself, but I think it's important to consider that there were probably many, many, many more kids like him out there, that were just as frightened and regretful of their decision to enlist. I think Crane created the character of Henry because he is so representative of young, naive boys that are looking to be heroes. Yes, Henry enlisted for the wrong reasons, and yes, he was rather pathetic, especially at the beginning of the book, but he did become stronger. So what if he has an ego at the end? He's at war...is it really that important for him to remain grounded? Or should he do whatever he needs to do to survive and help his fellow soldiers?
My reflection on Student H's return: H "agrees" with part of J's position, then "disagrees" and "builds," ending with questions aimed at asking J to re-think his position. H dilutes J's argument that because of his individual state Henry is a danger to others by suggesting that that state was common to many young soldiers. Henry was not different and thus not, in himself, a danger to others. H stresses the strength of Henry's mental development rather than where or why it developed and suggests that the war context makes J's negative evaluation of Henry's character moot.
Student O's return (Sunday 11:15pm): My comment is mainly on the last part of your post. You ask "Did he really need to join the army to realize this?" I think he did. If Henry had stayed at home with his ideas of the grandeur of being a soldier and never really experiencing the reality of it, then I don't think he would've realized his own insignificance or any of the lessons he learned from his experiences. Sure, maybe there are other ways he could've gone about it, but that's not the point. I agree with [Student H] in that Crane is representing "young, naive boys that are looking to be heroes." I think Henry could be seen as the typical type of person who enlisted for war and his experiences and internal struggles are representative of those that others also experienced. Henry matures through his experiences in the war and this wouldn't have happened in the same way as if he had just stayed home.
My reflection on O's return: O plucks out and isolates J's key climactic question and attacks it -- and this is basically another "disagreeing" return. She sees war as the engine of maturation that domestic life on the farm can never be. She says clearly that this maturation "wouldn't have happened in the same way as if he had just stayed home." Now that's what I call assertion not argument, and I wish O had expanded this -- perhaps by saying something like maturation requires experience of death, experience of a "fall," etc., which is the essence of combat experience. But, at least, she clearly presents the bottom line of her disagreement.
Student U's return (Monday 12:10am): Instead of attacking him by asserting he was foolish for enlisting, it would be more appropriate to question his intentions for enlisting. You claim he enlisted to be "surrounded by all the glory and respect that appears to come with the job", but I think he enlisted to merely to seperate himself from his farm, and enter into a world where he is to be taken seriously. Living on a farm your whole life, you have got to feel sheltered, and by enlisting you thrust yourself into the very serious world of war, where politics and strategy reign. Henry wanted a taste of something true, something different than the stench of chicken coops and pig pens.
My reflection on Student U's return: Whereas O focuses on one aspect of J's serve with which to disagree, U focuses on another (though there is no visible evidence that he has read O's post and is consciously doing so), continuing the "disagreeing" pattern of returns. U refutes J's image of Henry as a glory-seeking youth with the positive spin that escape from the farm has for legitimate maturation: "by enlisting you thrust yourself into the very serious world of war, where politics and strategy reign." And U's post, though short -- size is always a worry of mine -- is quite forcefully eloquent: "Henry wanted a taste of something true, something different than the stench of chicken coops and pig pens."
Student R's return (Monday 1:06am): I know that we have not been given a tremendous glimpse into Henry's past but i think many things about Henry's life lead up to his enlistment. It seems as if Henry is the man of his house. During the civil war a man was expected to enlist and fight for his country. I think Henry had misplaced ideas about manhood and how he was supposed to show his manhood. Rather than being egotistical, i feel that Henry felt as if he was as much of a man as the other soldiers and generals. Thus his feeling of contempt for them. Does anyone think he would have acted the same if he had a known father or older brother? I feel he would not have.
