Title Page | Overview | Documents | Surveys | Exercises
Clips | Profiles | Results | Reflections | References
@2006 Ed Gallagher, Professor of English, Lehigh Lab Fellow. Lehigh University.
Copyright, Terms of Use and Privacy Policy applicable to this site.

THE "SERVE":
STUDENT WORK (1): BEST FIRST SERVES

include here student responses to survey 2, question 12, asking them to identify the best post in the class on the first day of posting and to elaborate on their choice.

The prompt:

Please re-read or read all the 8/29 posts. Pick out the one that you think of as the best (ok, you can list some honorable mentions if you wish). A) Give the writer's name and the title of the post. B) Why were you attracted to the post? C) Can you identify the strategy the writer used to get your attention?

"Self Empowerment" and "Soaring above Tradition" got 4 votes each to lead the way; "Ignorance is Bliss" got 3 votes.  These are good posts.  I agree with the student choices.  But, for comparison, I have included here also "What if . . . I were Edna?" and "awakening," both posts that got no votes, one deservedly so, one not.

"Self Empowerment"  (4 votes)

This student's post not available.

-- "I was intrigued by his ability to identify the most provocative questions in the novel at such an early date.  He immediately touched on the question of whether or not Edna was a weak person.  THe writer took an objective point of view which I thought was appropriate at such an early point in discussion."

-- "I found this post to have many great things going for it.   ______ puts several important aspects of the story, elaborates a little bit, and includes his personal opinion -all in a post that doesn't go for 5 pages.  He gets right to the point without being too wordy.  He includes enough detail about the story so you know what hes talking about without summarizing it.  Also as I mentioned, he gives his own opinion making the post more personalized."

-- "It interested me because of the subject.  The strategy I thoguht he used which got my attention was just plain and simple writing.  He didnt go off on any tangents and it was easy to follow."

--  "I liked how he clearly stated and discussed what he thought the novel was about and how the ideas behind the novel are illustrated through Edna.  I don't know if there was a specific strategy used, but it seemed to have strong beginning sentences, good supporting ideas, and then strong ending sentences, and that's what got my attention."

The writer of this post transferred out of school, and his post seems to have disappeared from the Blackboard web site with him!  This post tied for first in the voting.  I remember at the time agreeing that it was a worthy post.  Though there are nods to the content of the post, what strikes me in the supporting statements is the attraction of "just plain and simple [good] writing": proper point of view, not wordy, supporting details, no tangents, clear and strong structure.

Soaring above Tradition"  (4 votes)

One line from The Awakening really makes an impact and is one that I think really tells the truth behind the novel. Edna repeats what Mademoiselle Reisz said to her when she left, and what she said was that “the bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings.  It is a sad spectacle to see the weaklings bruised, exhausted, fluttering back to earth” (138).  Edna is that bird soaring above tradition and prejudice only to come back down to earth in the end.  The novel portrays her transition and struggle from living a mindless life as a wife and mother to living her life independently, sensuously, and soulfully.  Society expects her to be one way, but she desires to be different.  Still, I think that even referring to the new house that she moves into as the “pigeon house,” besides commenting on its size, is saying that Edna is like a caged bird who’s let out to fly but is still not completely free. Edna cannot have the life that she desires due to the restrictions of society.  In the end of the novel, as Edna walks down to the beach, “a bird with a broken wing was beating the air above, reeling, fluttering, circling disabled down, down to the water” (175).  This, too, represents Edna.  She had her hopes and dreams destroyed and the fantasy of the future that she imagined was brought crashing back to reality.  Edna’s courage and her spirit were broken and she was not strong enough to continue.  In the end, Edna Pontellier chooses actual death over living what she would consider a dead existence.

-- "I liked _________ s' post.  I really enjoyed her reference to passages int he book.  The line she used about wings really helped drive her point home.  It wasn't very long but it had some serious impact."

-- "I feel that _______'s Soaring Above Tradition was the best post.  She made a connection that no one else made about the house and the bird cage quote, and how Edna was just trapping herself.  I was attracted to the post by it's name it sounded very different from the other posts.  I flet that the content and length were appropriate and she made her point clearly."

