Writing Assignment 2: Write a 350-500 word reflection of 3-5  pieces of literature we have read thus far. What are the common themes, symbols, and conflicts?

Tasha Urena-Arredondo
2/12/2013 11:35:42

The literature read thus far relate to one another. The three that bear the most significance is Runagate, Runagate, The Negro Speaks of Rivers, and Fredrick Douglas. They relate to each because in each story it describes oppression, slavery, abolition, and wanting freedom. The description of the impoverished way of living for the slaves and the way slave owners treated them. The slaves not being able to speak or make decisions for they must have been very difficult or find help to find their forever freedom. As far as the abolition you hear about Harriet Tubman and the underground rail road in Runagate Runagate. How she helped these slaves seek their freedom. In the Negro Speaks of Rivers a reference is made with Abraham Lincoln and signifies the hope of slaves being free of slavery being abolished. In Fredrick Douglas it explains how Fredrick Douglas spoke for those who didn’t have a voice. Being a former slave himself he decided to make a change and do something for not only his freedom as an African American but for other African Americans as well. He also encourage others to stand up and make a change; a change for freedom. The three stories all symbolize their ancestry and the slaves realizing that there were others before them with the same hopes. In The Negro Speaks of River Langston Hughes writes “I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than flow of human blood in human veins” symbolizes that they were other slaves before him who suffered and died from the oppressions of slavery. He acknowledges and understands the significance and importance of his ancestors. The conflicts of each of these stories is that although there were freedoms to be had there were consequences from the slave owners as well as the abolitionist Harriett Tubman. If a slave wanted to go back he would be beaten or killed by his slave owner and that is if Harriett Tubman wouldn’t kill them first. Sounds explicit but Harriett Tubman wanted her people to be free and would not risk a slave going back and telling the slave owner who was helping them escape. Amazing how not to long ago we had an America with slaves and we were not all free.

Marisa Nannariello
2/13/2013 01:05:36

In the literature we have read so far we've seen a pattern of the same themes, symbols, and conflicts. In “Runagate, Runagate” and “The Negros Speak of Rivers” the reoccurring theme in these two poems are Slavery and being freed from slavery. In “Runagate, Runagate” the poem is written in a zig, zagged formation to give the reader the illusion of the slaves running from slavery to freedom. The symbols they use in this poem are the allusions of the Underground Railroad and people like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. This poem correlates well with “The Negros Speak of Rivers.” In “The Negros Speaks of Rivers” you see a slave speaking about how “The River runs through him” this is an allusion to how slavery runs through his veins. The author uses symbols like “Muddy” which is for the oppression the slaves felt and “Golden” which symbolizes the freeing of the slaves. Two other stories we've read so far that have the same conflict and themes are “Everyday Use” and “The Watch”. In “Everyday Use” you have Dee who goes to college and learns of her heritage and culture. She comes back to visit her mother and sister Maggie and she has changed her name to Wangeno. Dee wants everything that her ancestors had made to be reminded of her heritage. She wants to ignore the fact that her background traces back to slavery. In the end of the story Dee wants to take the quilts that her grandmother made and she wants to hang them on the wall in her home to be reminded of where she is from. She feels that these quilts shouldn’t be used every day. In “The Watch” the author speaks about time during the holocaust. The author had gotten a watch for his birthday and he had done what everyone else was doing at that time and buried it in the backyard. This was to protect the valuables from being taken. Ten years later the author returns to his childhood home and goes straight to the spot the watch was buried. His internal conflict in this story is whether or not to keep the watch or not. His external conflict was digging in the ground for the watch. This story correlates with “Everyday Use” with the same theme of heritage. The quilts and the watch both symbolize heritage and remembrance to the past. The author in “The Watch” and Maggie in “Everyday Use” both know that they don’t need the watch or the quilts to be reminded of who they are and where they came from. This is why the author doesn't keep the watch and why Maggie says that Dee can have the quilts.

2/13/2013 04:42:59

Throughout the literatures read in the last couple week, some has common themes and symbolism. The ones that stood out to me are, Frederick Douglas, Langston Hughes “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”, and Runagate, Runagate. All three represent a common of theme of freedom, and slavery. In the “Negros Speaks of Rivers” the speaker feels connected to the river. In a way feels connected to those who came before him. He uses such imagery such as “I’ve known of rivers”. He also use the “Muddy” and “Golden” imagery, which represent oppression and freedom. Meanwhile, in Frederick Douglas story, promote equality, symbolize change and freedom. Due to the fact he was once a slave, he mentioned of being able to speak up for others. He wasn’t only concern of his freedom, but the well-being of other slaves as well. Runagates, Runagate present three different voices of speakers. The slave, slaves’ owner and the speaker itself. It symbolize running from slavery to freedom. Symbols such as “Zigzag” were used to show the slave running. A connection is made to the Underground Railroad; they traveled at night because there were afraid of being caught. The connection within the stories is that, each story expresses the race to freedom, escaping from slavery and oppression. According to Runagate, Runagate slave were willing to die for their freedom. “And before I’ll be a slave, I’ll be buried in my grave.”

