English 9, Lesson 85 – How I Can Make My Autobiography Less Disjointed Like Mark Twain’s

This week I started reading Mark Twain’s autobiography in English class.  While reading the book I made two observations.  One, each chapter is no longer than five pages.  The longest chapter (so far) was only three pages long.  Two, the stories in each chapter are very disjointed.  It was if Twain had ideas but did not take the time to sort them out.   In this essay I am going to talk about how I plan to make my autobiography less messy.

In Twain’s autobiography he wrote down memories in chronological order.  But none of them really connected together.  In Public Speaking class we learnt the importance of making one idea flow into another one when we write out speeches.  I think that this is also very important when writing a book.  I also felt that Twain was telling random stories.  While some were important moments of his life, others seemed irrelevant for readers.

When I write my autobiography I will find links between each idea/story so the book flows smoothly and the readers do not feel like they are reading a messy diary.  I will also take time to go through my thoughts and memories before I start writing.  I will only write about big/impactful moments in my life and not every funny or amusing memory I can think of. 

One way to help me do this is to keep a journal.  Humans obviously cannot remember each and every day of our lives.  Our minds would be very cluttered if we could do this.  Keeping a journal will not only give me something to reference back to, but it will also help me remember certain things or details I would have forgotten if I went by my memory alone.

My parents always say that you can learn from other peoples’ mistakes, and that is what I am going to do with my autobiography.  It was very smart of Mr. North to give us a disjointed autobiography to read.  Now all the students taking the 9th Grade English course will not make the same mistakes Twain did.   

English 9, Lesson 80 – Why Was Plunkitt so Open About His Money?


This week in English I finished reading George Washington Plunkitt’s ‘autobiography.’  In the last few chapters, Plunkitt talked about how he gained his wealth, calling his method ‘honest grafting.’  In this essay I am going to talk about why I think he was so open about how he earned his money.

First, let me explain what honest grafting is.  Honest grafting is when a politician jumps on any and every opportunity they find to make money.  In Plunkitt’s case he would buy things and sell them at an increased price.

An example given in the book was about “when an old brick road was being rebuilt, and the old bricks were being auctioned off. Plunkitt told the other bidders that if they did not bid, he would give them a portion of the bricks. So he bought the bricks for about 2 dollars and gave the other bidders their allotted portions. He could then sell the rest of the bricks and make a profit.”[i]

I personally think that Plunkitt was open about his money for three reasons: publicity, to prove he was not a crook, and he wanted to brag.

As a politician, publicity is a big thing.  If you portray yourself as a self-righteous person who is law abiding and caring, the people will love you and vote for you.  Plunkitt did a very good job of doing this.  In my last essay I mentioned how he was very connected to the people and was always helping them out.  By showing everyone how he made his money not only would he be creating talk around his name, he was showing the people how easy it is to make as much money as him.

Plunkitt was a very rich man, and many thought that he used illegal and unethical means to acquire his wealth.  By showing talking about his tactic to make money he showed the people and his enemies that he was an honest man.  Earlier in the book he said that he thought “The politician who steals is worse than thieves. He’s a fool.”

I also think that by showing people how he made money gave him bragging rights.  He explained and showed what he did and in a way, was subtly bragging about how much money he made because of how smart he was.  Before Plunkitt ‘honest grafting’ was not a thing.  In a way, he was considered the ‘creator’ of honest grafting.  If you Google honest grafting Plunkitt’s Wikipedia page is the first result.

As you can see, Plunkitt was quite proud of his new tactic to gain money.  Creating a brand new method of gaining money will definitely create a lot of talk around his name, as well as prove to his enemies that he was a law-abiding citizen.  I also think that a small part of him wanted bragging rights at dinner parties.


[i] Hussain, Sofia. “Plunkitt and His Money.” 26 May 2021. Web. Retrieved 12 August 2021. https://sofiarpc.home.blog/2021/05/26/english-1-lesson-80-plunkitt-and-his-money/

English 9, Lesson 75 – How Did Plunkitt Patriotism Connected to Tammany Winning the Election?

This week in English class I started reading George Washington Plunkitt’s autobiography (more like a biography that was anonymously published, but that is a different matter).  In the chapters that I have read so far it was very obvious that Plunkitt hated the civil service exam.  He thought it extinguished the patriotism of the people.  In this essay I am going to talk about how Plunkitt thought patriotism attributed to Tammany winning the election.

First, let me clarify what Tammany is.  When I first saw the name Tammany I thought it was a person, but it is actually a name of the political party Plunkitt was a part of.  The proper name of this party is Tammany Democrat.

