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The Quill: Student Academic Writing

Named in honor of the now-defunct campus newspaper, The Quill is a showcase for student academic writing.  It features student writing that has been nominated as worthy of distinction by instructors.  By making public examples of the fine student writing produced at Ursuline, we hope to inspire more excellence in future student writing.  If you are an instructor at Ursuline and find a piece of A+ student writing, then please nominate it for The Quill.  If you are a student, then we hope these models of student academic writing will inspire you to bring out your own unique voice to provide a vision that cannot be found in cutting and pasting text found on the Internet, but instead can only be found within the values of your own mind.

The Quill
Alphabetical List of Student Writers
Reverse Chronological List of Student Writers
Honor Roll (Past Works Featured on The Quill)

Alphabetical List
"The Awakening" Essay by Valerie Doycich, Ursuline Studies 313-01, Spring 2014
"The End" by Lauren Hollis, Ursuline Studies 351 Spring 2012
"Money, Materialism, and Mechanization: A Marxist Approach to One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest" by Lauren Krozser English 132 Spring 2012
"Reflection Essay" by Jessie Mueller, Religious Studies 325 Spring 2011
"Thank You Grandma" by Amanda Paletta, Ursuline Studies 101 Fall 2012
"Identity and Authenticity in George Orwell’s Burmese Days: The Pukka Sahib Englishman in British Colonial Burma" by Patti Fish Stephens, English 344 Fall 2011
"Reflection Essay" by Kaylene Way, Religious Studies 325 Spring 2011

Reverse Chronological List
"Thank You Grandma" by Amanda Paletta, Ursuline Studies 101 Fall 2012
"Money, Materialism, and Mechanization: A Marxist Approach to One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest" by Lauren Krozser English 132 Spring 2012
"The End" by Lauren Hollis, Ursuline Studies 351 Spring 2012
"Identity and Authenticity in George Orwell’s Burmese Days: The Pukka Sahib Englishman in British Colonial Burma" by Patti Fish Stephens, English 344 Fall 2011
"Reflection Essay" by Kaylene Way, Religious Studies 325 Spring 2011
"Reflection Essay" by Jessie Mueller, Religious Studies 325 Spring 2011

Honor Roll (Past Works Featured on The Quill)
"Healing The Scars" by Lauren Krozser, Ursuline Studies 101 Fall 2010 taught by Alana Andrews

"Thank You Grandma" by Amanda Paletta
Ursuline Studies 101, Fall 2012


Fred Wright, Amanda's instructor for US 101 (Introduction to the Liberal Arts), comments, "US 101 is an introduction to college in general and Ursuline in particular, in which students learn about academic writing, analytical reading, educational theories, public speaking, research techniques, and study skills, among other things, in a holistic approach that focuses on the themes of education, identity, meaning, and voice. For this assignment, students were asked to reflect on their identities by examining material from our class readings, in addition to selecting a role model from their lives. In her essay, Amanda selected her grandmother and does a superb job of explaining the effect she has had on Amanda. Furthermore, Amanda does a nice job illustrating what she identifies with in the class readings. Altogether, Amanda demonstrates that she's been doing some careful thinking about the nature of identity, something that should benefit her long beyond college."

“Pay no mind to what other people say; whatever makes an individual happy is what he or she should do.”  This quote comes from my grandmother, who tries her best to teach me about an individual’s personal identity.  An individual’s identity represents who he or she truly is; it is something that allows a specific person to stand out from the crowd.  During an individual’s life, he or she will come across many obstacles that will shape her or his being and will further shape her or him into someone with particular traits, or an identity.  During my life, I grew up with six older siblings who each had voices and opinions quite different than mine.  Although I felt different from everyone else, there was always one person who I related to, my grandmother.  All throughout the years of growing up and going through changes, I always seemed to be filled with encouraging words of wisdom from my grandmother, and, most importantly, she was very accepting of the paths I had chosen to follow despite the fact that they were different from my family’s paths.  Throughout the book The Norton Mix, which is an anthology of different texts, many aspects of identity are explored.  The selection that I believe relates to me the most in this book is “Professions for Women” by Virginia Woolf, a 1931 speech about Woolf's work as a writer.  Another text that I believe presents many characters with different identity aspects is the novel Hairstyles of the Damned, by Joe Meno; the novel is about a teenage boy searching for his identity.  After analyzing both texts and listening attentively to my grandmother’s advice, I have concluded that everyone needs to understand that no two identities are alike, and individuals should follow their dreams no matter what anyone has to say about it.

With the guidance of my grandmother I have become a very accepting, non-prejudiced, and determined young lady.  One very important aspect of my identity is the fact that I am very accepting of choices made by other people, whether I agree with the paths they have chosen or not.  A very important lesson I learned at a young age was that not everyone is going to encourage someone to follow her or his dreams; many people will show no encouragement at all.  This is the reason individuals must have a sense of self respect, self-worth, and a lot of courage to get through life.  The three aspects of identity previously listed also describe my identity as a whole.  I have shown my identity by engaging in conversations with people and encouraging people to follow their dreams.  An example of a time when I felt as though I helped someone with my words of encouragement was when I was walking back to my dorm and found one of my classmates crying on a bench alone.  I asked her what was the matter, and she spilled her emotions out to me.  I gave her my best advice, and, even though my advice did not take all of the pain away, I know it helped her in some way.  Sometimes all someone needs is an ounce of encouragement to gain a combination of self respect, self-worth, and, most important, courage.  These three aspects of identity have been instilled in my brain by my grandmother for as long as I can remember, and this is why it is she who has been my greatest influence and role model in life.

