Exemplary works

Graphical Imaging in Maus and American Born Chinese

In order to determine the success of the graphical imaging in Maus, and American Born Chinese, we were tasked with finding the major themes in the two graphic novels. My main themes were: ‘one generation’s past experiences’, or ‘actions affect the next generation’, ‘your culture is not a burden’, and ‘losing your culture means losing who you are’. These themes, I felt, were best conveyed when depicted in a graphic format, and were chosen from this list:

  • Your culture is not a burden
  • Losing your culture means losing who you are
  • One generations past experiences or actions affect the next generation
  • Racism in today’s society and immediate history
  • Abuse of Power
  • Relationships with other people
  • Loss of identity
  • The influence people have on each other
  • Entertainment at someone elses expense
  • Exclusion from groups or society
  • Relationships with other people
  • Difficulty adjusting to new environments
  • Feeling guilty for things that are out of your control
  • Segregation of different races
  • Nothing is worth changing who you are

In the video below, I discuss why the three themes I had chosen are best represented in a graphical format. However the video is long, so here is a brief conclusion of what is said in the video. Some of the themes would not have been possible to convey in a text format, because the pictures are what show the symbols, which in turn represent the themes. Also, I had a hard time piecing together what was happening in American Born Chinese with the pictures; so without them, I would have been lost. Lastly, some of the pictures helped set the atmosphere, and without setting the atmosphere, some of the stories’ meaning would be lost.

Here is the video:

A flow of thoughts

Time and time and time again.
I really should know by then.
The endless count of unwanted notes.
A flurry of little boats.
The boats represent the people’s thoughts.
The things they thought they owned and bought.
The endless wanting to be accepted.
The things they go through is hectic.
I would never go through this for anyone even me.
I hoped that all could see … that this is the real me.

The Knocking


Ever  since they had moved into that house, there had been a strange knocking  coming from the drain in the driveway. Though not completely aware of it, the Addams family had always heard it, but it was like one of those cases where its been raining lightly for hours, you can hear its raining but you don’t realize it until it suddenly stops. The quiet, yet persistent thudding, coming from somewhere deep down in the murky darkness, was much like that; it was there, but it wasn’t.

So, the Addams’s lived most of their lives in that house without consciously knowing about the knocking. Their children became older and went off to study marine biology and astronomy, (and other complicated things) overseas.  The only ones that were left in that big, now empty house were Mister and Mrs Addams. One thing about the Addams parents was that they loved children, but never had any of their own; for they felt that it was much better to adopt because there were so many orphans around without homes, and so few adopters. All their children had been adopted.  Now that their last children had left home to start their own lives, the Addams’s felt lonely. So they adopted again, and that, was when everything  started to change.

They started noticing things a few months later when baby Mia arrived.  She was a gorgeous baby with big brown eyes and little brown curls.  Her real parents had been found dead in their farmhouse, covered in scratches, apparently murdered by an unknown cereal killer. The whole story was quite unfortunate, considering that Mia’s parents had been harmless chicken farmers, and never hurt anyone (except the chickens of course!)  Despite her tragic past, Mia was a happy, noisy baby; she giggled and squealed and made all around noise. So much noise in fact, that no-one noticed when the quiet, almost inaudible tapping became just a few notches louder …

It was a misty Thursday morning; and when I say misty, I mean MISTY.  The streets were seas of fog and traffic, the sky was a mass of haze and cloud, it looked as though heaven itself had collapsed. Mrs  Addams stood at the door, watching the street where the bus stop was, hoping that her husband had arrived at work safely. After having breakfast, she decided to go check on Mia, who was usually up by then. When Mrs Addams climbed to the landing above the stairs, she looked up out of the window overlooking the driveway, and saw a fat orange chicken pecking at the drain. Surprised, she rubbed her eyes and looked again, but it was gone. She had probably just imagined it. As she walked into Mia’s room  and picked her up, all the lights suddenly went out, on a normal morning this wouldn’t be a problem, but because it was so foggy and dark outside, and Mia’s curtains were drawn, Mrs Addams was shrouded in complete darkness. Sensing her mother’s alarm, Mia started to whimper, and then cry. The sudden stop of the knocking was never noticed, or acknowledged, probably because what came next was so devastating that nobody cared any more.

