Reflecting on Pants

            In the beginning of this semester, I wrote a blog post about an epigraph in our course syllabus. The epigraph was a screenshot of a tweet; a picture of pants simply entitled “Suspicious pants.” My original post about the pants was all about perception and how by digging deeper into something, one can always bring out more information. However, not everybody will notice the same things that other people notice. When I looked at the pants, I saw a face looking back at me, but other people might just see pants; just as Percival Everett says, “It’s incredible that a sentence is ever understood”. This is a quote that was on the whiteboard on the first day of classes. I will be using the epigraph of the pants in this essay as well, for it explains the way that my writing developed throughout the semester.

            The class work really began when we read The Bacchae, an old Greek play by the playwright Euripides. I treated this book exactly how I would treat any book in the beginning of the semester. I read it one time through and went to class as if that was enough to prepare me for a discussion. During the discussion, I interjected with maybe one idea. Obviously, since I only read it through once, mostly due to procrastination and time limits, most of the class discussion was handled by other students in the class. After The Bacchae, we went on to read our first work from Percival Everett, Frenzy. During this reading, I am not proud to say it, or rather write it, but I handled it the same way I handled The Bacchae; I read it one time through and acted like that was enough for me to have an in depth discussion about the novel. Again, I was wrong, because I only interjected with one or two minor ideas while the rest of the class carried the discussion. If this book was the pants tweet, it would be as if I glanced at the picture for maybe a few seconds, and then decided I was ready for a discussion without even seeing a face. After this, I decided to get a little bit more serious about how I read things for class.

After Frenzy, we moved onto Percival Everett’s novel, I am Not Sidney Poitier. This time, I made sure that I knew what was going on in the book. As I read through the novel, I left notes in the pages. Whenever I found something that seems interesting, confusing, or important to the plot, I left a post it note right next to the line. This way, during the group discussions, I would have more to say. For example, when Not Sidney gets a girlfriend who has much lighter skin than him, and she wants him to meet his parents, I left a note that said, “He’s darker than her, will meeting the parents be uncomfortable?”. This way, if I need to write anything about any race themes in the book, I know where to look. I also set myself up a question, so I can know what to look for in the following chapter. In addition, I will have something to contribute towards the discussion. The more I say, the more I understand, and then the more I understand, the more I learn. Halfway through reading this, I remembered the pants; a regular pair of pants hung on a chair that if you keep looking at, becomes a face. The same goes for the novel. There are certain sections of the novel that I found very confusing, like the ending, or when he fesmerizes people. I would reread any confusing parts like those so I can make better sense of them. If I can see a face by looking at pants long enough, I can find information by rereading a confusing text. Maybe, I can even bring up a point in the discussion that nobody else found. Sadly, I didn’t find anything that anyone else didn’t find, but it still made me more prepared for the class discussion.

            Because both my writing and my awareness of the text improved after leaving notes in the book, I decided to keep doing it. When we moved onto the next book, re: f (gesture), right off the bat I would start leaving notes. Because this book is a collection of poems, I had enough time to read and reread all of them before class. Because I reread it, I had a better understanding of what the poems are about, and I get to notice any connections that I didn’t notice the first time around. For example, the middle section of re: f (gesture) is entitled (Body). This section goes through a celebration of life in nineteen poems, so, of course, these poems relate to each other. However, it is not too apparent the first time reading them. Originally, it just seems like nineteen poems about nineteen different body parts. After reading it the second time though, I realized that it sounds like he’s telling a story through the poems; a sort of celebration of life. I explained this in one of my blog posts; Celebrating Life. In my first five blog posts, except the collaborative one, I got around an 82 or 83 for a grade. Now thanks to a pair of suspicious looking pants on a chair, I got an 86. After looking at the pants long enough and coming up with ideas, I had a better understanding of what that tweet was about, because it began to look more and more like a suspicious face. Similarly, the more I focused on (Body) by rereading and leaving notes, the more information I began to understand, the better my grade became in the end. In the blog posts continuing after this one, I kept my idea of really reading a text and understanding it before writing anything about it. So, after post six, all of my blog posts have improved in quality, as represented by the slightly higher grades I have been getting for them.

            This is something that I need to hold onto in the future. Moving forwards, I definitely need to really focus on what I read in order to fully understand it. Tactics like rereading a text and leaving notes in the pages boosted my grade before, and with enough determination, it will continue to do so. I wish I can say that after seeing my grade improve with my sixth blog post, that I strived for more; that I felt rewarded and decided to shoot for an even higher grade, but sadly that is not entirely true. If it were, I would have defined whatever words we were assigned to define in The Bedford Glossary, I would have done the chapter readings from Literary Analysis, and I would have read the assigned pages for Reflective Writing. However, I am a student that will accept a mid-eighties grade, so I did not, and I know that it is a bad mentality to have, so starting next semester, I will definitely fix that. It just takes a while to shift your mentality; I have to keep practicing until it becomes natural to want those high nineties grades, and self-discipline is key. However, if I continue to not read any of those sources, it becomes clear that I did not learn a full lesson from the pants. So, while I am writing this, I still have not read any of those, but by the time I finish editing this paper, I will definitely read Reflective Writing, because I know that it will help me in writing this paper. I need to look long-term into my future too. I am studying English and adolescent education, so most likely, hopefully, I will become some sort of English teacher. In order for me to achieve my goals, I need to always remember the pants. Keep digging into what I need to do, and I will learn more. Keep digging into my classes, my exams, my papers, my practicums, and eventually, I will get to where I need to go. Then I can spread what I have learned to others. I will get students, and during the first week of class, they’re going to be staring up at a tweet of a pair of pants entitled, “Suspicious Pants.”