While reading Hairstyles of the Damned, I came across many characters who I could compare myself to, but the only character who I believe fits my description is Ms. Aiken, who is the main character's history teacher.  I am comparing myself to her due to the fact that she has proven to be an extremely accepting individual.  For example, Ms. Aiken walks around the class to review research topics and notices a student's hair is being hidden underneath his shirt collar (132).  After she recognizes this, she could easily send him to the principal’s office because of the rule against long hair at the high school, but she decides against this.  Ms. Aiken explains to the student that she does not mind his long hair because that is who he is--that is his identity--and she would be wrong to tell him who he can and cannot be (133).  I believe I relate to Ms. Aiken the most out of all the characters in the entire novel because I feel as though I would have handled the situation with the student's long hair the exact same way that she does.  In my opinion, individuals should have the option to express themselves any way they would like.  Ms. Aiken’s reasoning leads me to believe she is my most relatable character in Hairstyles of the Damned.

Just as I identified with Ms. Aiken, I identified with Virginia Woolf.  In her short yet inspiring speech "Professions for Women," she describes herself as a young writer who has astonishing hopes and dreams.  Even though some individuals were interested in her work, she felt there was always someone known as the “Angel in the House" who would tell her that what she was doing was not right (205).  After getting sick and tired of this ideal woman telling her that her writing was unladylike, Woolf killed the angel so as to never hear her discouraging words again (206).  Of course, this is not the true story of what was actually going on because there was no real angel telling Woolf anything.  The moral of the speech is basically that no matter how well an individual is doing in her or his life and no matter how satisfied an individual is with her or his choices, someone will always try to stop her or him.  The reason why I believe this 1931 speech relates to me in 2012 is because my family always tries to tell me that it is wrong for me to become a nurse because they would like me to become a teacher instead.  After reading Woolf's speech, I am motivated even more to stick with my initial decision of becoming a nurse and to never let anyone steer me away from my dreams.

Throughout my life in college, I have gone through some of the hardest changes and adjustments that I thought could ever come my way.  Even though I have more challenges awaiting me on my path to graduation, I still stand by my identity and have a positive attitude.  I still give everyone a chance and never find myself being judgmental because someone is different from me.  These aspects of identity have shaped who I am today and will make me a wonderful nurse.  By examining Virginias Woolf’s speech, Ms. Aiken’s understanding ways, and my grandmother's kind words, you can clearly see why my aspects of identity include, but are not limited to, always following my dreams no matter what!

Works Cited
Meno, Joe. Hairstyles of the Damned. New York: Punk Planet-Akashic, 2004. Print.
Woolf, Virginia. “Professions for Women.” The Norton Mix. Ed. Beth Johnson. New York: Norton, 2011. 203-210. Print.

Amanda is a freshman nursing major at Ursuline and notes of her essay, "While writing this essay, many thoughts were racing through my mind, but mainly I wondered if other individuals would understand my viewpoint of differences among people.  Growing up with many siblings, I have discovered how many differentiating opinions revolve in one household.  Having that said, it has been engrained into my head from a young age to think quite differently from others because I was always the lone soul who thought differently from many of the people I shared my life with.  The message that I think is most important to get across to the public is that people are different, but being different does not make an individual less of a human being.  If I could change one thing about the world and our society, it would be that every individual should be accepted for who he or she is and not judged by aspects that make her or him different."

"Money, Materialism, and Mechanization: A Marxist Approach to One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest" by Lauren Krozser
English 132, Spring 2012


Fred Wright, Lauren's instructor for EN 132 (Life, Language, Literature), comments, "English 132 is an introduction to English studies, in which students learn about various areas in the discipline from linguistics to the study of popular culture. For the literature and literary criticism section of the course, students read a canonical work of literature and what scholars have said about the work over the years. This year, students read One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey, a classic of American literature which dates from the 1960s counterculture. Popularized in a film version starring Jack Nicholson, which the class also watched in order to discuss film studies and adaptation, the novel became notable for its sympathetic portrayal of the mentally ill. For an essay about the novel, students were asked to choose a critical approach (such as feminist, formalist, psychological, and so forth) and interpret the novel using that approach, while also considering how their interpretation fit into the ongoing scholarly dialogue about the work. Lauren chose the challenge of applying a Marxist approach to One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest. Not only did she learn about critical approaches and how to apply one to a text, she wrote an excellent essay, which will help other readers understand the text better. In fact, if John Clark Pratt or another editor ever want to update the 1996 Viking Critical Library edition of the novel, then he or she might want to include Lauren's essay in the next edition!"

At first glance, a reader may wonder how Ken Kesey’s novel One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, a book depicting a group of mentally unstable men and their boisterous Irish-American leader, connects with the economic and sociological view of Marxism. The novel, which takes place in an Oregon psychiatric hospital, centers around the conflict between manipulative Nurse Ratched and her patients. Randle McMurphy, a transfer from Pendleton Work Farm, becomes a champion for the men’s cause as he sets out to overthrow the dictator-like nurse. Initially, the reader may doubt the economic implications of the novel. Yet, if one looks closer at the numerous textual references to power, production, and profit, he or she will begin to interpret Cuckoo’s Nest in a different light. Marxism was developed by German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in the mid-nineteenth century. It holds that productive labor is essential for human survival, that producers dominate consumers, and that societies evolve through a series of conflicts between the ruling class (bourgeoisie) and the working class (proletariat). Marxists advocate a classless society in which wealth is distributed evenly among citizens (Bressler 192-3). Capital is not merely money, but money that that is used to make more money (Parker 213). Marxists detest the alienation of labor experienced by workers who exert exceptional amounts of energy in factories, yet never benefit entirely from their work (Parker 214). There are many examples within the text that illustrate the conflict between the ruling class (Nurse Ratched), middle class (Dr. Spivey, who is intimidated by Ratched), and working class (patients). The symbol of machinery as a means to mass-produce a standard product is also explored, as well as what—or whom—counts as machinery. By viewing One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest from a Marxist perspective, one will discover how Kesey uses his novel to make a statement about money, materialism, and mechanization in the twentieth century United States of America. The author skillfully uses plot, imagery, and character development to declare that individuals with mental disorders are more than machines that need to be fixed in order to be productive in society; they have value in and of themselves.