My reflection on R's return: Now I can see this last post focusing on issues raised by J -- Henry's ego, war as a place to find manhood, etc. -- but it is somehow not as successful for me as the others. R seems to be agreeing with J that Henry is not a positive character, but he tries to "save" him in a different way than H, O, or U -- by looking beyond the story and relating his personality to the lack of a male role model perhaps we reach a different level of understanding and sympathy. He would not have acted the same if he had a male role model, ok, but how does that square with "During the civil war a man was expected to enlist and fight for his country"? Wouldn't the male role model be for going to war anyway? And what exactly is the import of this sentence: "Rather than being egotistical, i feel that Henry felt as if he was as much of a man as the other soldiers and generals"? I just don't get that. I feel I need another sentence of elaboration. So, while attempting a high level "disagreeing" post, I just don't feel the necessary clarity of thought here for a totally effective return.
My overall reflection on the four returns: J receives four returns within four hours, one of which (O's) indicates awareness of the other returns, and all level 3 returns. I'm trying to look at this from J's perspective receiving these four returns, and my sense is that the interchange is quite successful. He's been given four different ways to take a different look at the position offered in his serve. If this interchange were to go another step, I think he would have to seriously reconsider his position, and if he decides to hold on to it, he has four different kinds of objections to negotiate. Even the lacks I see in O's and R's returns could be buttons for J to press in asking them to defend their positions. It seems to me that the dynamics in this group interchange are quite successful and achieve the kind of thing we hope for when we ask students to engage in class discussion.
Student B's serve (Sunday 10:11pm): Henry: Keepin it Real I give the first half a thumb-up. Yup, that’s right, thumbs up. I say that because in my opinion, by chapter 11, Henry is one of the most real characters I’ve ever encountered in a novel. Why does Crane discuss Henry’s chronic indecisiveness and his constant adolescent reveling in an utterly romanticized notion of war? Because Crane has written a book rooted in purity and he wants the reader to know that Henry is a very real boy whose mind is on overdrive because of a very real war. It is Henry alone who somehow has to reconcile the prodigious difference between a preconceived fantasy of heroism and the brutal simplicity of insignificant mortality. Given all that … seriously, how else could the book be written? It’s WAR, and he’s a KID. Personally, Crane boggles my mind. He does a masterful job of relaying to us Henry’s innumerable streams of consciousness just by using words alone, which seems like a nearly impossible task. Essentially, I think that to change anything about the first half would be a travesty, because it really is an authentic account of “All right, I’m going to take a boy on the verge of self-discovery and throw him into a world of shit. This is what it sounds like.” Can I get someone to agree with me? Come onnnnnn. You know you want to.
My reflection on Student B's serve: B was one of the top 4-5 students in the class. He was very active in class -- his opinions were quick and strong and often controversial. Actually, he was kind of formidable. He enlivened discussion, but he was bulldoggish and would aggressively pursue or defend positions very competitively, so that some students would not engage with him. I think that's part of the background to his approach in this post. He actually likes something here, rather than questioning as he often did in class, and he jokingly challenges people to agree with him, something that didn't happen very often in class. B's tone is invitingly loose and colloquial and even a bit coarse (the "shit" comment), a tone he adopted quite often in his posts -- as if to say, I'm a regular guy, and we can speak honestly here. For all of his infomality, B showed in class and, in a crisp sentence like this, shows here that he has a sharp mind: "It is Henry alone who somehow has to reconcile the prodigious difference between a preconceived fantasy of heroism and the brutal simplicity of insignificant mortality." B is certainly no slouch. But that direct challenge to "agree" (a level 1 response) is interesting. Is it a taunt to invoke disagreement? Or is it a sign that his ego doesn't especially want or need discussion and that all he is after is approval?
Student V's return (Monday 12:11am): I will agree that Crane does a good job with realism here (plus his techniques are good), and that for a lot of readers one can relate to Henry simply because he's a kid that's been thrown into the mix of war. But I think Crane spends too much time on developing his character to the point where I, at least, started to lose focus. I kind of like novels that leave a little to be left up to the imagination becasue you don't get sick of the main charcter then. For me, the pages and pages that were spent saying pretty much the same thing over and over was a little nausiating, which is why I find myself detesting the character. I found myself saying "ok, I get the point, already." In a nutshell, the more I read, the more I thought Henry was weakened as a tool for the reader to relate with. I'll think more about this, however, but you've got me thinking!