During the time when the book was written (late 1800s) the civil service exam determined if a person would get into the army or not.  The exam was a lot like the exams we students take nowadays.  There would be math word problems and other academic subjects.  Plunkitt claimed he saw many men with undying loyalty to their country take the exam and fail, leading to the death of their patriotism.

When Plunkitt saw this he would find these young men and put them in any available job he thought they would be suitable for.  Plunkitt had a saying: “be at the fire before the firefighters.”  Judging by what the book said, Plunkitt was always looking out for the people.  He got up close and personal with each and every inhabitant of Manhattan.  He knew the name of every man, woman, and child.  He remembered their interests and likes.  If he knew of a person with a good arm he would invite them to join the town’s baseball team.  If he knew of a person who thought they had a good voice, he would be invited to the Glee Club at City Hall. 

In the book he said that he would give the children candy.  “They learnt that Uncle George coming meant candy.”  He claimed that one little girl “held on to her Father’s whiskers until he promised to vote for Plunkitt.”

The people got the impression that Plunkitt was always looking out for them.  This made people think that the Tammany party would bring prosperity to their country, causing them to vote for the party.

As you can see, Plunkitt knew that the people only wanted what was best for their country.  He knew that if he portrayed the hero looking out for the citizens he would get a good reputation for his party and convince the people that voting Tammany would help their country.  After all, who would not want their country to prosper?

English 9, Lesson 70 – What Was Booker T. Washington’s View of the Future?

Yesterday I finished reading Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington.  Throughout the book, Washington made his idea on how he wanted the future to look like was very obvious.  In this essay, I am going to talk about what those ideas were.

Like I said in my last essay, Washington wanted blacks to be considered equals to whites without being judged by the rest of the world.  He recognized that it would be at least 50 years before this would be possible though.  Washington believed that working hard and being kind to others would make you successful life (I agree with this belief whole-heartedly), but he also believed that “something will turn up, if you pray and be patient.”  He justified this belief by using his school in Tuskegee as an example.

In the earlier chapters of the book Washington talked about how poor the school was when it was first started.  They did not have enough to money to make dorms for the students, and the lodgings they could provide were less than ideal.  But somehow the school stayed afloat and became successful.  How?  Washington mentioned how the school always seemed to receive enough money for whatever they needed whenever they needed it. 

One day the school had a speaker come to talk.  Since the school did not have an auditorium, the speaker had to present his speech out in the open.  However, while the speaker was presenting a storm passed through and it started to rain hard.  The school did not have a shelter to provide for him and he had to continue to present his speech in the rain.  Washington noted how the speech was still very good despite being performed in the rain.  Afterwards, the speaker told Washington it would be nice to have an auditorium, or at least a building for speakers to present in.  The next day the school received a generous donation from two women for an auditorium.  Coincidence?  I think not.

As you can see, Washington had a very optimistic outlook for the future for black people.  I really enjoyed reading Up From Slavery because of Washington’s character.  He was a God fearing man who believed in hard work and honesty.  He had a positive idea for the future, but stayed realistic and acknowledged that he would probably not live to see equality between the two races.

English 9, Lesson 65 – Was Booker T. Washington’s Program for Gaining Social Acceptance for Blacks an Elitist Program?

This week’s essay topic is “was Booker T. Washington’s program for gaining social acceptance for blacks an elitist program?”  I am going to assume that the ‘program’ is referring to Washington’s school in Tuskegee.  To answer this question, no, I do not think that Washington’s program was elitist.

Elitist means a society where a person, or a group of people, are superior to others in the society. 

I think it is safe to say that this was not Washington’s intention.  As a black man who had seen slavery in the early years of his life, I doubt he would want to do that to the whites.  He did not want the blacks to be ‘higher’ than the whites, he only want equality.  

I do not think that at any point in time Washington’s program made it seem like he was trying to make blacks superior to the whites.  He only wanted equality between the two races, not superiority.

English 9, Lesson 60 – The Most Memorable Moments from Booker T. Washington’s Autobiography

For the past two weeks I have been reading Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington.  So far, I am really enjoying the autobiography.  In this essay, I am going to talk about a couple moments from the book that I found memorable.

The Umbrella

Washington was called to Tuskegee, Alabama to be a teacher at a college to train teachers.  When he reached the city he realized that there was no schoolhouse for him to teach in and he was forced to make do with old barns or churches.  In the autobiography he described how bad the condition of the buildings were.  When it would rain, the rain would seep through the cracks in the roof.  He recalls how one of the older students would give up his studies to stand next to Washington with an umbrella over his head so he could continue to teach the others without getting wet.

I found this memorable because it showed how much that student admired and respected Washington. 