Identity Crisis

            Your name is your identity, it’s who you are. Names are important, and everybody has at least one. Actually, most people have at least three names, you get a first, middle, and a last name; heck, some people get two last names. My brother is special though, he only has two names; I mean, what kind of person doesn’t have a middle name? Anyway, Percival Everett seems to think names are important too. In his book, re: f(gesture), he brings up the importance of names twice. In the poem F, he writes “F is for Frankenstein, who did not name his baby. Always name offspring”. In the poem N¸ he repeats the line, “Always name offspring”. It appears that Everett finds names important. So, when Everett published a novel in 2009 and decided to name his character Not Sidney Poitier, there is a level of importance to it.

            Throughout Everett’s novel I am Not Sidney Poitier, Not Sidney is repeatedly asked about his name. Whenever he tells somebody that his name is Not Sidney, they obviously become confused, as would you if someone said their name but put “not” before it. Because of his strange name, he was sometimes bullied in school. Not Sidney decides to drop out of high school because he’s rich and he can, and he then thinks he’s ready to just drive somewhere and start a new life. He says, “I was a fighter of windmills. I was a chaser of whales. I was Not Sidney Poitier”. This is the point in his life where he decides that he wants his name to mean something. He then leaves home and is immediately arrested for being black. When he gets arrested, he is chained to another inmate who seems aggressive and rude. When Not Sidney is asked what his name is, he simply replies “Poitier”, because this will minimalize confusion, and maybe this time he won’t get punched. Upon his return from jail, he enrolls in college. He thinks that with a degree, he really can make his name mean something. He goes to see one of his professors, who Everett named Percival Everett, and Everett tells him “…you’re Not Sidney Poitier and also not Sidney Poitier, but in a strange way you are Sidney Poitier as much as you’re anyone”. As confusing as this may seem around the halfway point of the book, it makes sense in the end. In the final pages of the novel, he shows up at LAX airport, and there are men holding signs that read “Sidney Poitier”, so he goes with them. He is put in a private car and ends up at a film festival where he assumes the place of Sidney Poitier and receives an award. So, Not Sidney Poitier lived his whole life being compared or mistaken for Sidney Poitier to the point that he becomes Sidney Poitier in a way.

            It is strange to think of yourself as someone you’re not. For example, I go by two names. My actual name is Anthony, and whenever I meet somebody, I introduce myself as Anthony. When I get to know somebody enough, they begin to call me by a nickname that my family gave me when I was an infant, Nino. So, throughout my whole life, up until high school I went by Anthony in school, and Nino at home. When I got to high school, my entire personality changed completely. I basically became a whole different person. Around the same time, my friends began calling me Nino too. Now my high school is small, so everybody knows each other. This means that now everybody knows I go by Nino. I was being called Nino in school and at home, and the only people who called me Anthony were teachers, meaning in a way I became Nino. However, this changed again when I went to college. Everybody started calling me Anthony again, so I started introducing myself as Anthony again. Whenever I got close friends though, they would start calling me Nino. This apparently created a problem in my mind that I didn’t realize was there until I solved the problem earlier this semester, a whole year later. When I meet people, and I assume everybody can relate to this, I don’t show them my full self. I become very reserved and don’t let them see who I am until I begin to see who they are. So, I introduce myself as Anthony and they meet only a part of me. After hanging put with that person maybe two or three times, I start to relax around them. Usually, that’s the same time that they would start calling me Nino. So, Anthony was a partial version of me, whereas Nino was all of me. At some point in this semester, I realized that by going by two names, I began to break apart my personality from one person into two. So, at the end of I am Not Sidney Poitier, when he says “I have learned that my name is not my name. It seems that you all know me and nothing could be further from the truth…I AM NOT MYSELF TODAY”, I understand what he means. It doesn’t matter what your name is, or what you go by, who you are is internal. Your name is not your identity. Your name is not who you are.

Structured Disorganization

Order, organization, clarity, a system; these are all expected when reading something. Any story has a story line, and whether the author decides to tell it straight through, or jump around in time, as long as it’s being told clearly, the story’s order remains the same in the end. In something like a dictionary, it has organization; usually alphabetically. The same goes for the fourth edition of The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms by Ross Murfin and Supryia M. Ray; it is structured alphabetically, but it really shouldn’t be.