Students E's return (Monday 2:31am): _________, I whole-heartedly agree with you on that one. I think you put it very well when you said "there is a little bit of Henry in all of us." As readers, we hate to admit that truth. Henry is not a hero, he is terribly flawed, but he is real. I applaud Crane for being so honest here.
Student I's return (Tuesday 10:18pm): i'm gonna have to agree with you too. Although there are parts of henry that i don't like, i do believe that there is a part of him in all of us. I can only imagine what it would be like to not only join the army, but to go through my first battle. Just think about how we all in general try to avoid getting in small fights in our lives, imagine fighting half of your own country, not with fists, but with guns. I know that i would be terrified.
My overall reflection on the three returns: Two responses to B within five hours, and then one two days later. V, the first returner, was also one of the top 4-5 students in the class, and note that she, though agreeing with the basic main point of B's serve, finds a way to avoid a simple dead-end "agreeing" return. V agrees with the facts about Henry and the quality of Crane's artistry and message, but she takes significant exception to a quantitative aspect of Crane's style that ultimately generates a negative impact for her. She opens the door for B to accept a distinction to his point or not -- a strategy to keep the conversation going. I guess the main thing I'm thinking about here is that the "good" student does not settle for limp agreement the way E and I, students in the lower 4-5 in the class, did. E simply wholeheartedly agrees and strokes B for putting it very well, whereas Student I, though more qualified in his agreement and, to his credit, offering some internalization as a nod toward "enhancing," still basically bring the sequence to a dead end. So, if B was seeking to have his ego stroked by the nature of his serve, he succeeded. All three returners agreed with him, and V's qualification is one he can ignore or gloss over if he wants. B's returners did not especially stretch his thinking. All in all, not a very rewarding cluster, in my opinion. In the case of total agreement, perhaps the response to strive for is the "enhancing" one, and that would probably be my advice here in order to improve the cluster.
Student A's serve (Sunday 8:42pm): a bittersweet reading I thought this book was terrible at first! It really got annoying really quickly. I kept thinking to myself "how could little miss priss (henry) be worrying about his image as a soldier when men are dying all around him?" Even when he joined the army in the beginning I knew he was enlisting for the wrong ideas. I've seen those nit-wit recruiters come to my high school telling kids to never smoke pot and to come join the Marines so they could shoot big weapons and "blow shit up." I find the propaganda used by the military in general a crock of $&@*. They prey among the unsuspecting innocence of slow teenagers to benifit their own salary that is dependent on commision of how many recruits they round up. So in a way I feel bad for Henry, because he was certainly not the only person to ever go into combat with the wrong expectations of war. He also wasn't the last, but he thought about his courage way too much. To run or not to run? that's the damn question, so answer it already. Make up your mind and stick with that plan. I also found it ridiculous that he could just leave someone to die just because he didn't want to answer his question of where he was wounded. But on the very opposite hand, I feel for Henry because he really didn't know what he was getting into when he enlisted (however, if he took two seconds to logically think about the details of it instead of the glamour and metals, he would have learned what combat was actually about). So, in conclusion, I really don't know what I made of this book and it's less than noble characters (ie. the misleading officer, dirty talking soldiers, and Henry). I think it was worth reading, but just didn't really enjoy it.
My reflection on Student A's serve: Wonder of wonders! Student A has been laconic to the point of lockjaw so far in the course, and, now, wham!, a serve that's almost twice the suggested guideline. But, hmmm, maybe it has some potential. It's a long explication of A's muddled reaction to the book and the main character (though, in essence, he only says one thing good about Henry "on the very opposite hand"). Perhaps the way to see the strategy of the serve is as a plea for returners to help him tip the scales one way or t'other. Or maybe he's asking the others to venture their "takes" on the book in comparison. His purpose is not real clear.
Student N's return (Monday 2:22am): I don't know if I ever heard of someone who actually knew what they were getting into when they entered as a soldier in a war. The atrocities they tell of, are more than I can imagine as a man never having been engaged in a "firefight", an all-out real battle. I think I'd piss myself. And Henry is facing these questions that entered a human's mind when they realize that they're mortal. Easily mortal, that there's a better chance that they'll die real soon then live on real soon.