Tasha Urena-Arredondo
2/26/2013 01:08:04

I like the fact that how you gave props to Fredrick Douglas when you said that he was not only concerned for his well being and freedom but also for the well being and freedom of other slaves. The fact that he became a free slave after knowing he was a slave for life and trying to bring that very same knowledge to other slaves shows that he was not selfish nor was he selfless. Prettry much in comparison to Plato's Allegory of the Cave. Fredrick Douglas enlightend those slaves that wanted to be enlightened.

Bonnie Posey
2/13/2013 04:44:55

In the literature we have read so far, three pieces with similar themes and conflicts are "The Possessive,' "Everyday use," and "Those Winter Sundays." In "The Possessive," there is conflict between the mother and daughter.The mother believes her daughter is her possession. She believes she owns her daughter. The daughter is growing up and is struggling to find her identity. In doing so. it causes conflict with her mother who refuses to accept change. The daughter rebels against her mother by cutting her hair. The mother saw the daughter"s action as defiant and as an act of betrayal. The daughter continues to struggle for her identity. In "Everyday Use," the relationship between Dee and Mama is strained. Mama is the sole provider and has taken a masculine persona in order to make ends meet. She is a strong and loving mother but feels threatened and intimidated by Dee. Mama feels inferior to Dee.due to her education, sophistication and air of superiority. Mama even fantasizes that Dee shows her gratitude on a television show. Dee sees her new life as liberating and not confining like Mama's. Mama sees Dee's new identity as a rejection of her family and heritage, Mama quietly craves Dee's approval even though she is self-centered and selfish. In "Those Winter Sunday's," the father is described as a hard working man. The way he shows his love to his family is not by showing affection, but by taking care of their needs. That does not mean that the father does not love his son; he just shows it differently. The father shows his love through his actions. He got up before dawn to make sure the house was warm before the son woke up. He also polished his good shoes for church. The son took his father's actions for granted. It was expected of the father. The son never thought about how hard his father worked even though his hands were cracked. It never occurred to the son that his father was cold before he warmed up the house. Now that the son is grown, he regrets never thanking his father. He realizes how he took his father for granted and that his father truly loved him. In " Everyday Use." and "The Possessive," there is conflict between mother and daughter.as well as father and son in "Those Winter Sunday's." In all three pieces, the parents loved their children regardless of their actions.

Heather Dixon :)
2/13/2013 06:43:53

In response to Bonnie Posey,

I agree with what you have written. In “Everyday Use” and “The Possessive” there was conflict between the characters. In “Everyday use” we had Mama who has a conflict with Dee and Dee with Maggie over the two quilts.
In “The Possessive” the mother and daughter had conflicts with each other with the daughter rebelling and cutting her hair, and the mother wishing her daughter was still ‘hers’.
In “Those Winter Sundays” I can see some conflict between the son and his father going on. As we have talked about in class, even if the poem itself doesn’t out right say what’s going on in the house, we can use the imagery that the author gave us to infer about what actually went on. You have the lines “…I would rise and dress, fearing the chronic angers of the house…” . Hayden wrote in the poem that he would speak ‘…indifferently to him (his father)”. So I can assume along that there was something not pleasant in the relationship that Hayden had with his father. You say that his father is showing his love for his family with his actions and that Hayden didn’t appreciate it until later on in life, and I agree, but I also felt that something is wrong with his father as well. Its discrete how Hayden wrote it, but I felt that what I wrote about “Those Winter Sundays” above, is the real conflict of the his poem. That he and his father had more violent issues with one another.
Thanks for your reflection though!!!!!!


