December 5, 2012
Miller’s Final Draft Argumentative Essay, Question #4
Miller says that there are interesting ways to think about reading and writing in today’s society. Miller uses the stories of traumatic events such as the Columbine High School massacre and other horrific events to question our current educational system. He seems to argue that there is power in literature. For instance, in Miller’s passage about Krakauer’s Into the wild, he seems to suggest that what we read, and how we read, can say something about who we are and what we might become. This is a very bold claim.”(447). Miller seems to think that we are what we read. An interpretation of this is Miller, says, “Krakauer was able to get inside of McCandless head and speculate with considerable authority about what ultimately led the young man to abandon the comforts of home and purposely seek out mortal danger”, simply because he had access to McCandless’s books, his underlining and marginalia, as well as journals and the postcards and letters McCandless sent to his friends during his journey.
I agree with his analyses to a certain degree. On the other hand, I also believe human beings are able to read whatever book they choose and abstract whatever message they want from it. Most people read with skepticism. However, there are instances dependent on a person’s state of mind and the type text you read, it is possible to be persuaded to believe what the writer is trying to convey. There are certain rhetoric tools like ethos, logos, and pathos that can make you believe something that isn’t necessarily true or right. For the most part, people generally read with the grain and against the grain, so to speak.
Subsequently, in this particular case where Miller suggests that McCandless was ultimately undone by the great trust he placed in the written word, McCandless’s way of reading Jack London’s, Call of the Wild, which were stories about life in Alaska. “He was so enthralled by these tales…that he seemed to forget they were works of fiction, constructions of the imaginations that had more to do with London’s romantic sensibilities than with the actualities of life in the subarctic wilderness”. (p.430). McCandles also relied so heavily in a book called “Tanaima Plantlore” to guide him through the gathering in the wild. In which would result to his death. He relied so heavily in the information given in the book that he assumed that because there was no mention of seeds being poisonous in the book, he therefore thought they were edible and consumed them which later resulted to his demise.
Under these circumstances, I do think that there are some individuals that can be vulnerable to certain situations. For instance, people living with some type of trauma in their life. I also think that for the mentally ill or unstable minds, certain books can trigger negative effects in them. And I suppose that sometimes, certain thoughts can be implanted in the brain. I also believe that if you constantly read a certain type of material that eventually you start to believe and modify your life to a certain degree. I also think sometimes being informed about certain things that we weren’t aware of before, can trigger certain behaviors and thoughts that were not in us. In fact they get implanted in our belief system. Therefore, I guess there are certain books, movies, music that can influence or change our behaviors or state-of-mind to a certain degree.
As a matter of fact sometimes you choose books to compliment or to cope with whatever feeling you are currently experiencing, you also tend to read books according to your current mood. For instance, when you experience a loss, you usually tend to get books that help you cope through your ordeal and with your sadness. You also read books that are required in certain subjects, e.g. school, work etc. As Miler says, like McCandless he wanted to believe in the words London invented, because he wanted to be enchanted, he failed to ask the question that Krakauer believed must be of concern to all readers namely, what is the relationship between what the author says and the way the author lives? McCandless was killed off by reading practice that placed too much faith in books, a practice that forgets that the world in all its infinite complexity and particularity will always exceed the explanatory grasp of any single text and, indeed of all texts taken in their totality. (p.430)
Miller also says that reading and writing are also somewhat dangerous. He refers to Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Miller also says that Chris McCandless dissolved his trust fund, sold all of his stuff, burned what money he had left, and started out on a cross-country adventure that ended with him dying of starvation in the Alaskan wilderness. Miller comes closer to explaining McCandless’s dangerous relationship to books about adventure and self-reliance. Miller also talks about, philosophers and people before coming to his final conclusion that the world needs to change and one change that he would favor most would be for the next generation of humans to be exceptionally critical readers, writers, thinkers, and activists; as quoted on page 442.
Granted, there was a certain time period in my life, when I was depressed and I was searching for ways to cope with my life at the time. While going through this traumatic time, I found myself watching movies that brought me some kind of comfort. Incidentally, I also experienced a change in me after a movie which seemed to influence in me in some way. It was a television series called, “Touched by an Angel”. It captured me, so to speak. Their shows influence a different attitude in me. I was always a quiet, overall nice person, but these shows made me believe that I had to do more. I started feeling that I needed do a lot more than just be plain nice. I needed to go out of my way to be nice. It also made me open my mind to receive hidden messages, messages from God, and messages from people. I suppose I became more perceptive.
Furthermore, it made me trust that things always happen for a reason. It made me blindly trust. However, I don’t know, if this would be considered dangerous. I suppose it does to a certain degree. But these shows gave me hope. As a result of these shows, it made me want to know God more. I started to read the Bible more and watch other religious shows, more often. I always felt, sadness, ease and contentment after these shows. I also found some peace in my life. I think that I gravitated to these types of shows because I was feeling a bit lost. I think everybody goes through hard times and stages in their life that requires self-reflection during certain traumatic events.