Mr. Addams left work late. He had had a tiring day and was looking forward to getting home. He dragged himself onto the bus and sat down next to a rather large man in a dark blue trench coat. He opened a newspaper.  “It has been a long day”, he thought as he yawned; his eyes beginning to close.  He was tired, so tired … Before he knew it, he was asleep.

Mr Addams opened his eyes with a start. Looking around, he realized he was still on the bus, but something was different.  He looked out the window, everything was dark; much darker than usual. Blinking hard, he looked out the window again, and then it hit him. All the lights were out, even the street lights.  There appeared to be a huge power outage. Mr Addams stood up to see if he could ask the bus driver where they were, but when he was at the front of the bus and started to talk to the driver, the driver did not answer. Something felt wrong, very wrong. He tapped the bus driver on his back … still, no response. The bus drove on, quickly approaching the old bridge. “Strange”, thought Mr. Addams; most buses would have turned away by now. The old bridge hadn’t been used for years, it had collapsed during a particularly icy winter.  The bridge had been strong, and served the town for many years, but it had been in need of some maintenance and, after months of neglect, it finally collapsed. No-one had ever bothered to fix it. The bus continued to move forward, ever closer and closer to the bridge. The last turn off was coming up, but the bus was going too fast.  There was no way it would be able to turn in time. Mr Addams was beginning to panic: “is the bus driver sleeping?!”

He tried shaking him, there was no movement it was almost like he was unconscious.

Then the bus driver started to move; more like “squirm” in an unnatural sort of way, suddenly his coat exploded into a mass of chickens, at least 11 of them, they started running around the bus squawking and nipping at everything. Mr Addams yelped and leaped back, as a grey chicken came leaping towards him, barely missing his knee. Awoken by the noise, the other passengers started to yawn and look around, seeing all the chickens running around and nipping people, they started to scream.  It was chaos. Meanwhile the bus was getting closer and closer to the bridge … any minute now, they would fall to their deaths. Mr Addams tried to get to the steering wheel, but he didn’t know how to drive.  In this panic he didn’t know anything anyway, so what difference did it make?  He sat down on the drivers seat and looked for the breaks, pushing and pulling every button and lever he could find. He looked up again … there wasn’t enough time … even if he did find the brakes, they would never be able to stop in time.  He grabbed the steering wheel and started  spinning it frantically. The bus hit a bump and went flying; Mr Addams and all the passengers held their breath … waiting for it to land, but it didn’t.

Mrs Addams was worried, she hadn’t heard from her husband since he went to work.  He usually arrived back home at six and it was already quarter to eight. This was strange. She had had a fairly ordinary day. After the power went out and Mia had stopped crying, she had been busy going around and lighting candles, and continuing with everyday work around the house. When she and Mia finished eating dinner, the power came back on. She decided to call Mr Addams and see where he was; but after she dialled, the phone just kept ringing and ringing and ringing. Finally she hung up and went to put Mia to bed.  Something was different, but she couldn’t quite tell what. When she went back downstairs, it was rather stuffy, so she opened the door for some fresh air, and looked out into the darkness. It was quiet, unusually quiet, something scurried across the yard.  She jumped, then realized it was probably just a raccoon.  She decided to close the door in case it tried to get into the house. She closed it just in time; not five seconds later a wave of what appeared to be chickens began hurling themselves at the door, scratching and pecking at the windows and roof. Shocked and startled, Mrs Addams ran around the house trying to seal all the windows, but it was no use, the chickens were strong and persistent, and before long the windows started to crack.She heard a shrill cry coming from upstairs, then remembered that she had left Mia up there sleeping. Upstairs the chickens appeared to have made less progress breaking in, but it was still very loud. Grabbing Mia she ran back towards the stairs, reaching the corner, she came face to face with a mob of angry chickens, for a moment everything froze. Mrs Addams stared at the chickens, the chickens stared at her, and then, as if on some invisible signal, they attacked.  Leaping back only to hit the wall, Mrs Addams had no choice but to try and fight them off. There were too many of them! She finally managed to run and lock herself in a small cupboard. There she sat in the darkness with Mia, listening to the frantic squawking of the chickens as they tried to peck through the thick doors of the cupboard, soon they would break through, and then, there would be no escaping.

Mr Addams opened his eyes, everything was fuzzy.  He tried sitting up, but a sharp pain went through his neck, and he lay back down with a yelp.  What had happened? Where was he? He tried sitting up again, but this time someone stopped him.