Heather Dixon :)
2/13/2013 06:25:53

Langston Hughes “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” and Robert Hayden’s “Runagate Runagate” and “Frederick Douglas” all have a common theme of slavery and oppression. They tell of a person who is fighting for the freedom and looking for ways to combat slavery. In Hughes poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”, it’s of a man who is in slavery and how it’s been ‘known’ in his family for generations. The man in the poem hears of an oppression going on in the north. “I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln”. In Hayden’s “Runagate Runagate” it’s a poem that’s told in three points of views of a slave, slave owner, and a narrator. This poem is also about slavery and the oppression of it. The first stanza consisting of seven lines tells of a slave that’s running through the cold night being perused by people and hounds. He is trying to escape slavery. He fights it by running away and stating that there will be “No more action block for me – no more driver’s lash for me… And before I’ll be a slave – I’ll be buried in my grave”. Hayden’s “Frederick Douglas” is a poem about Frederick Douglas, and how he is an icon for freedom and change.”…this man, this Douglas, this former slave…” It goes on to say how everyone should take action and fight so that everyone should be equal (slaves, and everyone in general). A common conflict of all three poems is of slavery, and how the characters in each of the poems opposes it and looks for freedom. In “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” and“Runagate Runagate”, the slaves in the story fight for their survival. Both look toward the north as their chance at gaining freedom because that’s where they heard stories of opposition. In “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” you have Abe Lincoln in Mississippi symbolizing change. In “Runagate Runagate” you have Harriet Tubman who is a symbol of change for slaves and is known to people as her “…alias The General… Moses…Stealer of Slaves”. “Frederick Douglas” you have Douglas himself as a symbol for change. He himself was a former slave turned freeman. He became a symbol of hope and change. All three of these peoms have symbols in them that represent change and freedom.


Kodi Mirabelli
2/13/2013 07:49:23

In the literary works read by the class thus far, there are common themes among them. In “Runagate Runagate,” “Frederick Douglas,” and “The Watch,” the common theme was oppression and slavery. There were many symbols among these stories. In “Runagate Runagate,” Robert Hayden alludes to many abolitionists who fought to end slavery. The story talks about Frederick Douglas and Harriet Tubman, two people who were not afraid to stand up for what they believe in. There is also the physical symbol of the zigzagging of the story which shows the slaves having to run and flee from their slave owners. The theme of oppression can be compared to the poem, “Frederick Douglas,” which also alludes to the abolitionist. In this story the common theme is oppression and a way to fight against it, much like in Ellie Wiesel’s “The Watch.” The watch symbolizes the freedom from oppression just like Frederick Douglas does in, “Frederick Douglas.” Frederick Douglas is not only described as a symbol of freedom but as a single man standing up for what he believes in. The watch in, “The Watch,” is a literal symbol of the narrator’s struggles as well as a metaphorical symbol. The watch depicts his past and the ticking away of it as well as burying it far under the ground. The watch also symbolizes having to dig and use physical force just like the zigzagging in, “Runagate Runagate.” The zigzagging shows the slaves physically running as well as having to deal with the internal struggles of trying to figure out where to go and what to do. The slave point of view in “Runagate Runagate,” says that he would rather die than be a slave which can be traced back to the watch and a way to give piece of mind and closure from his past and his oppression from the holocaust.

Alex Alexis
2/13/2013 12:42:16

3 pieces of literature we have read thus far that caught my attention the most were.Runagate,Runagate, the Negros speaks rivers and frederick douglas. these three power pact stories really got me thinking and opened a image in my mind about how freedom was different from what it is now so just image being told what to do without having a option to say what you would like to in put in those days. In Runagate, Runagate the speaker says zig zagged as a illusion to give the reader a image of the slaves running away from salary. the Negros speaks rivers he speaks about the past and how the golden represents freedom and he say i've known rivers muddy and golden rivers he made a reference also to Lincon. Frederick Douglas was a former slave but he feel freedom should be free we should breath freedom like we breath air. he basically promoted in his time to fight for equal rights. he symbolize freedom, and to make a call to action. beside these three pieces of literature the watch,everyday use and those winter sundays where all about how family needs to be closer and a little more thankful for there past items and what one member does even though they don't expect to be thank those three are similar do to how the all related back to what a member of the family used to do. Are an item they knew about in the past. the freedom stories to me had the most effect on my mind because we can relate to that and there were struggles and conflict through each story.

2/13/2013 12:47:55

word count 277

Nicole Nichols
2/13/2013 21:37:26

Ineffective communication between the sexes is a recurring conflict between these works.
The Fraternal Bond as a Joking Relationship features conflict between male and female as well as male and his perception of his own future. The males in the story felt their current situation, college, was the only time in their lives they would have to do goofy things. After college they collectively felt their lives would be run by work and women. They felt the business world would not be very understanding if they behaved then as they did in college. Women, well, that's another story. We expect our men to be boys for awhile (to some degree). This story speaks symbolically of man's right to bond in a way that he finds acceptable.

