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"VOLLEYING":
STUDENT WORK (4): FOUR UNFLAGGING STEPS

And here's another good example of a successful 4-step interaction.

Step 1 -- The Serve


Student L: Flint's Favor  Much has been said in class in reference to Dr. Flint’s evil treatment of Linda.  Clearly he treated her in a most cruel manner as played mental games with her, all in an effort to “break her” and to force her into succumbing to his sexual advances.  Linda herself comments that she learns to “tremble at her master’s footfall” (31).  It is evident that Dr. Flint succeeds in becoming the torment of Linda’s waking hours, but does he really break her?  We certainly can make a good argument for his condemnation.  He is a despicable, sub-human being, in my estimation.  However, I would make the argument that ironically, Dr. Flint is partially responsible for freeing Linda.  I believe that ultimately Flint’s torments and threats serve to make Linda into a stronger, more daring woman.  Flint’s unceasing advances force Linda to become quite industrious as she is forced to develop innovative ways of avoiding him and preserving her integrity.  Evidence of her burgeoning strength of character is found in many of her dialogues with Flint.  At one point she emphatically states that he has no right to do what he likes with her.  She also states, “I had rather live and die in jail, than drag on, from day to day, through such a living death.  I was determined that the master, whom I so hated and loathed, who had blighted the prospects of my youth, and made my life a desert, should not, after my long struggle with him, succeed at last in trampling his victim under his feet” (59).  I would argue that Flint’s abusive treatment of Linda forces her into developing inner strength which eventually leads to her escape and freedom.  Perhaps Flint did her a favor…What do you think?

My reflection on L's serve:

By this time in the course it was clear that L was a top student completely in the groove.  Her analysis serve is crisp, tightly structured, supported by specific textual reference, and shows her usual signs of polish (writing about "her burgeoning strength," for instance).  One of the marks of the really good student, moreover, is the unusual twist of mind that's beyond mechanics and that probably can't be taught -- the habit of "seeing" differently.  Here L surprises by her ironic argument that Flint "is partially responsible for freeing Linda," that "Flint’s abusive treatment of Linda forces her into developing inner strength which eventually leads to her escape and freedom."  That's cool.  A good wake-up for discussion.


Step 2 -- The Return

Student V:  I think you're right on the ball with this one.  I mean, we've seen that kind of provocation thorughout our history.  Who wouldn't resort to such extreme measures under that magnitude of cruelty?  We see in the novel why Linda got pregnant- because she thinks it possible to get away from her master in this condition, having been angered by her relations with another white man.  I think another driving force for Linda here, also as a result of her master, is Linda's intelligence.  I think she realizes that she may not be as book smart as Mr. Flint in the economic and medical ways of the world, but she has more common, intuitive sense.  Her undersatanding of that fact I think also plays a key role in her freedom.  This sort of upper hand is seen just in the way she talks to him. Using the same statement you made in your post, about Linda informing Mr. Flint that he has no right to do what he likes with her, even though she was just struck for her declarations of love and request for marriage, she says this, and goes on to say the he dorve her to it.  Her responses to his rage are quick, and very risky for a slave to say to her master.  But she knows her limits.  She knows that she can get away with it.  It's almost like she uses his obsession with her as a way to stay one step ahead.  Also, why does she learn to read and write?  She knows it could be helpful in her esacpe.  So her strength, and also her intelligence, both of which are intensified by Mr. Flint, gether on her way to freedom.

My reflection on V's return:

You gotta tip your hat to V on her return.  She immediately enhances L's argument.  L focuses on Linda's words as proof of her developing strength, and V adds a big example of her actions -- arranging her pregnancy.  But quickly, though, V builds on L's serve by arguing that intelligence is a second driving force that "plays a key role in her freedom" -- a point she backs up as sharply and crisply as L backs hers.  I can see a nice reciprocation going on here.  L gives V something to think about, V accepts that, and, in turn, now gives L something to think about.  And her last line signals that they are working together on a developing idea: "So her strength, and also her intelligence, both of which are intensified by Mr. Flint, gether on her way to freedom."  But does the discussion have any place to go now?  It seems like the end of the return is a crucial spot.  R and K's discussion died at this point.  J and O kept it going by giving each other a task.  What will happen here?


Step 3 -- Fielding the Return

Student L:  I like that you brought up Linda's intelligence which is something I neglected to talk about in my initial post.  I totally agree with your point that Linda is aware of her superior intelligence.  I think its an extremely crucial point to make that Linda is not only aware of her intelligence, she is also aware of the lack thereof in Mr. Flint.  His mistake is in underestimating her powers of intellect.  She states that the slaves on his plantation are perceived as animals and it would stand to reason that Flint would also assume the inferiority of their intellectual capacity as well.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Linda frequently identifies instances in which Mr. Flint is attempting to trick and deceive her.  She does not fall prey to his schemes.  She "has his number", so to speak.  However, she does make this statement, "I admit that the black man is inferior.  But what is it that makes him so?  It is the ignorance in which white men compel him to live; it is the torturing whip that lashes manhood out of him; it is the fierce bloodhounds of the South {...} They do the work" (45) .  Here Jacobs appears to be saying that the black man has evolved to be somewhat intellectually inferior as a result of the abuses of the institution of slavery.  If this is the case, then how is it that Linda has evaded this same fate?  How has she been able to retain her intellect in the face of such degradtion?  Any thoughts?

My reflection on L's fielding:

Wow, you gotta tip your other hat to L here!  She, in turn, immediately enhances L's point by running for a bit with reminders of Flint's unintelligence that complement examples of Linda's intelligence, and, in turn, she also builds on L's point, anchored to a direct quote from the text, raising contrary belief in general slave intelligence from Linda's own words.  What a stroke!  L shows herself master of the text!   And she turns to V with the commonsensical question of how Linda has escaped the common fate.  Beautiful!  And I am reminded that early on L was in firmly essayish mode, delivering conclusions.  She probably has an answer in mind here, but, writing socially, aware that she's in conversation, she poses a question rather than launches an opinion.


Step 4 -- The Volley

Student V:  I think the slaves thought themselves inferior simply because the bad things are easier to beleive.  You know, like when someone tells you you look nice on a day or something thereof and someone else might contradict.  What do you get more worked up about?  These poor people were reminded daily of their inferiority and that it was unlawful to learn anything for themselves.  So, yes, i htink it is the ignorance in which they are compelled to live as well as the inhumane torture they underwent.  As far as Linda, I'm not so sure about this one, but I'm thinking it may have to do with some background stuff-- her grandmother for instance.  What a ROCK, as Gallagher pointed out in class yesterday.  If you need to be influenced by someone, she's the ticket here.  A real strong piece of work.  Linda looks up to her, she values her approach to life.  Also, her past masters' more mild treatment of her probably aided in the magnitude of her self esteem as well.  Just a thought.

My reflection on V's volley:

Now L kind of introduces a new subject, which may be a key thing to think about when considering strategies for keeping discussion going after two steps.  And it's not an easy question.  V plunges in.  She divides the question into a section on general slaves and a section on Linda.  She's more confident in the first part offering an explanation, a bit more tentative in the second.  But there's no "duh!" moment here.  We see a mind also conversant with the text at work immediately suggesting two concrete possibilities -- the grandmother and her original owner.  V doesn't develop either of these possibilities, but one can easily see them as opportunities for exploration in continued conversation.  Both L and V are "into" the text, both have agile minds, and their discussion, then, has that positive sense of ongoing movement that marks the kind of interaction I am hoping for in this project.