If there is a glossary full of literary terms, it should be organized in a certain way. It should categorize the words based off of how they are used. For example, “archetypal criticism” should be placed near “new criticism”, because they are both types of criticism. However, because Murfin and Supryia’s glossary is in alphabetical order, these two terms are 262 pages apart. If somebody has to write a paper on different forms of criticism, they would have to flip back and forth between countless pages just to find all of them. “New criticism” is on page 286, “applied criticism” is on page twenty-three, and that page just tells you to go find “practical criticism”, but of course it doesn’t let you know that it’s on page 347. If the book was organized by category, they would all be next to each other. Another reason why using alphabetical order to organize this glossary is bad is because of the same reason that nobody likes looking up “practical criticism”; it just tells you to look up a different word. For example, the term “apologue” has a definition on page 22, and it just says, “see fable”. “Fable is on page 139, but it’s not like the book tells you that. You have to flip around pages for a minute before finally finding it. So, it seems that alphabetically is not always the best way to organize something.

In Percival Everett’s collection of poems, re: f(gesture), the first section is entitled (Zulus). The poems under this section are each represented by a different letter of the alphabet, so of course, they’re in alphabetical order. Although they’re technically are organized, most of these poems do not actually need to be in any special order, because they don’t relate. Some of them though, should be next to each other. In my last blog post, I mentioned that poems F and K relate to each other, sharing themes of both the trojan war, and the children of Leda, the queen of Sparta. So, in my mind, K should follow immediately after F. By keeping these poems five pages apart, it is likely that a reader will simply miss any sort of connections they have, just as I did the first time I read (Zulus). Other than those two poems, none of the other poems appear to relate to each other, so once again, it seems that alphabetically is not always the best way to organize something. His next set of poems is entitled (Body). Again, these poems have a structure, but this time it is not alphabetically. There is no visible structure at least, and since the poems in (Zulus) didn’t connect, one would assume that these don’t either. However, after reading them, it becomes clear that they do. I explained their connections in my previous blog post, “Celebrating Life”. The entire collection of poems is Percival Everett’s idea of celebrating life. He begins with attraction, moves onto passion, and ends it with birth. So, this in his first section, (Zulus), he organizes it alphabetically, although the order doesn’t actually matter. In (Body), he makes it look like it has no structure, but there actually is, and he uses the order to tell a story. The third and final section in re: f(gesture), entitled (Logic), is organized numerically. 1 is all about a single object. No object in specific, maybe not even an object, but still a singular thing. 2 is about X, the variable. 3 is about remembering someone, but also remembering if they even exist. So far, they do not relate to each other specifically, and only 1 related to its title. Reading on to 4 and 5, once again, we see that these poems do not have to be in any specific order either. This brings us to the final poem in the collection, 6.

“Seven men

can be obliterated,

burned or hanged

or drowned in a lake

and forgotten.

Men gone, but

not seven.

Seven men lost,

but not seven.

Seven is, will be.

All men will die

but not seven.”

            To start off, this poem is entitled 6, but it’s all about the number seven. Everett is making the point that seven men can be completely wiped off the face of the planet, yet seven never changes. Sure, men died, but it was still seven of them. The men can disappear, but the fact that it was seven of them never will. So not only is the poem 6 all about seven, it’s about how it doesn’t matter what happens to something, what it is will never change. I see this as a way of saying that structure is not actually important. Whether something is organized alphabetically, numerically, or completely random, their meaning won’t change, and any of the that connected before will still connect in a different order. Maybe that’s why he structured (Zulus) alphabetically but made the two poems that connected to each other be 5 pages apart. So, maybe structure doesn’t matter.

Random Intertextuality

Percival Everett seems to keep the readers guessing in his writing. In the beginning of English 203, we read the old Greek play The Bacchae, and after that we went straight into Frenzy; a novel by Percival Everett retelling The Bacchae. Percival Everett wrote Frenzy in 1997. In 2006, he wrote a series of free verse poems entitled re: f(gesture). Throughout the poems under the first section; (Zulus), Everett goes through every letter of the alphabet in a seemingly meaningless way. After all, Everett does seem to occasionally put things in a story that are, or rather seem, to have no meaning. In some of the poems in that section, Everett brings up Greek mythology. He begins by bringing up Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle in the poem A. He brings Plato up again in C, and the poem H is for Hades. However he also brings up Jesus in poems C and L. So, it seems that none of these poems, even the ones with common themes, actually relate to each other. Under closer examination though, it becomes apparent that they do.

After taking another look a poems F and K, a connection of family begins to form, beginning with F. “F is for the feathered dust of twins. Leda never felt a thing…”.  According to Greek mythology, Leda, the wife of Spartan king, Tyndareus, birthed twins Castor and Pollux. However, Castor was the mortal son of Tyndareus, and Pollux was a son of Zeus. As for the part of Leda not feeling anything, they were hatched? “…penetrated by the force majeure, a trick in the air. F is for fuck”. Force Majeure is french for an irresistible greater force. Zeus transformed himself into a swan and through a trick and his godly powers, seduced and Leda. and produced an egg. “Finis coronat opus”; this is Latin for ‘The ends justify the means’. Castor and Pollux joined the famous Greek ship “Argo” for a journey, during which Pollux beat King Amycus, the king of the Bebryces, in a boxing match. After the journey, they went to Iolcus to kill the power hungry king, Pelias. For Zeus, having a son who went on to do these great things, the ends really did justify the means…I guess.

