Monday, August 9, 2010

Nothing's As Expected, Apparently

Today, I officially finished my evil, evil Frankenstein essays. They are DONE. And the last one, I'm pretty sure, is going to get a big, fat F.

This is not me bemoaning my perceived lack of writing talent. (Well, actually, that's part of it, but we'll just pretend that's not the case for the sake of argument.) This is me realizing that the theme I argued in that essay is probably not an "accepted AP answer."

Let me share an anecdote. I'm sure it's not angsty or anything...


Third quarter, last year, we had a block period in English class to read a really interesting article by Annie Dillard and write an analytic essay response to it. I enjoyed the essay. It was about babies.

Ha! Despite the fact that my Google-fu sucks, after twenty minutes of fruitless searching, I finally remember a name from the text, and I have it: it appears to be an excerpt from Dillard's book For the Time Being, and was (as far as I recall/was able to Google-find) used at some point in an AP English test.

Anyway, to make things short, the excerpt is in the viewpoint of someone who is certainly not a nurse. This person describes a part of some obstetrics ward like a kind of assembly line, and just basically treats the whole thing like some giant baby factory.

The accepted AP answer for this is: nurses are disillusioned about babies. Without this, one cannot hope to get more than, like, a 3 on this essay, because if you don't get exactly this answer, you have gotten the wrong answer.

My answer? The narrator is disillusioned about babies. Why? Because all the imagery that is supposed to make us think nurses don't like babies after being around them so much is in the narrator's point of view. Thus, the narrator's view of the world colors the text, not a nurse's. (It is made very clear in several places that the narrator is not a nurse.)

I know that I got my answer partly because I view literature through the lens of a writer. And I was "wrong," because I got the "wrong" answer, because I do not get the right AP answers. I get the answers I think make more sense in the context of the fiction-y things that are happening in the text. Like the little issue of who's actually got the point of view.

But, had I written that in a proper AP exam, I would not have scored well.

Does this strike anyone else as, like, wrong?? English is all about analyzing stuff. How does a person analyze something incorrectly? Analysis is, practically by definition, individual to each person, with infinite variations colored by each person's life experiences. So how can you say that a person's analysis is "wrong"?

I encounter this in the whole AP English curriculum quite often. It gets me quite annoyed. But of course the English teachers think it's perfectly natural.

So, really, does anyone else feel this way, or is my whole view of analysis completely "wrong"? I'd hate to labor under the delusion that I'm in any way correct, or anything...

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