Like Marx's proletariat, the patients in Cuckoo's Nest are alienated, the result of their labor being directed and overseen by Ratched. The patients continually have a sense that someone is watching them because not only are they mentally ill, but Ratched actually insists they spy on one another and report any of their peers’ poor conduct. The narrator, Chief Bromden, relates how the doctor who works with Ratched urges: “Talk . . . discuss, confess. And if you hear a friend say something . . . list it in the log book for the staff to see. It’s not . . . ‘squealing,’ it’s helping your fellow” (Kesey 47). This “helping your fellow” creates a feeling of contempt and competition among the men, and competition is the antithesis of Marxism. This is just one of Ratched’s many abuses of power over the ward. Literary critics Roger C. Loeb and Irving Malin shed light on the way patients are used as laborers, or at least treated as such. Both critics clearly illustrate the divide between the patients and the people in power within the facility. One of the first things the reader notices is that the hospital functions on a rigid schedule run by a rigid nurse who seems more machine than woman, or human being for that matter. She runs the ward “like a smooth, accurate, precision-made machine” (Kesey 26). The only thing feminine about her is her large breasts which she keeps hidden underneath her uniform. Malin writes that "The 'Big Nurse' is no longer a woman—she has become a Frankenstein monster. All of her gestures, commands, feelings, and possessions are mechanized” (441). Even her voice “has a tight whine like an electric saw” (Kesey 138). Bromden describes her as a truck, who trails her nurse’s bag “behind in her exhaust like a semi behind a Jimmy Diesel” (Kesey 93). Loeb points out that the reason the nurse acts like a machine is because it enables her to control others (87-88). She determines who is released, who stays on the floor, and who is sent to the “Disturbed” floor. She even controls time by adjusting the clocks on the wall, or at least it seems this way to Bromden, a schizophrenic, “She’s given to turning up the speed . . . when you got somebody to visit you. . . . But generally it’s the other way, the slow way” (Kesey 74-5).

Another important way the nurse controls the inmates is by withholding gum, cigarettes, and television privileges from the men. This is characteristic of an economic system that distributes aid at its own leisure (“Capitalism” 222). It is also representative of how the upper-class denies the lower-class of wealth, status, leisure, and even the fruits of their labor. Consider poor factory laborers who work for extremely low pay to make fine clothes that they will never have a chance to wear themselves. When McMurphy attempts to change Ratched’s policy about television, he faces considerable opposition, and after McMurphy finally gains enough votes to have the World Series shown in the ward, Ratched insists that he does not have a majority because he has not accounted for the Chronics, patients with such severe mental illnesses that they are considered incapable of ever leaving the ward, in the total amount of patients (134). The Chronics cannot do much of anything, let alone vote to watch a baseball game. Kesey seems to suggest that democratic voting holds little value even in a capitalist society built on the principal of individual freedom. Sadly, the patients watch a blank screen and pretend they are watching the game instead. Interestingly, the Chronics symbolize a separate class than the Acutes, patients considered capable of rehabilitation, whom Ratched also dominates. The Chronics are described as “machines with flaws inside that can’t be repaired” (Kesey 51). Imagery such as shock treatments and brain operations carry Kesey’s message that society is becoming too preoccupied with “fixing” things and that people are not pieces of equipment that need to be “fixed,” but are thinking, feeling human beings whose illnesses need to be cured through warmth and compassion. He advocates that those with mental disorders have more to contribute to society than their own ailments, which secure health care providers such as Ratched a place in the workforce. Through McMurphy's rehabilitation of Bromden, a Chronic, over the course of the novel, Kesey argues that the patients are more than the paychecks they provide hospital management; they are more than defective brains to be examined and probed.

It is worth noting that the people who have the most power in the story are those that are educated, including the nurses, doctors, board members, and president of the hospital. The "black boys," the male, African-American orderlies who serve Ratched, are portrayed as less intelligent and merely function as robots following orders. McMurphy’s ethnic, working class background also puts him in a position lower than that of the Big Nurse. This is a reflection of the hierarchy in real-world America. Kesey could be warning his readers about the danger of science and knowledge as he makes the characters with the best education powerful, but also cruel. The uneducated McMurphy is unlike the machinery-like Ratched in that he is uninhibited, rowdy, and emotional, while she is cold and calculating. The Irishman laughs at problems to keep his spirits up and prevent himself from becoming a body with no soul. At one point in the story, McMurphy takes the men out on a fishing trip where they are rejuvenated with nature, far away from the mechanical institution (238).

While Ratched acts like a machine, she essentially functions as a manufacturer and symbol of the oppressive upper-class (Haslett 35). While McMurphy tries to bring about equality between the patients and head nurse, she holds onto her self-proclaimed right to exact power over her charges because of her money, education, and, ultimately, sanity. The patients represent the working-class by providing Ratched, the manufacturer, with the “products” from which she profits—their deranged minds. The patients can even be viewed as products themselves after shock therapy treatments and lobotomies leave them without personality. The negative effects of the hospital’s organizational structure are numerous. The men feel worthless, abused, and manipulated, much like the proletariat who endured horrendous working conditions and rarely saw the fruits of their labor during the Industrial Revolution in the United Kingdom and United States in the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century (“Industrial Revolution” 630). Perhaps the most conspicuous example of the hospital environment’s detrimental impact is Billy Bibbit’s suicide after Nurse Ratched threatens to tell his mother about his night with Candy, the prostitute McMurphy brings onto the ward (Kesey 302-304). While this event can be interpreted as merely a tragedy between a manipulative nurse and an overwrought patient, it can also be interpreted as a representation of the harm that can result from an economy that encourages certain groups of people to dominate others.

By examining One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest from a Marxist perspective, the reader develops a sense of the underlying meanings beyond much of the imagery that fills the novel. Kesey makes a powerful statement about overproduction and overconsumption in 1960s America by depicting a group of mental patients whose function is to serve the hospital from which they should be receiving quality care from, a reflection of how the poor serve the rich. Through varying techniques, he expresses that there should be more equality between different classes and groups, and that there must be more value placed on the human than the machine. With any hope, society can learn something from Cuckoo’s destructive, yet equally hopeful outcome.