Buying the Plantation

After a while, the old barns and churches would not be sufficient for his lessons.  He took out a loan and bought an old plantation, which he turned into a school.  He noted how after the lessons were over the students would work on improving the main house themselves.  This was memorable for me because is showed how much the students actually wanted to learn.

Washington also wanted the students to have some experience in agriculture because at that time students would need those skills.  He wanted the students to help clear the trees from the land so they could start a farm.  However, most students were hesitant.  Many thought that doing that work would tarnish his reputation.  Washington started to clear the trees by himself and over time the other students started to help out.

This was very memorable for me because it shows a lot of things.  Firstly, it shows his how he wanted his students to have real life education and not just book education.  It also shows how he taught his students that work is not bad.

Christmas Traditions

In Chapter Nine, the last chapter I read before this essay, Washington describes the Christmas ‘traditions’ of the people of Tuskegee.  Let me say, it is not pretty.

During the last weeks of the year Washington gave the students a break from school so they could celebrate with family.  But the people of the city used these weeks to get drunk and party.  Weapons were used by everyone (and everyone was drunk).  Parents would spend all of their money on alcohol, prompting their children to run around the town asking for Christmas gifts.  Fights broke out, and overall it was violent and unsafe.  Washington was appalled by how the sacred holiday of Christmas was turned into this.

This was very memorable to me because it is so different from how people celebrate Christmas nowadays.  The fact that this actually happened all those years ago is so hard for me to imagine.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are quite a few memorable moments in the book.  Personally, I find it incredible that Washington was able to change his student’s mentality and attitudes after teaching them, not many teachers can do that nowadays.

Thanks for reading!

English 9, Lesson 55 – What Were Washington’s Arguments Against the Slave System?

This week I started reading Up From Slaver by Booker T. Washington.  In the first few chapters of the book Washington talks about his opinions of slavery, mainly his oppositions.  In this essay I am going to talk about Washington’s main three arguments against slavery.

Work Ethic

Washington noticed how the slavery system may seem like it is only benefitting the whites, but in reality it was hurting them as well as the blacks.  When the slaves were freed, the whites did not know how to do manual labour for themselves as labour was viewed as jobs for the ‘lower rank’, the slaves.  They were so used to having people do it for them that they could not run their own farm without the help of their former slaves.  On the other hand, the slaves may know how to work, but they could not to read, write, or do mathematics as they were never taught.  Both parties lacked quality skills that they needed to survive, which is why many slaves started agreements with their former masters so that they could survive. 

Washington also noticed how all slaves worked hard, but for different reasons.  For those who had kind masters, they worked hard to please them.  But those who had cruel masters, they worked hard so they would not get a beating.  He found it wrong that the people’s work ethic was tainted by fear of punishment.

Stealing

As a young child, Washington would see slaves stealing things from their masters.  As he grew older he realized that the system would make it somewhat acceptable to steal, in fact, it was common.  Washington frowned upon stealing, but at that time it was the only way the slaves could survive since they were not given much to survive on.  He felt as if the system was prompting bad habits, such as stealing.

Family Structure

Washington’s final argument was that the system ripped apart the family structure.  In those days, as you probably know, slaves were sold from owner to owner.  Their owners rarely cared about the fact that they may be taking a mother or father away from their family or taking a child from their parents.  This happened to Washington himself.  He never met his biological father, never even knew his name.  He was raised by his mother and older siblings.  He did not have a father figure in his life until after he was freed. 

Unfortunately, this was common for the blacks back then.  Washington, like my family and I, believe that every child should grow up with both of their parents around.   

Conclusion

As you can see, Washington had a pretty good argument against slavery.  He was a man with a good conscious and morals.  He stressed hard work and good work ethic to the students he taught in his early adulthood.  Like he said in Chapter Four “I have had no patience with any school for my race in the South which did not teach its students the dignity of labour.”

English 9, Lesson 50 – How Literature Has Affected Me

Reading has always been a big part of my life.  My parents have always encouraged reading since I was in the womb (this is not a joke).  As a result, I have become a huge bookworm.  Despite the fact that I have probably read over a hundred books, none of them have ever affected me in too big of a way, except one book.

Six years ago, when I was in 2nd Grade, I was given a book to read for my English class.  It was called A Doctor Like Papa by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock.  The book follows Margaret, a young girl who wants to study medicine to be a doctor like her father.  Her mother discourages this because ‘doctoring’s no kind of life for a woman.”  Spoiler alert: her mother eventually relents and allows Margaret to study medicine and she becomes a doctor when she is an adult.  The book is set during the last few years of World War 1.

If I am being honest, I do not remember much of the book anymore since I have not read it in over three years, but I do remember the two things that really affected me.