The relating poem to F would be K. “K is for kiss and what a kiss from the beautiful twin”. When Zeus and Leda had their encounter, Castor and Pollux were not the only results. Although the myth is disputed, it seems that Castor and Clytemnestra, Helen’s sister, were hatched from one egg, the mortal egg. Meanwhile there was a second egg, one of Zeus’ children which contained Pollux and Helen. Therefore, Helen must be the beautiful twin.  In fact, the next line is “Sweet Helen, make me immortal…”, ignoring any information about that quote, it would seem like another connection to the legend of Castor and Pollux. When Castor was struck by a spear, Zeus offered Pollux the choice of immortality on Olympus, or Sharing his immortality with his brother. Of course, he chose so split it. However, that quote is both in the poem K, and a line taken from Doctor Faustus, an Elizabethan tragedy play by Christopher Marlowe based in Germany. Again, Percival Everett is using random intertextuality; however, the effect remains the same; K is a poem about the Trojan war. When Paris, a prince of Troy, stole Helen from Sparta, with “loaded warmth about the heart, an awful weight and a bad idea,” he caused the launch of a thousand ships, all headed to destroy Troy. Taking Helen really was a bad idea, “Hades would agree”. After all, “K is for killing…K is for Kiss”. 

So some poems in (Zulus) do relate to each other, but some do not at all. Again, Percival Everett keeps the readers guessing. Everett tends to randomly use intertextuality in his writing. Besides retelling The Bacchae, using a part of Homer’s Iliad in his poems, and also randomly inserting a quote about a German doctor, he does it even more. In his novel I am Not Sidney Poitier, he takes the plot of three Sidney Poitier movies, defiant ones, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and lilies in the field, and makes his character, Not Sidney Poitier, go through the same situations. Not to mention, he repeatedly dreams that he is in the middle of other movies starring Sidney Poitier, including Buck the Preacher and Band of Angels. Everett enjoys letting other people’s work influence his own, but he does it in a strange way where sometimes it does not even seem intentional. Percival Everett himself wrote himself into I am Not Sidney Poitier as the professor of the philosophy of nonsense. During his lectures, nothing he said really made sense; Not Sidney described it as “utter gibberish”. When he later confronts Professor Everett and asks him to make sense of the notes, Everett tells him that he’s a fraud. When Not Sidney asks if it’s meaningless, and if he’s actually saying something, Everett replies with, “I  didn’t say that…my mouth was moving and I was making sounds”. So, he is technically saying something, and he does not say it’s meaningless, but he does call it fake. Maybe Percival Everett just wants people to understand his writings differently based on how much they know of older texts and movies. After all, he does say “It’s incredible that a sentence is ever understood.”


            Some people say they learned everything they know in one class. Others say they didn’t learn anything from that same class. In my case, I learned how to talk because of one class, and that class is English 203, taught by Beth McCoy. Within the first week, you will hear the word “unpack” at least twenty times. According to, unpack means, “open and remove the contents of (a suitcase, bag, or package)”. This is exactly what professor McCoy wants, except not from a bag. She really wants an idea to be unpacked. If something is said in class, open and remove the contents of that statement.

For example, if I sat in class and said, “He uses blazon to in his writing.”, only a few people in the class might know what I am trying to say. The professor would then ask me to unpack; so, I would have to take my statement, and dissect its contents. Let’s start with “He”. When I said “he”, who am I talking about? The answer, although I didn’t say it, is Percival Everett. Next, I said that he uses blazon. Well, what is blazon? Blazon, according to the poetry foundation website, is “French for ‘coat-of-arms’ or ‘shield’”. However, this is not the right definition of what I was trying to say. The definition of blazon that I wanted is the literary definition, which is described as, “catalogues the physical attributes of a subject, usually female”. Lastly, I said that he uses this in his writing. Percival Everett is a well-known author with many, many written and published pieces of work. I know that I am talking about Everett’s collection of poems, re: f (gesture), specifically, the poems under the title, “(body)”. However, only the people who have read that would know what I am trying to say, and even then, it is vague. So, when something needs to be unpacked, those are the steps to get there. Take every part of what is said and explain everything about it so everybody in class knows the context, the point being made, and the new information that comes from the point being made. My original statement, “He uses blazon to in his writing”, would turn into “Percival Everett uses the literary strategy of blazon in his writing of (body), in re: f (gesture)”. This statement is unpacked already because it has context, a source, and it is clear what I am talking about.