Works Cited
Bressler, Charles E. Literary Criticism: An Introduction to Theory and Practice. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2007. Print
“Capitalism.” The New American Desk Encyclopedia. 5th ed. 1989. Print.
“Communism.” The New American Desk Encyclopedia. 5th ed. 1989. Print.
Haslett, Moyra. Marxist Literary and Cultural Theories. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000. Print.
“Industrial Revolution.” The New American Desk Encyclopedia. 5th ed. 1989. Print.
Kappel, Lawrence. Readings on One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2000. Print.
Kesey, Ken. One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest. Ed. John Clark Pratt. New York: Viking-Penguin, 1996. Print. Viking Critical Library.
Loeb, Roger C. “Machines, Mops, and Medicaments: Therapy in the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Lex et Scientia 13. 1-2 (1977): 38-41. Rpt. Kappel 85-91.
Malin, Irving. “Ken Kesey: One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Critique 5.2 (1962): 81-84. Rpt. in Kesey 440-444.
“Marxism.” The New American Desk Encyclopedia. 5th ed. 1989. Print.
Parker, Robert Dale. How to Interpret Literature: Critical Theory for Literary and Cultural Studies. New York: Oxford, 2011. Print.

Lauren is a sophomore English major at Ursuline and notes of her essay, "In One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey powerfully addresses mental illness, telling the story not through the eyes of a doctor or scientist, but through the eyes of a patient, bringing to light everything from the stigma of mental health problems to the inadequate hospital care patients received during the 1960s. Unfortunately, though Cuckoo’s Nest is fictional, mental illness remains all too real for many Americans today, and our society still struggles with finding effective treatment for those affected. While the first-person perspective alone makes Cuckoo’s Nest a captivating read, its striking imagery and clever symbolism begs for close reading and invites multiple interpretations. I found the Marxist interpretation to be the most compelling because of the many textual references to power, machines, and material wealth. Kesey’s skillful use of literary devices constantly forces readers to question their beliefs about government, healthcare, and the economy. With each turn of events, readers must decide whether it is morally right to support the authority figure (who has the potential to be either hero or villain), or to support the rebel (who can be viewed as either a disorderly radical or a justice-seeker). The novel makes readers ponder, examine, and challenge the status quo, as well as recognize the innate value of the human spirit, infinitely valuable and never defective."

"The End" by Lauren Hollis
Ursuline Studies 351 Spring 2012


Pamela McVay, Lauren's instructor for US 351 (Introduction to Culture), comments, "In US 351 Introduction to Culture, my students are required to write a poem that demonstrates their understanding of the Baroque aesthetic. Describing the meaning of life in seventeen short lines, in “The End” she borrows George Herbert’s technical feat of choosing line lengths to illustrate her main point before we read a word."

The End We start as nothing more than a thought in our parents' minds Then become a bump in the belly everyone wants to touch Then an angel in a blanket being seen for the first time We grow into a teen trying to make it out alive What will we be when we grow up? Where anything could happen? A Doctor who cures cancer? A President who pays debt? A Soldier who ends war? In the end all we are is A loving picture of us A short Bible Verse And several words Unknown soldier Loving mother Devoted father The End.

Lauren is a senior Sport Management major at Ursuline and notes of her poem, "When I was handed this assignment, I thought it would be fun to make it a life experience I have had with my horses. As I dug though my memory, I could not get past the two people whom I had showed horses with who had passed away in December of 2011. As I thought about how they both were so young and would never get the chance to be the people they dreamed of, this poem started to come together. As children, we all have those dreams to be someone important, strong, and almost herolike. This poem is my way of expressing that sometimes we may not become the president of the United States, a cancer curing doctor, or a soldier who ends the war, but it is the 'smaller' roles we play in this big world that we are remembered by."

"Identity and Authenticity in George Orwell’s Burmese Days: The Pukka Sahib Englishman in British Colonial Burma" by Patti Fish Stephens
English 344 Fall 2011


Fred Wright, Patti's instructor for EN 344 (Asian Literature), comments, "For the Asian Literature course, a student has the option of enrolling at the 300 level and doing additional reading and writing for the course. Not many students select this option, yet Patti did, demonstrating her interest in engaging more deeply with the subject matter. In the critical research essay assignment of Asian Literature, the 300-level student is asked to do several challenging tasks. The first is to confront the very notion of literary classification. What does it mean when we draw geographic or national boundaries around a work of literature? The second is to make connections across texts. What links exist between literary works written decades and thousands of miles apart? What can these connections tell us about the literary works, as well as human nature? The third is to explore what literary critics and other scholars have had to say about these works. How can the student's interpretation of the works be informed by viewing them through the eyes of others who have thought deeply about them? How can the student present her or his own understanding of the works without having her or his voice drowned out by the thoughts of others? What can the student add to the critical conversation? In her essay on George Orwell's very first novel, Patti Fish Stephens overcomes each challenge and contributes greatly to the critical conversation."

We human beings have a deep-seated need to name things. The propensity for labeling is in our linguistic make-up. This naming and labeling, we believe, will make our lives easier by allowing us to place things in their proper categories. However, the labels we assign to things or people can affect the way we and others perceive them. For example, the country of Burma now identifies itself as Myanmar. During British colonial occupation, the land now called Myanmar was often simply referred to as part of India. Each of these three names bears subtle but particular political connotations. We must, therefore, choose labels carefully, realizing that not all things can--or should--be defined for the purpose of simplistic classification. Such is the case with George Orwell’s first novel, Burmese Days. Both the novel’s setting of colonial Burma as well as its main character, John Flory, play key roles in the debate over the identity of Burmese Days as authentically British or Asian literature.

