Ethan N.

7th-Grade English Portfolio

My Portfolio Reflection

  1. How would you describe your writing at the beginning of the year and how would you describe it now? I would describe my writing at the beginning of the year as quality but nowhere near my writing now. These days I feel that I can accurately describe whatever I need to with relative ease.
  2. What do you consider your writing strengths? Explain. I feel that my strengths are description and detail. Honestly, I think that sometimes I describe just a little too much, but otherwise I think that that's it.
  3. What writing skills do you need and/or want to continue to develop next year? Explain. I need to develop my persistancy, as sometimes I'll touch on an interesting issue and then just leave it here. This is all that I can think of now, all though I know that there probably more than this.
  4. What piece of writing from this year best captures your growth as a writer and thinker? Explain why. I believe that the Walrus and the Carpenter analysis best represents my biggest growth in writing, as I have used all of the tools that I learned of this year to my greatest affect.
  5. What piece of writing from this year are you most proud of? Explain why. I'm most proud of the Holocaust diary. This was a topic that I felt strongly about and I'm glad that I was able to channel that into a piece of writing.

Artifact #1

In the real world, skepticism can be beneficial. This is a message that, with use of copious symbolism, is often hidden in works of literature, predominantly poetry. In The Walrus and the Carpenter, Lewis Carroll emphasizes the theme that people in power are rarely worth trusting by using personification and ethos.

First, Carroll uses personification to make the message available to younger readers. The setting of the poem is upon a beach, where the sun is shining, despite the fact that it is the middle of the night. As the narrator observes; “The sun was shining on the sea,/shining with all his might,/He did his very best to make/The billows smooth and bright.” (1-4) In real life, the sun cannot ‘shine with all his might’, or ‘do his very best’. In a child’s fantasy, however, this event is more plausible. These little touches make it easier for a child to access the message, by presenting it in an odd way. This is a rather common strategy for children’s books, and it can be used to conceal practically anything.

Carroll also uses ethos to inform the reader of what these people in power might do to attract followers and supporters. The Walrus chiefly employs ethos to persuade the oysters that going with him is what they want. As he says, “The time has come”, the Walrus said/“To talk of many things,/ of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--/of cabbages and kings”. (61-64) When he says this, the Walrus is making himself the expert on their conversation’s topic. This makes the oysters think that they want to go with him, when in reality they are just the Walrus’s lunch. The Walrus could have just taken them, but he convinces them to go with him instead. Likewise, politicians and companies cannot just force people to follow them. They employ ethos in their ads and marketing to make people think that following these companies is what they want.

In conclusion, Lewis Carroll sends the general message that people in power generally are not trustworthy. He makes the poem accessible to children and he uses lots of symbolism to connect this message to the real world. When these symbols are stripped away, the remaining message is incredibly important.

Artifact #2

Dear Eva,

My mother woke me early, at about 3 in the morning. My mother never wakes me unless it’s an emergency. She indicated my little travel case, tucked into a corner.

“Take what you need- Toothbrush, toothpaste, notebook, pen, clothes. There’s no space for anything else.” As I began to ask a question, she shushed me. “We’re leaving. Now. I don’t know where, but if I did I’d tell you. Now let’s go.”

I quickly packed the meager possessions that I could take with me and crammed them into the travel case. I then joined Anat and my family at the door. My father pushed open the door, and I saw hundreds of Jews walking down streets with their bags. As I pondered what was happening, my parents jostled me into the street. Leah and her family were walking ahead of us, and Anat, Leah and I joked nervously about what was happening. We were marched into a section of the town with a huge concrete wall surrounding it. The gates were slammed and we were marched to our new, crowded homes. The guards called it ‘Bialystok’. I called it Hell.

We lived with Leah and her family, and the family of a boy named Ambrose. Though we tried to remain optimistic, our morales steadily dampened over the next few weeks, as more and more Jews were marched into the Ghetto. We were crammed in, three families to a home, which was really just a few bunks right next to each other, surrounding a small card table at which we ate. Even these were shabby, as the bunks were made of cheap, thin plywood, and the card table was a useless antique covered in stains. No matter what we did, our ‘house’ still retained its’ disgusting appearance. Leah, Anat and I invented games with a deck of cards that we usually forgot after we finished. We did anything to keep the thoughts of hunger off of us. Ambrose and I became fast friends, though I detested his little brother, whose obnoxious habits irritated us all. Over the weeks it became five families to a home. Then eight. Then ten. The Germans occasionally took some away, but we were still overcrowded. Thievery was common. More than once I would discover that my carefully hidden ration of bread had gone to who knows where, probably in the belly of an immoral teenager, or an especially cruel guard.

I hope we’re leaving soon, because it’s starting to get cramped. Anat, Leah, Ambrose, his little brother and I all share one bunk. There’s not even room to turn over, and I have bruises from where I have fallen out of bed due to someone’s unconscious movements. There is constant hunger, and the water tap breaks down twice a week. I’m lighter than I’ve ever been, and my mother is giving up her lunch rations to Anat and I so that we might not starve. The changes scared us all, me especially. I had been content with our simple life in Germany, following the schedule formulated carefully by my parents, so now, when everything was uncertain, there was nothing familiar to hold on to. Everyone in sight clung fiercely to any scraps of their old lives, whether it was a sweater knitted by their mother, to a worn old cap, to a simple rag that used to be a blanket. Slowly, gradually, like a great, unstoppable machine, the slow sadness and resignation of the ghetto paved over these memories, leaving only misery and depression, drenched in salty, bitter tears. Everyone just put on their masks of optimism and lied it away.

“No, I’m fine. Yes, I’m fine. Why would I not be?” they say. But they’re lying to themselves, and to us all. They are not fine, they are filled with panic, desperately holding on to the life that never will be again. We all try to convince ourselves that we can go back to our old lives, but we all know we can’t. Some don’t know that, and they succumb to depression. They hang themselves, or intentionally get caught trying to ‘escape’. What did we do to these Germans, that they would put us through this?

I was right when I came here.

This is Hell.


Albert Spielman

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