The episode that really captured me from Touch by an Angel, was one episode called “The Series Finale”, it was the last, Touch by an Angel episode, whereas Monica, an angel, earns her wings. In this particular episode, there was a character by the name of Zac. Zac came to a small town that was slowly losing their community and closeness. But, little by little Zac started bringing the town together again. The reason that the town was torn apart was due to the fact that there was an explosion a few years earlier. There was a bomb that exploded and all of the children in the small town got killed. It left the whole town feeling angry and lost.
Well one day, this new comer by the name of Zac came into town wanting to change the whole town around. He started to rebuild the small church that got shut down by the community. The people started to lose faith in God. Zac started fixing up all the old children’s toys and putting them in the rebuilt church that he was fixing up. The people didn’t understand why this newcomer was doing so much for their community. They started getting very suspicious. The people in the small town thought he was caring too much about the town; they started thinking that he was the bomber that killed all the children in the town. There was so much hate towards this man.
Eventually, he came to have a conversation with a young mentally challenged man. This mentally challenged man admitted that he was the one at fault, for the burning of the school. The challenged man was trying to save a kitten; he didn’t realize that he had burnt down the school. When he revealed this to Zac, Zac protected him, he didn’t tell anyone. But the town was getting more and more suspicious of him. Well to make a long story short. The town had so much hate and wanted to blame somebody they ended up arresting Zac. But, Zac would not tell the mentally challenged man’s secret. He knew that if he did he would be arrested and put away forever. Instead he stayed quiet and took the blame.
Well Monica, the angel, believed in Zac. She went to the jail where Zac was being detained and revealed to him that she was an angel. She told him that God knew where Zac was when those children died. She told him that the days ahead would be very hard, but if he asked God to send an angel to protect him, every day, every moment, every second that he would. She also told him, that if he allowed her she would ask God to allow her to be his angel for the rest of his life to protect him.
As the days passed, they realized that he was not guilty that he did not in fact kill the children. But, when Monica went to the jail to tell him of the good news, he was already gone. She later found out that Zac was not just another man. She saw a shining bright light and there stood Zac, It was God almighty, in the figure of a man, as Zac. Monica started crying and asked for His forgiveness. She asked for forgiveness for not recognizing him. God replied, “If you had known who I was you would have done anything for Me. But look what you did for a stranger? And no greater love hathed no person nor angel, you gave your life for another. Well done, good and faithful servant.” These were the most powerful and inspirational words that I have ever heard. These words from this movie, gave me new hope and a completely different perspective of life. These were events that happened in a fictional TV series, yet, I put trust and faith in these shows and still to this day, I still do. Therefore, I take a closer look at what Miller says about reading and writing. I suppose they can be somewhat dangerous. However it is my thought that if you are able to abstract and assess the texts, even during fragile times of your life, you should be able to make sound decisions, in any event.
For instance, even though I was going through a traumatic event in my life that made me want to watch these episodes. The trigger at the time was a separation; I was going through with my husband at the time which eventually turned into a bitter divorce. This was a very traumatic time in my life, whereby triggered a closer look into my life and who I was. There’s always the need to feel guilt and blame and we go looking out for solutions, sources, for answers, and my source was the Bible and Touch by an Angel, T.V. Series. I guess, I should say luckily it was the bible and not some crazy hateful book. I suppose to a certain degree books do sometimes say who you are and what you are. People seem to find coping systems and books that relate to them in accordance to their current situation and life events. I found comfort and tranquility in positive outlets. I chose to look for healthy ways of coping with my problems.
In conclude, I would argue that texts only affirm one’s own opinion or mood. Surely, there can be influences that can temporary hinder your thoughts when you are going through some kind of difficult dilemma or soul searching time. As was the case, for Eric Harris, Klebold and McCandless, they were all subjects with lost souls, searching for answers. In fact, Miller argues that Eric Harris certainly didn’t accept the idea that anyone was to blame for his actions or that anything could have been done to stop him or Dylan Klebold in going forward with their plan. Anticipating speculation of just this kind, Harris wrote in his diary. (p.421-422). Eric Harris wrote in great detail what, whom, and who not to blame, as if accepting responsibility in its totality, in a twisted turn of events. In these particular circumstances the subjects presumably where going through some type of dilemma or soul searching period and they made choices that resulted in catastrophic tragedies. Therefore I say, for the most part, books do have the ability to determine who we are or who we will become. It is basically an image of what is already there. We have the ability to make choices free from certain kinds of constraints an ability called free will.
Miller, Richard E. “The Dark Night of the Soul.” Ways of Reading: An Anthology for Writers. Eds. David Bartholomae and Anthony Petrosky. 9th ed. Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s. 2011: 418-444. Print.
Touched by an Angel, The Series Finale, (1994-2003). T.V.