Written by a British author about his time in colonial Burma, Burmese Days defies simple classification as either British or Asian Literature. This question of identification goes far deeper than the decision of which Dewey Decimal number should be assigned or of where Burmese Days should be shelved in the library. The dilemma of identity goes to the very heart of Burmese Days. Based on Orwell’s years in Burma as a military police officer, the novel is set when “the British empire was at its largest and most expansive in the 1920s and 30s [sic], the same period . . . of the beginning of the end of imperial authority” (Gopinath 201). It is this setting of “the steady deterioration of imperial confidence both at home in the empire” (Gopinath 201) which creates the identity crisis of John Flory, the maladjusted protagonist of Burmese Days.

Flory’s identity crisis arises from the duality common to the expatriate or immigrant experience: having one’s physical body in one location while one’s heart resides in another. In Flory’s case, however, his heart has switched sides on him. He has been in Burma so long that he has embraced it as his homeland, yet he despises its colonial subservience to the British Empire and its haughty “pukka sahib” (Orwell 39) or “perfect colonial master” (Srivastava 58) colonizers, of which he is one. This love-hate relationship with colonial Burma mirrors Flory’s own identity crisis. He cannot reconcile his love of the Burmese country and people with his allegiance to the other Englishmen in his adopted home of Kyauktada. This tension creates in Flory a self-loathing that makes his existence virtually unbearable until he finds someone to share his life and ambivalent feelings with. When this relationship falls apart, Flory’s self-loathing turns suicidal. His inability to reconcile his identity as an Anglo-Indian within the rigid pukka sahib subculture of his fellow Englishmen culminates in Flory’s self-destruction. With death comes the ultimate loss of Flory’s identity.

It can be argued that Flory’s devolution from Englishman to pukka sahib to non-entity loosely mirrors the history of Burma. Burma’s identity has transitioned from Asian country to British territory to chaotic present-day Myanmar. In a very literal sense, Burma has lost her identity; the name of Burma no longer exists just as the character of John Flory is “soon forgotten” (Orwell 283) after his death in Burmese Days. As Jeffrey Meyers discovered while researching his biography, Orwell: Life and Art, “the Burmese government has tried to obliterate all traces of the colonial era, which lasted from the First Anglo-Burmese War of 1824 to independence in 1948. (The five-story National Museum leaves out more than a century of the country’s history.)” (Meyers 10). Flory and Burma have both been defined by and destroyed by British colonial rule.

Because Flory no longer has a clear national identity, he is in search of someone or someplace to whom or which he can belong. Flory has never been comfortable in his own skin, one reason for which is the large blue birthmark which covers most of one side of his face (Orwell 17). This stain upon Flory’s face can possibly represent the external manifestation of the emotional mark that Burma has left upon his character. The unusual blue birthmark could be so colored in order to represent India, the source of indigo blue dye. Flory’s birthmark can therefore be viewed as a symbol for his identity crisis. Burmese Days provides not only the setting for Flory’s identity crisis but also a snapshot of Burma under British colonial rule. Flory’s identity crisis is a direct result of his participation in British colonization of the Indian subcontinent; he is British by birth but runs a timber company in Burma, thereby profiting from the imperial machine he claims to despise. He has been away from his native land so long that he no longer feels at home in England. Here is how the omniscient narrator in Burmese Days describes the moment Flory realizes that England was no longer his home: "Something turned over in Flory’s heart. It was one of those moments when one becomes conscious of a vast change and deterioration in one’s life. For he had realised [sic], suddenly, that in his heart he was glad to be coming back. This country which he hated was now his native country, his home. He had lived here ten years, and every particle of his body was compounded of Burmese soil" (Orwell 71). Flory’s ambivalence toward both his British counterparts and his Burmese home calls into question his very identity. Flory’s identity crisis mirrors the identity crisis of the novel. As Arif Dirlik discusses in “Literature/Identity: Transnationalism, Narrative and Representation,” “Ethnic or transnational literatures present a challenge not only to historical ways of thinking, but also to the ways in which we have organized the study of the world in terms of nations, areas, and regions” (209). It is just this challenge that is raised by Orwell’s Burmese Days. Despite Orwell’s authorial stature in the canon of British literature, his first novel crosses the boundaries between British and Asian literature.

One argument for classifying Burmese Days as a work of Asian literature can be attributed to Orwell himself. As Douglas Kerr points out in his article “Colonial Habitats: Orwell and Woolf in the Jungle,” Orwell’s comment that “In all novels about the East . . . the scenery is the real subject-matter” indicates that the setting of Burmese Days is the true main character, upstaging the action, as it were (149). By this definition, then, Burma herself is the main character of Burmese Days and therefore this is a novel about an Asian country, set in an Asian country, by an author who lived for many years in that Asian country. Additionally, although Burmese Days is written in English, it contains a great deal of Burmese terminology. This use of Burmese vocabulary addresses “the issue of authenticity” (60) which Neelam Srivastava discusses in his article “Pidgin English or Pigeon Indian? Babus and Babuisms in Colonial and Postcolonial Fiction.” Srivastava points out that when Salman Rushdie used English parenthetical translations of Hindi terms in his novel Midnight’s Children, the language was “seen as an inauthentic mediation between cultures” (60). Orwell, on the other hand, seems to go out of his way to not define the Burmese terms used in his novel, thus indicating a more authentically Asian work of literature.

Conversely, Kerr asserts in “Colonial Habitats” that “Flory has an Asian mistress, an Asian friend, and an Asian enemy, but virtually all the novel’s action is focused through his European consciousness” (151). Kerr describes the “pattern often repeated in Orwell’s Burmese writings” (152) by which that European consciousness evolves, passing through three stages. The first stage is marked by the European view of the Burmese landscape as “grotesque and alienating.” This phase can be related to the shock of seeing the “hideousness” (Orwell 17) of John Flory’s birthmark for the first time. Next, the European viewer has some sort of “romantic epiphany” about the Asian landscape; this phase can be compared to the point in Burmese Days at which Flory’s romantic interest, Elizabeth, no longer notices his birthmark and they kiss for the first time (177). Finally, just as Elizabeth comes to hate Flory and his birthmark as the representation of his dishonor (274), the viewer realizes that this romance with the landscape “is impossible to sustain, for the constraints of ideology – the roles provided for him by his place in the imperial project, by his race, his gender, his class and profession – drive him back into postures of antagonism, and acts of violence” (152). These “constraints of ideology” which Kerr describes are the cause of Flory’s identity crisis in Burmese Days. Flory may view Kyauktada through European eyes, yet he still calls Burma “his native country, his home” (Orwell 71). So does Kerr’s line of reasoning necessarily point to a Eurocentric classification of Burmese Days as British literature?