Student F's return (Tuesday 7:23pm): I feel that the odds were definitely against Henry and his survival, especially with the lack of confidence, maturity, manhood, courage, bravery, and all kowingness he entered in with. He seemed a sure target for extinction.
Student S's return (Tuesday 8:05pm): This is the second time I've read Red Badge of Courage I didn't like it the first time 3 years ago and I don't like it anymore now. I feel that we have become too desensitised to the "common man's" view of war for it to have an impact on us. Look at World War II every other account you read is a soilder telling his tales of war. Don't get me wrong I appreciate what they did but at the same time a different persepective would be nice once in a while. Henry is a bit of a priss, leaves a man to die, what's up with that where is the loyalty and brotherhood there. Or even for that matter the humanity. War can bring out the most inhumane characteristics in people and also the most humane. It is pretty clear that he did not know what he was getting into when he enlisted but then again what young man really knows what to expect.
Students T's return (Tuesday 9:41pm): I thought about how most of the guys I grew up with would react in Henry's sitution. Most 18 year old guys I know spend the vast majority of their time concentrating on what other people think of them. It is hard to find an exceptionally independent 18 year old guy that has no concern whatsoever for other people's opinions of him. I'm not going to try to speculate on how I would handle being in war, but the one thing I am pretty sure of is that the decisions I make under those circumstances will most likely be vastly different that the decisions I make in normal life. One of the things I got out of this book is an understanding of the psychological issues a very young man will probably have to wrangle with on the battlefield.
My overall reflection on the four returns: This was a very dysfunctional group. Three of the bottom 5-6 students in the class were in this group. On one of the three class days, nobody served, and there was no action at all. This is the only one of the serves in all three days to which everybody replied (and three of the four returns came a long two days after the serve), and, in fact, one of the responders here was actually supposed to be in another group (duh!). In fact, no other serve got more than one return. Hall of fame dysfunction here! And my instinct is to characterize the returns in this cluster as "all over the lot." That might be because of the non-focus of the serve or the general lower level of intelligence or commitment in this group. N describes the confrontation with morality Henry faces; F describes the odds against Henry's survival; S makes an interesting but unconnected point about desensitization and also describes war's positive and negative effects and Henry's lack of experience; T perhaps comes closest to clearly stating something worthwhile that one can take away: "an understanding of the psychological issues a very young man will probably have to wrangle with on the battlefield." None of the returns has a clear transition from the serve (something that each could be told in the way of fostering improvement). S's and T's returns have some potential, for they make independent, isolated points of value, but there is no sense of worthwhile community discussion here. Everybody seems in their own separate world. Another word to describe this discussion -- "random!"
Student L's serve (Tuesday 7:10pm): Red Herring Anyone? We spoke in class about the machine imagery that seems to prevail throughout the work. Battles are likened to “the grinding of an immense and terrible machine” (105); men are depicted as “machine-like” (95). Building on this imagery, Crane also seems to describe the regiment in terms of it being one unified body. Henry describes himself as “not a man but a member” (84). Crane uses powerful imagery to convey this idea: “A small procession of wounded men were going drearily toward the rear. It was a flow of blood from the torn body of the brigade” (88). These images seem to depict war as a living, vibrant entity, one which swallows the individual, incorporating him into the larger being. One may easily interpret this to be Crane’s disparaging judgment on war. Unfortunately the issue is more complex. While reading, I discovered an abundance of instances in which Crane seemingly lingers upon descriptions of individual (oftentimes insignificant) character’s faces and facial expressions. I found this to be somewhat interesting. What is Crane’s purpose here? Examples of this abound: “He stalked like the specter of a soldier, his eyes burning with the power of a stare into the unknown” (106), “his face wore an expression telling that he had at last found the place for which he had struggled” (114). I feel as though there are conflicting messages here. Are we to see individuals as valuable or merely valued in terms of their ability to conform within the regiment and to function as one body or one machine? Any thoughts?