 -- "______'s 'Soaring Above Tradition' was the most meaningful post to me.  I appreciated the posts that raised totally new ideas for me.  I hadn't spent so much time thinking about the connection between Edna and the bird comments throughout the story.  This post especially made me think about the novel in a new context.  The quotes from the book definitely added a valuable dimension to the post.  It was easier to see exactly what Katherine was saying.  Overall, the thoughts that this post provoked in me made it the best."

--  "I enjoyed _____'s post because i can almost follow her train of thought.  I liked her comparison of Edna to a bird, and her use of quotes and examples from the book.  I think Katherine found one idea and then elaborated on it, using the examples and quotes from the book."

This post tied for first in the voting.  It certainly is beautiful.  In regard to the five eyes, it begins hypothesizing "the truth behind the novel" and then analyzes in following the bird imagery throughout.  The post is very polished, with a definite feel ("living her life independently, sensuously, and soulfully," for example) of having been written separately and then pasted onto the discussion board instead of having been written right on the db space.  (I should get more information about student practice in this regard.)

There is some of the same applause for general writing principles here from the student supporters as in the previous post (quotes, use of examples, focus on elaborating one thought), but what I thought was different was the attraction -- cited in the second and third responses -- to something unique, something different, something totally new  that was thought-provoking.  This post seemed to have involved the other students more and thus seems like it would better serve the function of a serve in that it might provoke response.  The responders to the previous post seemed to treat it from a distance as if it were a beautiful museum piece.

"Ignorance is Bliss"  (3 votes)

I found Chopin’s novel to be extremely timeless as it chronicles a woman’s path toward self-knowledge and empowerment.  In my opinion, were it not for subtle reminders of the time period (i.e the style of dress), one might easily mistake it for a contemporary novel.  I particularly enjoyed Chopin’s use of the metaphor of the ocean and water as it relates to Edna’s own internal struggles.  The novel is marked by frequent references to water and ocean imagery. The vivid and powerful way in which the ocean is described is effective as it metaphorically represents the myriad of emotions that frequently overtake Edna throughout the course of her “awakening”.  Edna’s emotions are often described as wave-like, implying that Edna is somewhat at the mercy of some external force; that she is propelled on (as one may be propelled by powerful waves).  For example, Edna experiences a powerful emotional jolt while listening to Mademoiselle Reisz’s playing: “the very passions themselves were aroused within her soul, swaying it, lashing it, as the waves daily beat upon her splendid body” (72).  Even as she becomes progressively more empowered and self-aware, she maintains a certain sense of vulnerability.  Shortly after the somewhat amusing scene in which she refuses to bend to her husband’s wishes and spends an entire night in a hammock outdoors, she describes herself as “blindly following whatever impulse moved her, as if she had placed herself in alien hands for direction, and freed her soul of responsibility” (79).  There is no question however, that Edna is becoming an independent and self-empowered woman.  Her decisions to develop her artistic talents as well as move out of her home, as well as her relationships with Arobin and Lebrun serve as evidence of her evolution.  The tragedy lies in Edna’s final realization that even complete independence and the pursuit of one’s passions may not be enough as a result of the restrictions that life ultimately places upon us.  Edna comes to realize that her early assertion, “I would give up the unessential; […] I would give my life for my children; but I wouldn’t give myself” (97), is unrealistic.  At the novel’s conclusion Edna realizes that the “acute longing” (145) that plagues her throughout the novel may never be satisfied in her current life role as a mother. She envisions her own children as her enslavers, “antagonists who had overcome her; who had overpowered her and sought to drag her into the soul’s slavery for the rest of her days” (175).  Tragically she surrenders herself to the eternal solitude of the ocean which has consistently symbolized peace, refuge, power and perspective.  The novel concludes with a repetition of the opening description of the sea: “The voice of the sea is seductive, never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander in abysses of solitude” (175).  Ultimately Edna surrenders herself to eternal solitude as her awakening has led her to the realization that all of her earthly relationships will eventually “melt out of her existence, leaving her alone” (175).  Certainly the Doctor may empathize with Edna as he states, “Nature takes no account of moral consequences, of arbitary conditions which we create, and which we feel obliged to maintain at any cost” (171).  I loved the novel’s powerful conclusion.  It did however call to mind the question: Is ignorance bliss?