The role of language may once again serve as a determining factor in the classification of Burmese Days as either British or Asian literature. In our Asian Literature course we encountered numerous genres of Asian literature with authors and settings spanning from Iran to China. Of these works, the most useful comparisons to Burmese Days can be found in The Lotus Singers: Short Stories from Contemporary South Asia, The Complete Persepolis, and When Heaven and Earth Changed Places: A Vietnamese Woman’s Journey from War to Peace. In the foreword to The Lotus Singers, Urvashi Butalia points out that there are many different criteria by which an editor could choose to compile a collection such as The Lotus Singers: “will nationality define choice? Or language? Or class? Or gender? . . . Clearly there are no easy choices. But there are abundant cautions . . . Perhaps because of the colonial past of most—happily, not all—countries in the region, English is predominant and gets more importance than the indigenous languages . . .” (Butalia x). Does this mean, then, that if native Asian writers choose to write in the language of power and of colonialism, that is, English, would those stories no longer be classified as Asian literature? Would they be labeled British literature or American literature, simply because of the language in which they were written? Where do we draw the line in deciding how to classify the national identity of a piece of literature?

Several of the stories in The Lotus Singers are set in India, written by native Indian authors, and deal with themes also found in Burmese Days. For example, in Neeru Nanda’s “His Father’s Funeral” we find that the landscape has once again taken center stage, further supporting Orwell’s assertion that the setting is of primary importance in Asian literature. Nanda’s story opens with the simple exclamation that “It was burning hot – 42 [degrees] centigrade!” (1). Similarly, Orwell begins the second paragraph of Burmese Days with a comment on the heat in Kyauktada, writing “Unblinking, rather like a great porcelain idol, U Po Kyin gazed out into the fierce sunlight” (1). The character of U Po Kyin, a corrupt Burmese public official, goes to drastic lengths to achieve his life-long goal of becoming the first native admitted to the European Club in Kyauktada (Orwell 285). This is the paradox of Orwell’s depiction of colonialism; the British colonizers are simultaneously despised and emulated.

This depiction of colonialism is reaffirmed in another of the works from The Lotus Singers, the short story “Law and Order” by Sushma Joshi. In this story by an American-educated Nepali writer, the main character Bishnu is devastated after failing to achieve his dream of becoming a soldier in the British Gurkha Army (41). Bishnu and his family are shamed when he fails to pass the physical trials to become a British Gurkha soldier and must settle for a position in his native law police force (45). Bishnu, like U Po Kyin and John Flory, suffers from the desire to be identified as something other than what he is. While Bishnu and U Po Kyin aspire to be associated with the prestige and power of the British colonizers, Flory despises his coveted position and wishes to escape his role of pukka sahib.

In addition to the issues of identity as it relates to power, another point of contention in the debate of a literary national identity is the use of native terms in the text. In The Lotus Singers, as in Burmese Days, native terms are utilized without textual translation or explanation, rendering the language usage as “authentic” by Srivastava’s definition. However, the native language terms are italicized throughout The Lotus Singers (they are only sometimes italicized in Burmese Days) and defined in the glossary located in the back of the text. The glossary seems to provide evidence that the book is intended for an English-speaking audience. In When Heaven and Earth Changed Places, however, we have a clear-cut case of a Vietnamese/American immigrant author writing in English and using textual definitions for Vietnamese terms used throughout her memoir. Are these works less authentically Asian because they have been written in English, although the authors, characters, and settings are primarily Asian? If not, why is a double-standard applied to colonial writers such as Orwell in the case of Burmese Days?

The reason a double-standard is applied to colonial writers could be due to the oppressive nature of colonialism. Although Orwell lived in British-occupied Burma for a good portion of his formative years, he eventually returned to his native England. Because his language is that of the colonizing oppressor, his work may not be seen as Asian despite its content and themes. Conversely, Le Ly Hayslip, author of When Heaven and Earth Changed Places, wrote her memoir in English despite the fact that she is a Vietnamese immigrant to America. While Americans might view her memoir as Asian, her work is likely seen as less authentically Asian by her Vietnamese readers because she chose to write in English, the language of the military invader in the Vietnamese-American conflict.

This issue of labeling a literary work with an “authentic” national identity can also be seen in the case of Marjane Satrapi’s memoir, The Complete Persepolis. This coming of age story of an Iranian Muslim girl is portrayed in the form of a graphic novel. Due to the Islamic taboo against graven images, the author’s gender, the author’s emigration to France, and the publication of her work in French and English, Satrapi’s memoir breaks multiple barriers. This work defies classification of genre, nationality, language, and stereotype.

How can this situation be rectified? The issue comes down to labeling and identity. In Burmese Days, John Flory struggles to reconcile his British identity with his Burmese residency. He is never completely accepted by his British peers due to his loyalty to Burma, but he will never be accepted as fully Burmese with his white skin despite the fact that he bears the mark of India in the form of his blue facial birthmark. Flory considers Burma to now be his home, but native Burmese still view him as “Ingaleik” (Orwell 102) and his fellow Englishmen refuse to let him out of the despised role of pukka sahib (Orwell 124). How does Flory label himself?

