Friday, April 9, 2010

Dead Star Themes

on Dead Stars by Paz Marquez Benitez

Finally, here they come

from Rombawa
The short story “Dead Stars” by Paz Marquez Benitez is conveying the theme that pertains to forbidden love. It says that forbidden love is only apparent, and its banes haunt the person until such time that he realizes his faults. It is clear in this story, where Alfredo and Julia’s forbidden love has caused Alfredo such remorse for eight years in his marriage with Esperanza. It all seemed so good for him at the beginning, but it brought conflict later on, when Esperanza notices the placidity of Alfredo’s affection for her. This led to an argument that nearly separated the engaged couple. When Julia left, it left Alfredo with the thought of what could have been. Even after eight years in his marriage, he still wanted to know what could have happened if Julia were his wife. When the time came that they met, Alfredo felt hopeful that Julia still feels the same way that he does. Alas, the love is gone, and all that he felt in the last eight years, that feeling that he always tried to suppress, is just illusionary. Their illicit love was like a dead star, extinguished in the abyss of the universe, but still in sight for man to be fooled.

from Raf
Reading Paz Marquez Benitez’s Dead Stars for the first time made me think that the theme of the short story is just about love. This was my initial idea because I saw that the plot revolved around a love story. Aside from this, the main conflict was caused by love. However, after re-reading the text many times, I was wrong in my early conclusion. Actually aside from love, the short story also reflects the painful consequences of making the wrong decisions in life. It tells us that hasty and wrong decisions can lead to regrets and disappointments. The first reason for this is that the story began and ended with Alfredo regretting his actions. The second is that throughout the story, Alfredo kept on identifying his rash decisions as the cause of his disappointments.

and from JP
The theme of the story ‘Dead Stars’ is that, temporal happiness or pleasure is not authentic. In the long run, it could even result to pain, suffering and loneliness. In the story, Alfredo Salazar experienced happiness in a wrong way that’s why this happiness is deemed as pleasure. Despite the fact that he was engaged with Esperanza, the woman he shall marry, he still enjoyed the company of another woman named Julia Salas. This was proven many times in the story when Alfredo was with Julia, they tell each other things which did not suit their relationship. There was even an instance that Alfredo said, “I will not go, of course, until you are there.” The happiness they felt with each other was romantic. Unfortunately, this happiness was not long-lasting because it was forbidden. They did not end up being with each other. In the end, Alfredo’s hopes were torn apart as he proved that Julia was not really destined for him. This spells the theme of the story as Alfredo eventually felt immense sadness which is considered his suffering.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Stars not yet Dead

What's a possible theme for "Dead Stars" by Paz Marquez Benitez?

Here's one who bothered to send me his response to the writing exercise.

Thanks Dene. Hope the others will follow suit even if they are looking forward to other endeavors.

Life waits for no one; we must not go unhurried. We are sometimes given choices which we must grab at once; for if these are lost, it may be too late and we may be unable to choose. Alfredo was always unhurried, too unhurried, and because of this he was unable to choose between his heart and his mind. Life waits for no one; even youth will blemish and vanish with all its radiance if we make delays. We can live life to the fullest but we must not forget that there will come a time when we shall move on. Life has different phases which will progress and will not wait for us, especially if we move at a slow pace. There is no place in this world where faded gardens bloom again, and where live on in unchanging freshness, the clear, dead loves of vanished youth. For in this world, even the brightest stars in heaven do not last forever, for there will be a time when even these stars will lose their luster and cease to shine.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Reader Response

Students were tasked to write a possible blurb--a sentence that captures their thoughts and feelings on Dante's Inferno.

While admittedly some of them are personally favorites, I decided to include all of their answers in this post. May the next students to study Inferno gain inspiration from Dante; may they also gather some from the following responses to the 700-year old masterpiece.