            After learning how to properly unpack, I didn’t think I would use it too much outside of the field of education. I started to unpack my claims in essays more, and even in presentations. However, I soon learned that unpacking can be used in anything. I have always been a little bit of a shy talker, and in the past couple years, I started getting social anxiety, so talking to people was always a struggle. Not only did I not say clearly what I was trying to say when I talked to people, but when they asked what I was trying to say, I would get anxious and change the subject, or just stop talking in whole. However, after taking this English 203 class and constantly practicing how to unpack everything I said, my brain started to work differently. I would begin to unpack things in my mind as I was saying it. For a couple months, I began to talk exactly how I thought. I would begin a sentence, then explain a part of it, go pack to provide context, then finish my thought. This would end up leaving the listener confused. I would give them all of the right information, but I would jumble the order so much that I might as well not have unpacked it at all. I kept going to class though, and I would continue unpacking more and more. Eventually, it began to affect how I talk again. This time though, I finally began to start unpacking things in the right order. I stopped actively thinking about how I would go about unpacking my conversations and let my mind do it on its own as I talked. After all the practice and time, I guess it started to work. As of about a month ago, I am able to have a conversation without being super vague or really confusing.

            This post is both a mandatory blog post, and a thank you letter to Professor McCoy. She did it unknowingly, just teaching us how to improve our writing and thoughts on paper. however, through a lot of practice and repetition, it eventually became a part of me. Now I know how to hold a conversation, and it helped my get very far along in the process of beating my social anxiety. Although it is not gone completely, at least now I know how to properly talk to somebody, so future group work won’t be a nightmare.

Celebrating Life

Percival Everett’s “Body” intervenes in the blazon form. More specifically, the poems may be understood as celebrating every aspect of life, from creation, to birth, to reproduction, and repeating. What Percival Everett is doing is taking various body parts and making poems out of them. All of these body parts are female, which makes sense because according to the poetry foundation website, blazon is defined as a catalog of “the physical attributes of a subject, usually female”. Everett uses the blazon form to tell the story of life.

            Everett begins his celebration of life in the beginning, the point of creation. Because of this, he starts his poems with the act of sex. The poems begin with the hyoid bone, the bone in the neck that is also the base of the tongue. This is what controls a kiss. Then, the sternum. This is the bone that protects the heart. The heart is where all of the love comes from, and where some people make certain decisions. Then comes the orbicularis palpebrarum, the muscle that controls the eye lid. Everett uses this to say, “Send us a wink”, as if calling somebody over in a sexual manner. Then the tongue; obviously, this is used for the intimate act of kissing. After this comes the palmar fascia. This is the muscle that controls the squeezing of a hand, making it important to grab things, shake a hand, or be gentle during any sexual activity. After this comes the obturator internus. This is one of the bones in the pelvis that control the rotating of a hip. In order to initiate any sexual intercourse, the hips must open up, and this uses the obturator internus. Next comes the fissure of Silvius. This is a fissure in the brain that separates the frontal and temporal lobes form the insular cortex. The frontal lobe is in charge of movements, and the temporal lobe controls audio, visual, and memory functions. The insular cortex regulates emotions. Everett brings up the fissure of Sylvius in a way to show emotion. He says this is the spot “where the crying starts, where the crying stops”. I saw this as the shift in the poems. This is where it goes into part two of the celebration of life.

            At this point in the poems, Everett is no longer celebrating the sexual part of life, he is in the waiting period. The next poem is the nasal fossae. Everett uses this poem to say, “I smell your sex…filling my upper and central septum”. The celebration of sex is over, and now they are lying in bed together. The next poem is titled “Sclerotic”, for the sclera. This is a part of the eye. The poem uses the sclera to describe looking at whatever woman these poems are about; looking at her with love. Then comes the labyrinth. Everett uses this poem to bring up the temporal and petrous bones, two main bones in the structure of a skull. Everett says in this, “Semicircular canals mock incompleteness. This is the first sign that the woman in the poems is pregnant. Next comes the corpora cavernosa. This is a mass of tissue that can be found in the clitoris. Everett uses this poem to say, “Fibers, fibrils, elongated cells, bands, chords, trabeculae, muscles, arteries, nerves, fibers”. It sounds like something biological is being built. Next is the larynx.\, which Everett uses to say, “it whispers, it calls, it cries, it makes those sounds”. Although Everett is still describing the same woman as the rest of the poems, she is now making theses calls and cries for the baby. The fact that there is a baby coming is confirmed by the next poem; the dura mater. This is a membrane that is both part of the skull, and a part of the brain and spinal cord too. Now, there are real signs of a baby being created. The next chapter is entitled, “The Weight of the Encephalon”. The encephalon is really just a fancy term for the brain, so now it is confirmed that the poems are talking about a baby, because it went from a developing brain stem to a full brain, or encephalon. Just for reinforced confirmation, the next poem is the fissure of Rolando. This separates the frontal lobe from the parietal lobe, the lobe that controls movement from the lobe that controls touch and basic feeling instincts. These are two parts of the brain that take little development, they are there for babies because they are a part of human survival instincts. The next poem is actually a male body part, the tunica vaginalis. Although it does sound like a female body part, this is actually a pouch of membrane that covers the testes. I believe this is where Everett reflects on how he made a baby. This brings us to the third and final part of Everett’s celebration of life.