Sex, Lies and Conversation, illustrates the basic perceptual problems between the sexes. Women expect full attention to be given in a way that they can understand. Male attention is not what women feel it should be. This is unfortunate because males are doing a great job, in their own way. They are badgered for it and it frustrates them. Each sex has to respect the other. Each individual has to respect the ways of the individual. This story is symbolic of understanding and cooperation between the sexes as is the Fraternal Bond as a Joking Relationship and Yellow Wallpaper.

Yellow Wallpaper features classic sex miscommunication. This woman was trying to tell her husband in simple words how she felt and what she felt she needed. Her husband, John, felt his way had the right of it. He knew best because he was a doctor. Her way of behaving was as a female should in those days. She held back instead of insisting. Her insistence might have saved her sanity. John could have done ground breaking work and made monumental career bounds had he listened, acted and presented to the medical community. Instead of ignoring his patient's pleas for help. This story symbolizes women struggling for acknowledgement in a man's world.

One them common to all of these works is communication issues between the sexes. The problems range from quite small to life changing.

yosbel perez
2/19/2013 10:54:33

Although these stories do not show that they have common themes and symbols. I personally feel that there is a connection between the conflicts of these stories. In the stories “The Watch”, “Breaking Tradition”, and “The Yellow Wallpaper”, the themes correlated. I felt like the themes involved oppression, internal suffering or discomfort. In “The Watch” the speaker’s internal suffering involved the memory of his watch. The oppression presented was the Nazi persecution of the Jews, and the forced relocation to the concentration camps. The conflict the author faced was the memories of his past , almost as if he traveled back in time to the moment he buried the watch. The symbol of the story was the watch itself; it was a way for the author to get some closure from his past.
In the poem “Breaking Tradition”, the mother feels like her daughter is changing. She is glad that this change is taking place because of the oppression she has to feel as a woman. The mother speaks of the secret room that she is glad she does not have to share with her daughter. The symbol is the secret room the mother speaks of. Where they “speak of menstrual cycles, and flat chest”, this room represents the things the mother wants to have in common with her daughter. At the same time she is happy her daughter is different, she doesn’t want her to have the same life is herself.
In “The Yellow Wallpaper” the author is going through postpartum depression, and the oppression she dealt with was the detachment from reality that she was recommended. Her husband would treat her like a child almost, keeping her drugged up the majority of the time. Her internal suffering was part of the theme of the story. From the beginning of the story the author illustrates the yellow wallpaper as the symbol of the story. The author’s conflict is mental stability, her husband, the lady in the wall, her reflection in the window. The bars on the window are really window shades. The constant drugged up delusional state of mind she is in. The author at the end ends up clawing the wall paper off , almost as a symbol of freedom of the women being oppressed.

Mackenson Pierre
2/27/2013 11:59:15

The literature such as “Everyday Use” “The Watch” and “The Negros Speaks of Rivers” share common theme, symbols, and not common conflicts. When reading “Everyday Use” and “The Watch” ones can see what the writer use to symbolize heredity. In “Everyday Use” the quilt is use to symbolize heredity and in “The Watch” the watch symbolize heredity. Both writer talks about heredity and how it impacts the story. If ones were to make a comparison between the importance of the symbol each writer use. Maggie in “Everyday Use” does not need the quilts to remember her past and also the speaker in “The Watch”. This shows the similarity that both story share together.
In “The Negros Speak of Rivers” also have symbols such as muddy symbolizing oppression to golden, symbolizing freedom. This story shares a common theme with “Everyday Use” and “The Watch” which is Identity. The characters in each story had a connection with the symbols which reflects on their Identity. The selection “The Negros Speaks of Rivers” Langston Hughes talks about how his soul was made from his past. The fact that he keeps repeating “I know rivers…” says it all about his pass and how it reflect his Identity. In “Everyday Use” Dee dot wants the name she got from the people who oppress, because how her name reflects her Identity. She went and change her name to wanga, she wanted to get a new identity for herself.
“Everyday Use” and “ The Watch” does not really share a common conflicts, because in “Everyday Use” the conflict is a family issue and the struggle is between Maggie, Dee, and the mother; however, in “The Watch” the conflict is a personal issue, the struggle is the speaker himself. This is basically how these three literature works reflect each other.


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    About Professor Barletta....
    I have taught at the secondary and post-secondary level for ten years. I have a Master of Arts with a major in English and an ABD in Higher Education. I am the English and Communications Program Director at Keiser University and also work with Service Learning. In addition to teaching, I am currently completing my dissertation at Nova Southeastern University.  


    January 2012