Flory calls himself an “Anglo-Indian,” (Orwell 178) and in this label we find the answer to the identity of Burmese Days. In the same way that Flory defines himself as Anglo-Indian and that Burma was forever changed by British colonization (as evidenced by the continued use of the English language and despite the government’s attempts to erase colonial history), Burmese Days is both British literature and Asian literature. It should be shelved in both the British and Asian sections of the library, much in the same way that Satrapi’s The Complete Persepolis is shelved in both the graphic novel and biography sections. The Burmese subject matter, Asian setting, and Anglo-Indian vocabulary of Orwell’s Burmese Days are all arguments for labeling this novel as Asian literature; the British author, English language, and colonial subject matter argue for a British classification. Burmese Days defies neat and singular classification; it is a transnational literary work which, after more than three quarters of a century, still subverts our human need to label it with only one “authentic” national identity.

Works Cited
Butalia, Urvashi. “Foreword.” Carolan ix-xi.
Carolan, Trevor, ed. The Lotus Singers: Short Stories from Contemporary South Asia. Boston: Cheng & Tsui, 2011. Print.
Dirlik, Arif. "Literature/Identity: Transnationalism, Narrative and Representation." Review of Education, Pedagogy & Cultural Studies 24.3 (2002): 209-234. Academic Search Complete. Web. 3 Dec. 2011.
Gopinath, Praseeda. “An Orphaned Manliness: The Pukka Sahib and the End of Empire in A Passage to India and Burmese Days.” Studies in the Novel 41:2 (2009): 201-223. Academic Search Complete. Web. 1 Dec. 2011.
Hayslip, Le Ly, and Jay Wurts. When Heaven and Earth Changed Places: A Vietnamese Woman’s Journey from War to Peace. 1990. New York: Plume-Penguin, 2003. Print.
Joshi, Sushma. “Law and Order.” Carolan 41-56.
Kerr, Douglas. “Colonial Habits: Orwell and Woolf In the Jungle.” English Studies 78.2 (1997): 149-161. Academic Search Complete. Web. 1 Dec. 2011.
Meyers, Jeffrey. Orwell: Life and Art. Urbana, IL: Univ. of Illinois Press, 2010. Print.
Nanda, Neeru. “His Father’s Funeral.” Carolan 1-9.
Orwell, George. Burmese Days. 1934. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1962. Print.
Satrapi, Marjane. The Complete Persepolis. Trans. Blake Ferris and Mattias Ripe. New York: Pantheon-Random House, 2007. Print.
Sriviastava, Neelam. “Pidgin English or Pigeon Indian: Babus and Babuisms in Colonial and Postcolonial Fiction.” Journal of Postcolonial Writing 43.1 (2007): 55-64. Literary Reference Center. Web. 1 Dec. 2011.

Patti is a senior English and History double major at Ursuline and notes of her essay, "Prior to taking Dr. Wright's Asian Literature course, the only books I had read by George Orwell were Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. I was familiar with very few of Orwell's other works and knew even less about his personal life. Burmese Days is a fictional tale informed by Orwell's own early years in Burma (now Myanmar). Reading Burmese Days provides a unique snapshot of the harsh realities of British colonialism in India during the nineteenth century. Just as Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn serves to illustrate the evils of slavery, Burmese Days contains depictions of graphic violence and offensive language which illuminate the dark side of colonialism. Writing this essay on Burmese Days forced me to consider the importance of national identity in literature, and to contemplate the fascinating new field of transnational literary theory. I highly recommend Burmese Days to anyone wanting to learn more about George Orwell or the complex issue of colonialism and its effect on personal identity."

"Reflection Essay" by Kaylene Way
Religious Studies 325 Spring 2011


Sister Dorothy Ann Blatnica, Kaylene's instructor for RS 325 (Fundamental Principles of Morality), comments, "In our study of an ethics of character as part of our Fundamental Principles of Morality course, Kaylene Way demonstrates her accurate understanding of the meaning of temperance and its implications for living life in a way that builds character even out of tragedy."

"Question #2: Name two prevalent authorities in your life that have shaped how you use, or do not use, alcohol. Explain how and why they have shaped you so" (131).

As Mattison writes, “human persons are purposeful creatures . . . We do things for reasons, and those reasons, or intentions, render our actions meaningful” (118). When it comes to the concept of drinking alcohol, I have many reasons as to why I personally do not drink. As Mattison states, we do certain things with the intent that what we are doing in some way or another is meaningful to us. The two prevalent authorities in my life that have shaped me into a person who does not consume alcohol are my sister and my attitude towards conformity.

The first authority in my life who has shaped my ideas about alcohol is my sister, Jenna. Her life was taken on March 12, 2006 by a drunk driver; she was only nineteen years old. At the time, I was only sixteen and, although throughout my stages of grief I was very angry, I have come to be very aware and appreciative of the purpose and meaning that her death has given me. I felt a need to live for her and live with more virtuous intentions. She was taken from this Earth at only nineteen, an age when we are just figuring out who we are and where we are going in life. At nineteen, we have few, if any, thoughts of dying tomorrow. After I finished the angry part of grieving, I became very aware that not every moment is promised; it can be taken from us at any second. For that reason, it became important to strive to live a virtuous life; I wanted to make sure that I had an impact on the lives of others and that I used all of my heart and compassion in every decision I made from then on out. In the five years since her death, I have also come to notice that a lot of the reasoning behind why people drink alcohol, and very often drink too much of it, is because of conformity. Much of what people know about alcohol has come from other people. Our society places a lot of emphasis on alcohol being something that creates a fun, more relaxing time for people.

The second authority that has led me to live an alcohol-free life is my attitude towards conformity. After Jenna’s passing, I noticed myself looking deeper into the reasons why people, especially my young high school and college friends, drank alcohol. I saw a lot of people drinking because everyone else at the party was, or because their parents say it is not that bad. I have yet to come across a person who does or does not consume alcohol for her or his own reasons. I spent my whole life with Jenna; she was as individualistic as they come. She did her own thing, for her own reasons, and never cared what anyone had to say. If the roles were reversed and I had been the one to pass away, I know she would feel the same way that I do about how society conforms to the pressures and ideas of alcohol consumption. It may seem like the cool thing to do, it might make one more relaxed at a social event, or it even may temporarily relieve one of their problems, but at the end of the day it could also take a life.