It appeals to one’s intellectual and spiritual understanding. – A.A.
Magnificent detailed literature that captures the true essence of artistry. – JV
Anguish unwaveringly expressed resulted in this fierce yet apt disdain of man’s sins. - DO
Superb! The Inferno is one of the most interesting books that I’ve read; Dante’s description of Hell sends shivers down my spine. – D.DC.
Inferno gives the readers the idea of perfection at its best. Y.B.
Inferno is a great literary work because of the graphical content that tickles the imagination of its readers for the purpose of showing everyone an amazing representation of the sins and its punishments. - L.B.
The allegory of sins in Dante’s Inferno as a symbolism makes it a great literary work. - K.B.
A great book that contains ‘Dulce et Utile’ and out of this world images that captures the imagination of the readers-M.D.
The Inferno finds its strength in the combination of Greek and Roman culture namely mythology and religion by creating vivid descriptions. – R.C.
Inferno is a literary work that describes how each person is being judged as a consequence of their bad deeds in a form of punishment. J.C
The strength of Dante’s Inferno is its relation to the supernatural aspect of man making his work great. – I.D.
Freaks me out of my Imagination! – G.D.
Dante’s Inferno showed the image of hell by the sins of man and the corresponding punishments for it, giving us the lesson that while we are here on earth we should always follow the way directed to God. - K.E.
Inferno, Dante’s great literary work, is an instrument to show the different kinds of sin done one earth and what punishment would bear on hell. – K.G.
It is beyond Perfection! The imagery and symbolism are magnificent. - J.I.
Dante’s symbolic retribution is simply staggering... he's a genius, more like our modern Dan Brown got ideas from this being- L.J.
Dante’s Inferno viewed Christian issues regarding Heaven, Hell, and freewill and with his vivid artwork  only shows the reality that Literature is indeed a work of one’s heart and mind that is close to Christian values. – B.I.
I can feel the pain of the sinners in their punishment because of symbolic retribution and the personalities; also the monsters give Inferno a far better meaning that will surely make the readers believe in hell. - J.L.
Dante’s Inferno survived history because it gives its readers a glimpse of imagination. It's unbelievably good that the Inferno was able to give a part of theology as well as in politics, mythology, and science in a compact literature. – I.M.
Dante was successful to keep his readers interest to finish the book, through the images the he described and the parallelism of the punishment to the sins of the damned souls. – C.M.
Can you imagine Dante’s effort to create a whole new world and describe it even though he has never been there before? – M.S.
For me, a good literary work would make its readers feel what the author wants them to feel and that’s what Dante’s Inferno does. – C.F.
The Inferno will be loved by people of all places and generations. – J.M.
The symbolisms of how the sins are punished, makes the Inferno a very great literary work. - R.T.
Dante’s Inferno has the best mix of emotions, pity for the damned, sorrow of the punished, and the comedy which is entailed in the punishments. – E.U.
The universality of Dante’s Inferno has made the literary work close to the minds and hearts of its readers. - R.M.
The wordsmith’s voice echoed through the circles in hell, the sound is that of Religion and Mythology fused and harmonized, the result, a vivid masterpiece. - K.M.
Dante’s Inferno is a great literary work that captures the passion for the people to read it because it contains ideas which are spiritual and somewhat fantastical. – J.M.
The Inferno is the best literary piece that merges pain and vivid descriptions for the brave readers. - J.P.
Hell caught on video. No HDTV beats the surmounting frights of Dante. - A.R.
It is fantastical and yet so true in the eyes. - L.F.
The strong, vivid image of allegory and the message it partakes makes it truly a "Dulce et Utile"-F.G.
I never thought that words could contain so much blood, guts and gore.-T.C.
Dante's vivid depiction of the punishments using known human sufferings will make the readers part of Dante's journey through Hell.-E.S.
The very clear and precise portrayal of the horrifying supernatural place shows how great a mind Dante has." – J.G.
Dante’s choice of punishments, in itself, already says a lot about life and hell. – S.A.
Dante’s best attempt to portray the supernatural world of hell resulted to a very incomparable journey one could barely imagine. – D.G.
Dante captures the image of man’s darkest secrets. – A.A.
The immortal death that Dante perfected is the immortality itself of the Inferno. – N.S.
The Inferno of Dante Alighieri shows the artistic, horrifying, and painful sufferings that touches the divinity of God. – J.A.
A magnificent book that creates images it wants to show before the very eyes of the readers. – J.B.
In terms of logic and imagination, Dante is at his best – J.R.
Not all beautiful things are pleasant to one’s eyes- Circles in Dante’s Inferno – N.O.
As they sinned so are they punished: Masterpiece! – JPS
Timeless: Dante’s Inferno instills fear and realization in beautiful allegory to people of all ages and generations. – G.A.
One of the strengths I see in Dante’s Inferno is that it gives man the full vision on what’s hell going to look like together with all the sins and possible punishment. - R.A.
Superb! The brilliance of Dante really made the Inferno an extraordinary literary work. - J.A.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Harmony in Beauty Essays

The following excerpts are taken from student output. Following the belief that writing is a process (NCTE), the students went through several stages. First, students wrote a short reflection followed by sharing of ideas with a writing partner. In between the stages of writing were discussions on Horace's Art of Poetry specifically the ideas of dulce et utile, some Odes of Horace, and the Beatles's song "Across the Universe" including a listening exercise. The students exchanged first drafts of the Harmony in Beauty essays with their partners and focused on identifying weak and strong sentences. The teacher then edited the second draft.

The final published/printed essays were graded following a ten-point scale; most of the works merited 8's, 9's, and 10's due to the noticeable improvements in writing. While still in the rough, the following samples are noted for the writers' emerging style and voice. I marvel at what these high school students have accomplished.

Since life is beautiful, there is harmony not only in beauty but also in life. This is about the harmony between sorrow and joy. Looking at the opposite meaning of a word helps to the better understanding of a concept. Having to experience sorrow means to experience happiness also. This is the reality of life. “No pain, no gain”, “Peace in war”, “Pools of sorrow waves of joy”, all of these mean that. In the midst of bad events, there always come good happenings as well. One needs to be open-minded to see both sides of the coin. People should learn to be thankful not only when they are joyful but also in times of difficulties and trials, aware of the reality that these are the means in attaining a meaningful life, a life that is beautiful.
- Simon

Intimidation is an additional obstacle which is attached to the difficulty of interpreting poems. It is an additional obstacle because it clouds the intellect and it prevents a person from understanding the core meaning of a poem. Because of the hindrance which it poses, I think that people should first work on how to fight intimidation before they analyze a poem. If additional obstacles are removed out of the way, then it would be easier to analyze a poem. If this is the case, then what are the ways in order to fight intimidation? After last week’s discussion in our Literature class, I realized that in order to fight intimidation, we should first know what makes the poem beautiful because understanding the beauty decreases the pressure and diminishes the difficulty of analyzing the poem. As the pressure decreases, the intimidation also fades away and the harmony between the context of the poem and the interpretation follows. Maybe I should try this technique in the near future so that I could test its effectiveness and share it to my classmates.
- Rafael

The beauty of a poem may be shown in different ways. A poem may contain different types of figurative language which could make it sound more pleasing. A poem may also convey a message which could contribute to its beauty. In each of these ways, a poem can be considered beautiful. In the beauty that each poem shows, harmony can be expressed. It might be harmony in terms of how the poem may become pleasing to the ears or it might be harmony with reality. The reality that life would be filled with problems is part of the message conveyed by the poems. It conforms to a reality of life which should be accepted. Through the acceptance of this reality, a person may live beautifully by being tranquil and living in harmony whatever he may encounter in life.
- Dene