My reflection on Student L's serve: I have pointed out several times that L was in the top echelon of the class, and this serve is yet another example of her good posts. L is obviously a close reader, and she has spied a seeming contradiction between a point discussed in class and her analysis of the text. L was an English Minor, and her subject is one that would interest a specialist. There is a pattern of imagery in the book that subsumes individuals into an anonymous mass, and yet there is stark and vivid and memorable descriptions of individuals. "What is Crane's purpose here?" she asks. Always master of the text, L sets up the conflict she sees with a selection of specific citations that frame her concluding question. Her question is very specific and has the potential to generate focused, direct responses.
Student F's return (Tuesday 7:30pm): I feel the two tie intogether and corelate; i.e. individuals are valuable in the sense that one person can make a large difference, and the fact that there is also no "i" in team. I feel that if I were to say that the individual is crap and not valuable would mean that if one does not give their best and all, they attribute to lesser of an outcome and victory than could be achieved had they given a 100% effort. The part contributes to the outcome as a whole. Morevoer, in order to function as a whole, each part must do the best they can individually to succeed and survive as a whole, (of course they have to be reliable and responsible for everyone else in order to accomplish anything).
Student D's return (Tuesday 7:42pm): That is an important conflict in the novel. It makes me think of the US army in modern times. There new slogan is "An Army of One", changed from the dated "Be all that You can be". A soldier is enters in army expected to conform and to be able to function as one unit. Yet in death, there is an induviduality that goes along with it. I think we are supposed to recongnize tht the unit is made up of valuable individuals.
Student M's return (Tuesday 8:24pm): On top of the whole "machine" imagery, we see Flemming talking about the red-eyed monster that makes up the opposing force. I take this as being Crane's way of saying that nothing is as it seems. In class we were discussing how everything is weird, I believe this just builds on that. War is just weird, and I think Crane just wants people to see that you can't even begin to imagine what it holds. People no longer act rationally, thus they lack individuality, they all think the same, and fight like a machine. I feel like I'm leaving a lot out, but that's the best I can explain it.
My overall reflection on the three returns: L received three responses within ninety minutes, but they are not effective ones. F, one of the bottom level students in the class, responds with a discussion of the individual and the community abstracted totally from the text under interpretation. D, usually a quite solid student, does pretty much the same thing. His next-to-last sentence is intriguing, and one wonders if the idea there, if expanded, would have relevance to L's point, but there is no application to the novel in his return. M's return is scattered. M, also usually quite solid, begins by blowing off the duality L sets up, adding a third image pattern without relating it back to the problem L articulated. Then, at the end, he simply repeats the situation with the machine imagery that L already laid out. I dunno, there seems nothing of value in the returns. A picture-perfect, totally focused serve generates nothing of intellectual value. That's a surprise. It was not a surprise above when A's unfocused serve to group 3 was not productive. But this is a surprise. One wonders about L's reaction, since her serve shows obvious signs of having taken considerable time to compose. D and M have shown themselves capable of much better, but their returns here are lackadaisical and completely dead-endish. How could this conversation have been improved? Perhaps by stressing to the returners to establish focus by beginning with a transition from the serve -- a small piece of advice that I am seeing from several instances needs to be stressed.
Student C's serve (Thursday 3:24pm): a true purpose? After I finished reading the book, throughout class discussion, and our posts, I have continually asked myself what the real purpose in this book is as a whole. Unfortunately, I haven't come up with a real answer that I am satisfied with- but here is one of my ideas. My thoughts are that Crane's story purely has to do with human psychology and sociology. Maybe this is because I am a psych major but maybe not. Everyone has their own self-image. Henry is depressed and has low self-esteem and therefore he turns to everyone else longing to feel accepted. He joins the war to be accepted, and gets his red badge of courage to prove himself. But what did it really do? NOTHING, because he knew he was lying. He should have made his own decisions and not worried about social acceptance. It was in his nature to run away, just as the squirrel did. Do what your heart tells you too, and don't force yourself to do something you don't really believe in! In other words, I think an important aspect of Crane's work is to be yourself and make your own decisions. You don't have to be a war hero to make a difference in the world. This is just one purprose I've noticed, but I think there are a few more that I haven't been able to put my finger on --any help out there?? (Anyone else having as much trouble trying to come to a conclusion as I am?)