My sister did not get to live a full life because it was taken from her by yet another person who had too much to drink. That guy may have had his reasons for why he drank, but those reasons led to the death of my big sister. I know that life is short; it is so precious and delicate that we often overlook the idea that tomorrow may never come. I learned this lesson at an early age, and because of that lesson I strive to live my life with compassion, understanding, and truth at every moment. I do not drink because tomorrow is not promised, and I want to spend today with as much kindness and charity as possible.

Work Cited
Mattison, William C., III. Introducing Moral Theology: True Happiness and the Virtues. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2008. Print.

Kaylene is a junior Political Science major at Ursuline and notes of her essay, "I wrote this essay as a reflection; the death of my sister has had the biggest influence in my life thus far and that influence has been both positive and negative. I have worked very hard in order to deal with the grief and look past the sadness to find a deeper meaning to her life and how that meaning has changed my life. I spent my whole life with Jenna; we had a really pure sisterly bond. When she passed, I truly felt a calling to live my life for her and live a life of purpose and compassion."

"Reflection Essay" by Jessie Mueller
Religious Studies 325 Spring 2011


Sister Dorothy Ann Blatnica, Jessie's instructor for RS 325 (Fundamental Principles of Morality), comments, "In our study of an ethics of character as part of our Fundamental Principles of Morality course, Jessie Mueller demonstrates her accurate understanding of the meaning of temperance in this brief reflection.  Through the use of personal experiences she has integrated a deeper comprehension of the meaning of this virtue beyond mere intellectual understanding."

"Question #2: Name two prevalent authorities in your life that have shaped how you use, or do not use, alcohol.  Explain how and why they have shaped you so" (131).

The strongest and most influential person who modeled alcohol use in my childhood was a male relative.  I was not completely aware of many of these impacts until adolescence.  As a child, I did not know what alcoholism was, I just assumed that the Beefeater Gin stench coming from my relative was his cologne.  However, as I grew older and was exposed to a greater variety of people and circumstances, I slowly became aware of alcoholism.  I began to incorporate the new experiences I had in relation to alcohol use with a deeper understanding of my extended family.  This new awareness was unsettling and painful to me.  Many of my relatives were alcoholics.  There was never a family brunch, dinner, or casual gathering that was not centered around alcohol.  The excessive and consistent reliance on alcohol fueled the arguments and shouting matches I witnessed between my male relatives.  Their arguments were always laden with racist, sexist, and classist hatred.  My female relatives were silent, resentful observers of the flying slurs who found solace in their own alcoholic stupors. 

I did not like what I saw and vowed to have a different relationship with my loved ones.  I initially believed alcohol was to blame for their hatred.  However, I soon recognized that the bigoted, hateful language and actions of my relatives was always present in them, whether they were under the influence or not.  Alcohol was merely an excuse to shout these hatreds out loud.  The biggest influence my relatives' alcoholism had on me was my conviction that I would have a different relationship to alcohol use in my life.  The familial pattern of alcoholism had a lasting impact on me through the awareness that I have a predisposition to alcoholism.  In order for me not to become addicted to alcohol, I would need to be vigilant about this.

The second largest influence on my perspective on alcohol use was from my close friends.  All three of my best friends in high school were against any alcohol use at all.  At first, I followed their example.  However, I would question them frequently on how they had reached such a definitive position on alcohol at such a young age and no experience.  Their responses to my questions resulted in them taking a defensive stance.  My friends condemned any drinking, and negatively judged people who chose to drink, even if in moderation.  Their responses did not sit well with me.  Their reasons and explanations for avoiding alcohol seemed to be based on fear.  I did not want my decision about alcohol use to be based on fear or avoidance.  I had learnt, in dealing with other addictions, that avoiding anything (in this case alcohol) didn’t have a lasting positive consequence for my thoughts or actions.  In fact, often, when I had tried to avoid things it had made me more obsessed with the very thing I was trying not to think about.  I wished to have temperance in regard to alcohol.  Mattison writes,”Temperance is the virtue that enables us to desire, intend, and partake in sensual pleasures well” (126). 

My current relationship with alcohol is to try to achieve temperance whenever I consider consuming alcohol. I find that my awareness of how and why I drink is a constant safety net for the overall relationship I have to alcohol.  I believe the extreme alcohol abuse I witnessed from my family and the complete abstinence of my friends has helped me reach the inner conscience I always have to return to in times of doubt.

Work Cited
Mattison, William C., III. Introducing Moral Theology:  True Happiness and the Virtues. Grand Rapids, MI:  Brazos Press, 2008.  Print.

Jessie is a junior Sociology major at Ursuline and notes of her essay, "I chose this essay question because I have spent a great deal of time and effort forming my relationship to alcohol.  I had seen the harm that alcohol can result in with abusive realtionships and other negative impacts of alcohol abuse.  By being aware of my predisposition to alcohol abuse, I needed to form my own idea of what type of power I wanted alcohol to have in my life. I also found this question interesting because it is something that I am keenly aware of every time I am engaging in drinking and a conscious decision I make not to have a second or third drink, even though it is sometimes tempting.  I am proud of how I have and continue to consume alcohol, knowing that I no longer need to be afraid of alcohol or people who abuse alcohol because I am in control of my own decisions and whom I choose to be around. I believe this confidence has allowed me to make better decisions in most areas of my life.  I am a junior at Ursuline and have almost completed my major in Sociology.  However, I am going to stay for another few semesters to major in Mathematics with the goal of becoming a high school math teacher.  I feel especially excited to be a woman mathematician, as they are largely underrepresented in the field.  I also believe there is a great need for students becoming fluent in math, as it will increase their opportunites for employment and logical thinking skills that will be a great attribute to many careers.  I especially find teaching math important also because there is a great shortage of math and science teachers and I am excited to try and fit that need."