            The last part of Everett’s celebration of life, is birth. The first poem in this third part is the labia majora. This is the outer skin over a vagina, which expands when a baby is on the way. Next is the epigastric. This is the upper area of the abdomen, and Everett describes, “…filled with sweet air, supplying all that lies in the cavity…expanding with the motion of life”. Obviously, the brain from three poems ago turned into a full baby, and this is how the body of poems ends. Everett does not celebrate life the same way other people do, from start to finish. Everett begins the celebration before birth, at conception. Then comes the process of building and growing while still not being born. Lastly, the celebration would end with a baby’s birth. Everett decides to show this celebration not through a regular story, but through a series of blazon poems listing one body part at a time.

America’s Closet

            In America, one likes to think that it is truly the land of equal opportunity for all, but that just is not true. Throughout American history, there is clearly visible racism that is put in place to keep a certain race down. Percival Everett is a black author, and his books usually will have a theme of race. In his novel; I am Not Sidney Poitier, Everett writes about both the secret racism, and the reality of equal opportunity.

            In January of 1863, the emancipation proclamation was signed, marking the end of slavery in the united states. For over one hundred years after that, racism and segregation were a major theme in America. People of color would not be allowed to use the same facilities as white people, and society made sure whites remained superior to any other race. In 1896, this was even implemented within America’s constitution. In the famous case of Plessy v Ferguson, the supreme court ruled that segregation did not go against the fourteenth amendment, because as long as the sperate facilities that people of color had to use were considered equal to the ones of whites only, it is still equal rights to all citizens. From this case arose the separate but equal doctrine, legally allowing segregation. After this, it was not until 1964 when the civil rights act was signed, that segregation was outlawed. Even after that, the racism did not stop. Jim Crow laws were put in place to stop people of color from voting. There would be things like literacy tests and grandfather clauses, meaning if you cannot read, and if your grandfather did not vote, you can not vote either. Because segregation meant that black people had worse education, and their grandparents were slaves, these two laws alone kept the black vote to a minimum. Finally, in 1968, the fair housing act was passed, giving black people the right to vote, and the right of equal opportunity in employment and residency. After this, America had equality for all, on paper.

            Everett’s novel was published in 2009. At this point, 40 years have passed since the official end of the civil rights movement, so America should have gotten rid of racism, right? Wrong. There are still remnants of racism flowing through America, specifically in the south. Percival Everett notices this and decides to give it representation in his book. In chapter two, Not Sidney decides he reached the point in his life where he must go out on his own, explore the country, and start a new life. As he leaves Atlanta and continues through Georgia, he gets stopped by a police officer and arrested. When he asked why he is being detained, the officer tells him it is because he is black, although he says it in a much more vulgar way (Everett, 48). While being transported around in the prison bus, teenagers would drive alongside them and yell vulgar things, like “darkie” and “slave” at him (Everett, 52). On top of that, when the prison bus crashes and Not Sidney tries to escape, he is shackled to a racist man who is verbally abusing him throughout their whole escape. When he makes it back home from this horrible experience, he decides he wants to go to college.

            Equal opportunity is supposed to be one of America’s main attractions. In the lake 1800’s and early 1900’s, many people immigrated to America from Europe because anybody can make money in America, it is the land of opportunities. Nowadays, it is not so. In order to get a decent paying job, one needs a college degree. Without going to college, it would be very difficult to get a job, much less earn enough to make a living. Another way opportunity is not equal is due to money. A person from a wealthy family can pay their way into a program, event, or position, while someone from a poorer family is unable to do so. Everett puts this into his novel as well. Not Sidney says, “Ms. Feet, I am a high school dropout. I want to go to college, and I’m willing to buy my way in” (Everett, 83). Although Not Sidney never finished high school, because he has a fortune, he is able to pay a lot of money to steal an opportunity like college. Not Sidney does get in, and it is Morehead’s all black college.

            While pursuing his higher education, Not Sidney finds himself a girlfriend, Maggie Larkin. She invites him over her house to meet her parents for thanksgiving, and Not Sidney agrees to go. Even though Maggie is a black girl, and so are her parents, Everett still finds a way to make them act racist toward Not Sidney. Not Sidney is described as having a dark completion, while Maggie and her family are lighter skinned. This turns into another issue of race.  While in the house’s guest room, Not Sidney can hear the conversations that Maggie’s parents are having. They are discussing how dark Not Sidney is. They are mostly discussing his strange name, as they are trying to figure out who he is, but they keep mentioning how dark he is. Later, Not Sidney hears them talking again, and this time they know he is rich. They talk about how he should stay with their daughter because he is rich, but, “He’s so black…our little girl. She’s so fair” (Everett, 145). Although the Larkin family is also black, Not Sidney is dark, and the only reason they let him date their daughter is because he is rich.

            Percival Everett thoroughly explores racism in his novel. He starts with regular racism, then gradually moves to deeper, more complex racism. Obviously, Everett puts this theme in his story because he is a person of color as well, and he wants people who are not of color to understand what they go through in an average life. Racism is still hidden in America, and through this novel, Everett draws on the truth of it to show his readers how the world is.