My reflection on Student C's serve: This post is from the last class in the unit, and C is asking for help formulating a hypothesis about the purpose of the work. Her post is user-friendly, she reveals her disciplinary perspective, she describes her hypothesis crisply and clearly, she acknowledges other possibilities, and she ends on an invitingly tentative note asking for help (though this can get gimmicky if used too often). In effect she's saying, what is your hypothesis of the novel's purpose? Or, at least, what do you think of mine? It seems to me that the serve does its job well.
Student G's return (Thursday 9:49pm): Hopes this makes you feel better- but I am in the same boat as you rare. Unlike with The Awakening and with Uncle Tom's Cabin- i can't really put my finger on the message that Crane is trying to send....Henry seems like a very complex character, yet I can't really tell what Crane is trying to say through him. To me, it dosen't seem lke Crane has a specific direction that he is taking with Henry. It seemed to me that Henry's character progression wasn't really there...he always seemed to gain maturity- but then a few pages later- would do something that would make me lose my faith in him all over again.
Student Q's return (Thursday 10:31pm): Beautiful, truly beautiful. You're not preaching how it is an antiwar book. I do think that this work is a lot greater than an anti war sentiment. Man vs. man is a big theme in this book but maybe the purpose is to expose human psyche! Man versus self. The biggest struggle. How are we to overcome our own fears. It is the fear that drives Henry to battle I believe. He ha accomplished a lot through hard work. Most things at the homefront can be accomplished through hard work. But there is something more. There is something that he can not overcome through hard work. That is fear. That fear comes right out in the middle of the battle. The evidence of overcoming this fear is of course the red badge. The old blood wound. By getting the Red badge Henry has overcome his fear. Whether it really counts is another story though.
Student K's return (Friday 11:41am): i see where you're going with this, you have a good point. Henry's fault was not in his fear of being judged or lying to others, but in not being true to the kind of person he was and what he really wanted for himself. From the beginning he makes the wrong decisions, and it ends up hurting him because he is putting himself in a situation that he thinks is good for himself because of the recognition he will receive, but in reality he just may not be cut out for war. So in a way, Crane is entreating the reader to be true to himself and to choose what you want for yourself and what you will be happy doing, not what you think you're supposed to be doing. whatever, thats what i got out of it.
My overall reflection on the three returns: C gets three returns, two the same night as her afternoon post, one the following morning. Maybe I'm just getting cranky at this point in my analyses of all these posts, but I sure wish the returners would focus more clearly and therefore help all the readers understand them. G's return, for instance, I think, is meant to indicate her shared perplexity, her inability to formulate even a working hypothesis like C does, and her suspicion that Crane has no purpose. Now, this would be fine if her post weren't so damn lean. A book without a purpose? An author with no control? I mean, more needs to be said about that. And some specific examples of Henry's reversals would be helpful. G's return is too tight-lipped for my liking, and I wonder what kind of further conversation it could foster. Q's return is quite interesting. When C says the theme is be yourself, she's implying a conflict, a duality, that there is tension between self and non-self. Q is on a similar track, though he doesn't say so, and doesn't really make an attempt to relate his view directly to C's -- but sees a conflict between self and self. Exterior conflict in C, interior in Q. C infers the theme of the novel negatively, by Henry's poor state at the end. Q at first indicates that Henry is in a good state at the end, having overcome his fear, but then wonders if it "counts" -- so where are we with Q???? Another case of being too lean. For me there is simply incomplete communication here. Q is posing another hypothesis but he is not clear, and I have to struggle to understand both what it is and how it relates to C's. K, it seems to me, provides nothing more than an "agreeing" post. Now it might seem that agreement, verification of the truth of her hypothesis, is all C is after and that K's post is functional here. Yes, yep, you're on the ball here C! But agreement without evidence lacks force, and I think that's what happens here. Wouldn't C feel better if she knew on what basis K was agreeing? I think so. Wouldn't that make her feel more confident of her position? I think so. Thus, K should have moved in some way toward an "enhancing" return in order to be effective. He simply votes without adding value. So I feel a good bit of consternation at this cluster of returns. I feel relevant ideas are there in G and Q but that I have to do all the work to dig them out.