This book was meant for very young children and was only 100 pages, making it easy for me to finish the book in one sitting.  In the book a virus breaks out in Margaret’s village.  Margaret and her younger brother are sent away to their aunt’s house to live until the virus passes.  But while traveling the two siblings get lost and stumble upon a house with a family who was sick with the virus.  Margaret uses her limited knowledge in medicine and tries to help the family members.  She is only able to save one member, a young girl who is slightly younger than her.  In the book the young girl’s parents and baby brother were taken by the virus. 

Even as a seven year old, I would fully get into the books I read and thinking about suddenly losing my parents struck me hard.  I had always imagined that death only happened to the elderly, but this book made me realize that it can happen at any time.  Up until that point I had not given death much thought.  Why would I?  A seven year old is more concerned about when their next playdate will be, not when their last breath would be.

This book made me realize that death is not just talk, it can actually happen and it does happen in real life.

The second thing that affected me happened a couple years after my first read of the book.  Because of the interesting plot and its short length, A Doctor Like Papa became one of my favourite books to reread when I got bored.

One day, when I was nine or ten, I decided to reread the book and while reading a realization hit me.  Margaret was just like me!  She had a dream (she wanted to be doctor) and she never gave up on it, even when her mother would discourage it.  It reminded me of what my Dad would always tell me “follow your passion and ignore what others say.”  This really made me believe in what my Dad said even more. 

After all, if someone as brave and headstrong as Margaret could get what she wanted just by working for it and sticking to her dream, why can’t I?

As you can see, this book really affected me at a young age, which is saying a lot considering books do not usually affect me too much.  That book will always be one of my favorites and will always be a reread for rainy days.

English 9, Lesson 45 – How Helen Keller Escaped Her Metaphorical Prison

This week I have started reading The Story of My Life by Helen Keller. In the book, Helen calls her blindness and deafness a ‘dark prison.’ It was not until Ms. Annie Sullivan, Helen’s teacher, came that she was finally seeing light in her prison.

If you do not know the story of Helen Keller, she was a woman who had lost her sight and hearing at a young age due to an illness she contracted as a baby. Her teacher, Ms. Sullivan, arrived when she was five years old and taught her everything a seeing and hearing child would learn.

One of the first things Ms. Sullivan taught Helen was that everything had a name. Ms. Sullivan put Helen’s hand under a water spout and spelt out the word ‘W-A-T-E-R’ into her hand. Immediately, Helen realized that this cold, liquid thing that was in her hand was called ‘water.’ Ms. Sullivan continued to do this with toys, chairs, anything the two of them could find. This was the first escape from Helen’s prison.

After a while, Helen had learned every name of every piece of furniture and dish in the house. She understood the meanings of simple words, but not abstract words. One day, Ms. Sullivan spelled ‘T-H-I-N-K’ on Helen’s forehead. This obviously puzzled Helen, but being the ambitious and determined child she was, she tried to figure out the meaning of ‘think.’ Finally she realized that ‘think’ is the little voice in your head that tells you what to do.

Ms. Sullivan taught Helen how to sign, read with her fingers, and talk. When Helen was young, braille was not yet invented. The blind would read by dragging their fingers over raised letters on a piece of cardboard, which is what Helen would do to read with Ms. Sullivan’s help.

Ms. Sullivan was truly the key to unlock Helen’s dark prison. Without her help who knows what would have happened to Helen. But Helen’s success is not solely because of Ms. Sullivan. She was a stubborn young girl with the desire to learn about the world, all she needed was someone to be patient and teach her, and that is exactly what Ms. Sullivan did.

Thanks for reading!

English 9, Lesson 40 – Which is More Important When Writing Dialogue from Memory: Accuracy, Succinctness or Liveliness?

When writing autobiographies, there is no doubt in my mind that the authors have to write all of their dialogue from memory.  But when they are doing this there will, of course, be some gaps or inaccurate parts.  When writing dialogue from memory, is accuracy the main focus, or should succinctness and liveliness be the main focus?

Before getting into the essay, if you do not know what succinctness means do not worry, I did not know what it meant until I had to write this essay.  Succinctness, or concision, means clear and precise expression in a few words.  Now back to the essay.

Like many things, there is no general answer for this answer.  In some books, like manuals, you would want accuracy and succinctness.  But in an autobiography or novel, you would want liveliness.  It is no fun to read a long and boring paragraph full of dialogue.  Liveliness is what keeps the reader engaged and interested. 

I am not saying accuracy and succinctness are not important, in non-fiction books they are what you are looking for. But in autobiographies, liveliness should be the main focus when writing dialogue.

Thanks for reading!