Every Person for Themselves

            A natural part of everyone’s lives, something we all have to do one point or another, is be on our own and take care of ourselves. For me, it started when I went to college. I used to go home, and there would be dinner ready for me because my mother was there to take care of me. If I would ever get into an argument in school, I would have friends around me to back me up if necessary. Here in college though, I do not know anybody. I have to make sure I go and get my own food every day. I have to go to the store and get my own groceries if I need them. I have accustomed myself to this, and now I take full care of myself, making sure that if I ever need anything, I go out and get it myself; because I cannot depend on somebody else to help me.

            In Percival Everett’s I Am Not Sidney Poitier, the protagonist, Not Sidney, begins his life with less help than most. There is no mention to who his father is, and his mother died only a few years after his birth. His guardian is Ted Turner, the owner of Turner Broadcasting System. This means that Not Sidney already has few people to take care of him or help him out in life.

            Growing up, he was bullied a lot for his name. People would assume he was just being snarky when he tells them his name is Not Sidney, and they would begin to beat him. This happens repeatedly throughout his life, and Not Sidney gets to the point where he expects to be beat up when he is meeting new people. However, as he grows older, he becomes very tall and notices this, which helps him gain confidence. On page thirty-nine, a usual bully approaches him to take his cupcake during lunch. Not Sidney decides to stand up for himself, and confidently tell him no. The bully hears his tone and sees his height and decides to back down.

            Earlier in the same chapter, Not Sidney was brought over to Beatrice’s house, his history teacher. She decides to give him a blowjob; however, Not Sidney does not like it. He tells Ted about it, and he suggests for him not to go back. Not Sidney does end up going back though, and this time, he tells her he does not want her to make any sexual advances. Beatrice ignores him and even threatens to fail him if he says no. Beatrice once again fallatiates Not Sidney and decides to fail him anyway. This upsets Not Sidney, so he decides to tell the principal. Upon hearing what Not Sidney has to say, he simply laughs and does not believe him. This time, Ted tells him to go to the school superintendent. She listened to his story and had the same exact reaction the principal had.

            After being sexually assaulted and not believed by anyone, Not Sidney decides to drop out of school and become independent, to write his own story. On page forty-three, he says, “I accepted, then and there, my place in this world. I was a fighter of windmills. I was a chaser of whales. I was Not Sidney Poitier.” He decided that it is time for his name to be worth something in the world. After this, he decides to leave home. Not Sidney realizes that he has nobody to help him get anywhere in life, and he has to fend for himself and control his own life.

            It is clear that through most of his life, Not Sidney is a victim. He was given a strange name and gets bullied for it. He has no parents. He was bullied all his life and took many beatings. He was sexually assaulted, and nobody believed him. Even after he decides to leave and start a new life, he Immediately gets arrested for being black. He has to run from the law, handcuffed to a racist white man. If this sounds familiar, that is because it is. Percival Everett decided to take the plot of the Sydney Poitier movie, The Defiant Ones, from 1958 and copy it into his book. However, instead of ending with him getting caught, like the movie did, he ended up back home with no consequences.

            Not Sidney Poitier still had to make something of himself, so he went with the only logical next step; he decided to apply for college. Not Sidney, however, did not graduate high school, but he had money. He met with a representative from Morehouse, an all-black college. After making a large offer of 325,000 dollars, he is accepted to go in the fall. Now it is Not Sidney’s turn to go to college. Even though he had to learn to take care of himself all his life, he was never really able to because people would either not take him seriously, beat him up, or simply did not like him. In college, there are a lot of people that are learning how to take care of themselves for the first time. In doing so, they like to take care of others as well. I am expecting to see Not Sidney begin to struggle less. He is going to an all-black college, so his race should no longer offend people. College is a place to be yourself, so Not Sidney should have no problems with any bullies; and he is studying in a college, so he should be starting to be taken more seriously.

defamiliarization in frenzy

In this post, I will be discussing a literary concept that is not used a lot. I will explain what the concept is, then also explain how it fits into what I’ve been learning in my English 203 class in the past couple of weeks.

Defamiliarization is something not a lot of people know about, or even use if they do. According to Literary Analysis: The Basics, by Celena Kusch, defamiliarization is; “the process of artistic creation designed to ‘remove the automatism of perception’, a mechanical way of taking in words and meanings without perceiving the ideas and images that may once have seemed fresh and new”. In simpler terms, it is the literary technique that takes a familiar process, and makes it sound like a crazy concept that nobody has ever heard of. For example, I can say that I put my clothes in a wet metal tube, then bake them in another metal tube. Basically, I am talking about doing laundry. I could also say, a hollow cement block full of children becoming the future, which just describes a school.

The reason I am bringing up defamiliarization is because in Percival Everett’s novel, Frenzy, this technique is used; although it is not very noticeable. Throughout the story, when the women go into the woods to take part in the frenzy, they are considered delirious, frenzied, or mad. In their own minds however, they are truly free. While it is true that they are under Dionysus’s godly power, my interpretation of their state is that they are drunk. It is well known that Dionysus is the god of wine, so these women are falling under a spell of intoxication. Because they are dancing naked and eating raw animals, it is a little more than just being drunk. Dionysius is also the god of insanity. With these two titles, Dionysus’s frenzy is a mix of insanity and intoxication.