-- "by far and away _________'s 'Ignorance is Bliss' is the best post.  it's well written with clearly articulated points which she supports with textual evidence!"

--  "I was attracted to the title.  In relation to the story, the title of the post alone made me think of how if Edna never had an awakening, things would have continued normally.  C) The writer talked about the imagery that flowed through out the entire book and gave sited many quotes to back up what stuck out in their own minds."

-- "I liked _________'s post.  She decided to use page numbers to substantiate her claims (something i should have done), and had a very thoughtful way of looking at it.  It was also completely different from my view, so i guess i was interesting in it from the beginning, because she liked the book and i wanted to know why.  that way...maybe i could like it as well."

Wow!  Talk about polish!  This is a carefully crafted essay, a good 2-3 times longer than my guidelines for posting.  The exact quoting, the careful citations, etc., all bespeak that the writer saw herself as writing an essay.  But is it a good discussion board post?  Is writing a discussion board post the same as writing an essay?   Are the principles of "good" [essay] writing -- that all of the student responders are responding to in these three examples so far -- the same as the principles of a good discussion board post?  I don't think so, and I guess I've got to work this out more and eventually present it to the students.  It seems to me that, mainly, essays are aiming at closing off thought in a way -- arguing a point that the audience must agree with.  And that a discussion board post should do just the opposite -- open up thought.  There has to be some reaching out to the audience in a discussion board post in the multi-response situation that I envision.  There has to be some invitation for the audience to engage.  How does one do that?  Is it in tone (form), content, or both?  In any event, as good as the writing here is, interestingly, I don't see this post as a model of the kind of thing I'm after.

"What if . . . I were Edna?"  (0 votes)

As I began to read this story I had this feeling that I would never finish reading it in any reasonable amount of time.  I wasn't able to relate to this so overpowered and closed person.  That's just not how things are in this day and age. Though about halfway through I found myself picking up the pace and being able to picture myself in the exact position Edna had found herself in.  By the time I was finished I couldn't help but think about what I would do in her position.  I've always pictured myself as being a housewife, but on the otherhand have always taken for granted my freedoms to choose what I wanted to do.  I felt like Edna should be able to get herself out of the situation or find some type of solution to her dilemma.  However, one has to remember that it wasn't the 21st century and people were expected to be loyal to their loved ones.  However,on the otherhand by commiting suicide she was almost betraying everyone---she had Robert, her children, and even her husband that she should have confronted(even if the outcome would have been terrible).  It's just not reasonable to escape in such a way.  I think if she really experienced this "awakening" she should have been able to realize leaving the situation was not a real answer either.  I know we have all been in a similar situation--and personally I could never just ignore what was going on around me--let alone escape with no return.  She didn't continue to fufill her longing to be "awake"---so in a sense she never really was me awake.  She didn't experience everything or wait to see the outcome of her somewhat childish decisions.

This post received no votes?  Why?  It's a well-written, sensible post, no?  And it has a clear invitation to us to respond in the "I know we have all been in a similar situation" gambit.  Good, no?  As far as the five eyes go, it definitely leans toward internalization.  Three "I's" in the very first sentence.  Is that off-putting?  The other examples above were in the traditional academic essay voice.  This is an "I" speaking.  I wonder if that is the reason it was overlooked.  My sense is that the internalizing eye may be the one least practiced by the students because the least valued by teachers -- who shy them away from this kind of approach.  And thus I've got to ask myself whether internalizing is a value in literary analysis and, if so, how I can best lubricate student response in this area.

"awakening"  (0 votes)

The Awakening seems to be a book of protest which made it a controversial work for it's time.  Edna seems to want to escape to a place where she can do as she pleases.  She signed over her life to a husband and children before she knew what she "really" wanted with her life.  After being woke, she seemed to realize all of the things she missed out on. She was mad that she never did anything for herself and spent her life dreaming.  I believe she thought that it was too late to fix anything and was permanently stuck in a hole that she couldn't climb out of.  Hence the ending.
 
As a point of comparison, this is an example of a post that is a dud.  It's short, barely over 100 words, tied for the shortest in the class -- not that length is an automatic criterion of quality.  But it is basically a bare plot summary.  The last sentence shows that it is merely perfunctory.  It has nothing going for it.