Sample Reader Responses
I enjoyed reading “Strange Tools” by Robert Rodriguez simply because I felt his passion as he voraciously read through all those books. He felt alone, yet invigorated and challenged as he read though new titles and themes. I was touched by the fact that he felt isolated from his parents yet he soon would find his own way of communicating. As Rodriguez himself put it, “If, because of my schooling, I had grown culturally separated from my parents, my education finally had given me ways of speaking and caring about that fact.”
I could thoroughly relate to Rodriguez’s description of his parents attitude toward reading. For his parents reading was for getting through the necessities of life, such as doing ones taxes or reading letters sent by a loved one. However, for Richard reading would become an entirely different animal. “It would open up new worlds,”as the nun that assisted him in his remedial reading class suggested. At the beginning of school Rodriguez explains that there is a poster hanging over the nun’s desk that says, “Open the doors of your minds with books.” Reading was highly encouraged at his school. Reading is the central hub of all academia, as Rodriguez will set out to discover on his own reading adventure. He learns that through reading he will learn multitudes of information that he may otherwise have missed out on.
In the fourth grade Rodriguez embarks on a “grandiose reading program.” He decides to read important books, or rather adult books, as opposed to children’s books. He read such titles as Great Expectations, Gone with the Wind, and Crime and Punishment. After reading a book he decides to jot down what the theme of the book is. For example, when he read Wuthering Heights, he notes “the danger of letting emotions get out of control.” He felt dissatisfied with his assessments of the books he had read. Though, at the time, he was still a mere sixth grader, which may explain why this was what he saw as the importance and value of each book. I see Rodriguez’s efforts of reading all those books and the conclusions he reached regarding their topics as a great achievement for any child of his age.
The benefits that Rodriguez will reap from his reading are best stated by him, “Books were going to make me educated.” There is so much truth to his experience. One such example would be the fact that reading empowered him to be a more confident speaker and writer of English. It brought him more clarity when dealing with American literature and thought. It was incredible when he stated that reading did bring him academic success. However, how humble he was when he explained, “But I was not a good reader. Merely bookish, I lacked a point of view when I read.” Fortunately, he gives himself some credit when he notes that he read to acquire a point of view.
I feel his pain as he ventures out to educate himself. Consider the lonely journey ahead for him without his parents understanding of his quest for knowledge through reading. As the daughter of a bilingual parent who reads Spanish fluently, and English well enough to get by, and a father who unfortunately does not read at all, I am sure that even though his parents might not have understood their son’s literacy journey they supported him as only parents can. I'm certain they took great pride in his perseverance and accomplishments.
copyright -- Cheryl Chaffin, 2005
Living like Annie Dillard
I loved reading Annie Dillard’s essay "Living Like Weasels." In her essay she describes what she believes are several keys to having a successful life through the example of a weasel’s life. Although at first her essay seemed a little confusing, it quickly caught my attention and I couldn’t stop reading. Dillard starts her first paragraph describing the life of a weasel, telling us what it eats, how it hunts, and where it lives. She briefly describes two stories she heard about how weasels can be very stubborn. At this point I didn’t know quite where she was going with all of this but then in the next paragraph she started telling her own experience.
One day while by a pond close to where she lives, she turned suddenly to see an equally startled weasel. Her description here of not only what happened but also how she felt was extremely in depth. She made me feel as if I was experiencing this sudden turn of events personally. As soon as she was describing her run in with the creature she started making observations, more like comparisons between a typical weasel and herself.
In the beginning of paragraph 12 she says “I would like to learn, or remember how to live.” This basically sums up the desire she felt throughout the essay. I believe what she is saying in this sentence is: we are all born with the instincts necessary to live happy. As we grow, we adapt to our society and soon we forget these basic instincts. Dillard can see inside the life of this weasel and can see that as a wild animal it has the right perspective in life to be happy.
In the end of the same paragraph, she writes “And I suspect that for me the way is like the weasel’s: open to time and death painlessly, noticing everything, remembering nothing, choosing the given with a fierce and pointed will.” First of all here she is saying that this is her choice to live this way. This implies that we have choice. We make this decision as to how we will live, whether or not we realize it. Now she describes this choice that she made.
“Open to time and death painlessly” refers to the mindset of the wild animal. The weasel is like she strives to be, completely open to time and death. We might all change our views of these basic elements of life. Time should be enjoyed and shared with the ones we love. We shouldn’t worry so much about how to extend our time here; instead we should work on improving the quality of time that we have. Death is part of life; it is not an evil thing. Death is natural.
“Noticing everything, remembering nothing” is my favorite part of her essay. To notice everything in life, to live every day in the moment, is truly one of the best pieces of advice she has given her readers. To “remember nothing” goes hand in hand with “noticing everything." When she says that I believe she is referring to a human tendency to let our minds slip in time. If a guy starts to think back about that horrible first impression that he made on his mother in-law or that cheesy suit he wore to his prom, all of a sudden he’s beating himself up for things that he did long ago. We are the only species on this planet that will punish ourselves over and over and over for the same thing. To remember nothing is to let the past go, the good and the bad. Living in the “now” will make our lives that much more rich and deserving.
Finally she says “choosing the given with a fierce and pointed will.” This means to me that like the weasel we cannot always pick our surroundings and our personal circumstances. We are not all equal. Some of us are born poor, others rich. Some of us are physically or mentally challenged, others are not. By “choosing the given” we are accepting our lives for what they are without remorse. "Choosing the given with a fierce and pointed will” means not only will I accept my circumstances, I will take them and run with them. I will do the best I can with what I have.
Finally she wraps up her essay referring back to the stubborn weasel that fell prey to an eagle. That weasel instinctively fought off his impending doom to the very end, leaving his skull lodged in the neck of that eagle. If we live our lives right, when the end comes we will leave our mark in this world. I think that if we live our lives to the fullest, we will find that the bitter end really isn’t that bitter after all.
copyright -- Cheryl Chaffin, 2005
Last updated: September 22, 2005
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