“Don’t move.  If they see you’re alive they’ll peck your eyes out.”  Mr Addams looked around to see who was talking, and saw what appeared to be  a small cluster of people lying on the ground, some were clearly dead, others close to it.  The bus driver was among them, he was very pale, and covered in scratches and bites.Chickens crowded around him, eyeing him suspiciously and occasionally nipping him, just to make sure he was dead. The bus driver made a final groan of pain and closed his eyes, never to open them again. A man lying a few feet away from him who was also watching finally couldn’t take it any more.  He lunged for the chickens, who, startled at  first, scattered into a squawking mass of feathers. For a moment it looked like there was still some hope of escaping, and Mr Addams leaped up and, despite the pain in his neck, he started running blindly towards what looked like a tunnel on the side of the cliffs.  There was a bit of a chase, but in the end the chickens caught up with him, pecking and scratching.  With one final, desperate attempt to escape, he fell, and gave way to the murky haze that was clouding his eyes. Emptiness, followed, and then a feeling of deep peace.  “It was over”, he thought; “finally over”.  He wished with his last breath that he could see his wife and Mia just one last time. It was too late of course, the end was already there.

Darkness was beginning to fall, misty clouds swirled across the streets. Dogs barked, and sirens wailed all over town. Small crowds of people armed with guns, knifes, and even stones were gathered in the streets, trying to defend themselves against the ever growing mass of chickens.  Most people had either died or left (not that there was anywhere to go to, the chickens would find them eventually).  By now you’ve probably figured out what happened to poor Mrs Addams and Mia, stuck alone in that fateful closet with chickens slowly pecking through the doors. Perhaps if they had listened a little closer, the Addams’s may have been able to prevent the whole thing from happening, … if only they had stopped to listen, they may have heard the quiet yet persistent sound of a hundred tiny chicken beaks tapping and pecking through the drain pipe. The chickens had been pecking for the past seventeen and a half years, slowly making their way to the outside world, to exact revenge for who knows what this time.

Example of Student Writing: The Man in the Desert

I stroll through the countryside, scuffing my feet against the sand. My eyes linger across the beige sea of terrain. They wander up until they reach the blazing sun. It boils its way through my skin and envelops my muscles. I scan the deserted area of land, coming across a dark lump planted a few metres ahead. I squint through the desert storm to see a man; sitting on a cold charcoal rock, with a battered cane and a slumped, ragged sack.

I slowly approach the man, curious of his existence in the countryside. Just a few feet away, I see the details of him. His worn, brown, coat is draped over his shoulders, and his hands peek out through the long tattered sleeves. The onyx trousers that hang from his bony hips carry holes and stains. Scraped leather shoes grasp his feet, with only withering laces to keep them on. He holds a cigarette and a large dusted jar with bare raunchy hands. I could see the bones through his scraggly fingers. A thick band of reddish-brown hair has latched on to the lower part of the man’s face; and his lazy grey eyes sit open, waiting for hope to come. Now standing directly in front of him, I peer under his coffee brown, plaid bonnet, to find the once lazy grey eyes, to be a fierce, angered stare.

KT (Grade 9)

Ballad of the Scholar’s Lament

When I have struggled through three hundred years
of Roman history, and hastened o’er
Some French play-(though I have my private fears
Of flunking sorely when I take the floor
In class),-when I have steeped my soul in gore
And Greek, and figured over half a ream
With Algebra, which I do (not) adore,
How shall I manage to compose a theme?

It’s well enough to talk of poor and peers,
And munch the golden apples’ shiny core,
And lay a lot of heroes on their biers;-
While the great Alec, knocking down a score,
Takes out his handkerchief, boohoo-ing, “More!”-
But harshly I awaken from my dream,
To find a new,-er,-privilege,-in store:
How shall I manage to compose a theme?

After I’ve swallowed prophecies of seers,
And trailed Aeneas from the Trojan shore,
Learned how Achilles, after many jeers,
On piggy Agamemnon got to sore,
And heard how Hercules, Esq., tore
Around, and swept and dusted with a stream,
There’s one last duty,-let’s not call it bore,-
How shall I manage to compose a theme?

Envoi

Of what avail is all my mighty lore?
I beat my breast, I tear my hair, I scream:
“Behold, I have a Herculean chore.
How shall I manage to compose a theme?”

edward estlin cummings
(1894-1962)