            Another thing we have been learning in my English 203 class is interpretation. On one of the first days of class, the sentence; “It’s incredible that a sentence is ever understood” was written out on the board. This quite is also by Everett. It means that sentences can be interpreted differently depending both on how it is read, and who is doing the reading. Defamiliarization connects with this in a couple ways. One way, going back to the laundry example in the second paragraph, is that through the weird explanation, some people may figure out that it is about doing laundry. However, others may just think that somebody is throwing clothes in a water pipe, then putting them in an oven. When I gave the school example, some people might begin to worry for the safety of those kids, not realizing I was describing a school. Because it is defamiliarized, regular concepts begin to sound very strange.

            Everett’s Frenzy describes the frenzy that the women experience as something mystical and godly. However, if his description is read as defamiliarization, one can see the frenzy as just being intoxicated. When people get very dunk, they begin to do weird things. somebody could do something crazy, like dance naked in the woods, and in today’s society somebody would look at the person doing that and just assume they are in some way intoxicated. When Agave cut off her nephew’s head and is tricked into thinking she cut off her son’s head, she claims to remember a beast, and not a face or person. When a person is very drunk, they might do something crazy, maybe not as overboard as cutting off somebody’s head and eating their heart, and not remember doing it the next day. While I do believe that there could be other godly powers at work in the Frenzy, I think it is mostly that they feel drunk and crazy.

            Another reason of why I think the frenzy is mostly intoxication is their feelings of freedom. When someone is drunk, they feel free. They do not care about their actions, and even if they do something stupid or embarrassing, they do not care enough to feel bad or embarrassed because they are drunk. Intoxication is the closest thing to feeling completely free, and Agave described the frenzy as having true freedom.

            There do have to be some godly, mystic powers behind the frenzy though. It does only affect women, and there is also the sound of the drums they hear. They also stay in the woods for days straight, maybe even weeks, and just have orgies. Because of all this, I do believe that these women are more than just drunk, but they mostly just act like they are drunk; dancing and kissing. I believe Everett used defamiliarization when describing the frenzy because most readers would know what being drunk feels like, or how to describe it at least. He uses defamiliarization to make the frenzy sound like something completely new, so it can be seen as Dionysus’s insane godly powers.

Perceiving Differently

Before even going to my first English 203 class, I skimmed through the course syllabus to see what we would be doing throughout the semester. Right off the bat, I came across this picture. Naturally, since I was simply skimming the syllabus, I chuckled to myself and moved on. When I eventually went to class, Professor McCoyhad the image up on the projector. She had us split into groups and figure out how the pants correlate with being suspicious. My group talked about how that pants are being perceived as a face, the pockets and buttons making eyes, and the belt loops making a sort of mouth. When sharing with each group what we came up with, we learn more. Now that the whole classroom is talking about the pants instead of four to five people, there are new ideas on what is perceived by this picture. For example, somebody brought up how the crease in the middle makes it look even more shifty eyed and suspicious. Somebody else said the belt loops make it look a little bit like a face sewn shut like a horror movie. After this discussion, Professor McCoy talked to us about perception.

            Perception is simply the way your brain explains something it sees or hears to itself. It is a strange concept, because somebody may see the same thing you see, yet perceive something completely different. When somebody sees something, like a picture of pants, it is natural to just see a picture of pants. However, somebody else can see the same picture and notice that the pants might look suspicious, but how can an inanimate object be suspicious? It is because some people perceive the pants to have human-like qualities that may resemble a face. After staring at the pants for a while, I read and re-read the caption, “Suspicious pants”, and asked whether the pants are acting suspicious, or if the pants are suspicious of something. This sparked more debate in the classroom, leading me to understand why Professor McCoy put up this picture. We will be reading stories throughout most of the semester and everybody is going to perceive them differently, so when we discuss in class there are no wrong answers, as long as there is an explanation for the comment.

            In the following class days, we would again play with perception. At one point, we would go around the room and read the word “elementary” off of the board. Most of the class pronounced it elemenTREE, however a few people, including Professor McCoy pronounced it elemenTARY. This does not mean everybody else is wrong, it just means that the word can be perceived in different ways. While reading The Bacchae class, some people were struggling with reading old Greek names. Because there is nobody in the room who was around at ancient Greek times, we could say the names how we thought they would be pronounced, because we cannot know if we are right or wrong. Again, people would perceive these names slightly differently, and therefore pronounce them differently.

            In this class, we have read both Frenzy, by Percival Everett, and The Bacchae. The Bacchae is an ancient Greek play, and when we read it, we read it in play form. This means that it is not too descriptive or in depth in its dialogue, because depending how the director perceives it, he can change the style of the play. When Percival Everett was writing Frenzy, it was his interpretation of the Bacchae. He read The Bacchae, and re-wrote it, even introducing the character “Vlepo”, who can see into the minds of other characters. Now, Everett has written The Bacchae the way he perceived it, with a character that can go though minds and be perceived differently in order to help him understand other characters better. This new Bacchae, or Frenzy, is written in the form of a novel. Because of these two forms, there are now two different options for readers to choose form. Some people enjoy the plays more, because they perceive it as a movie, and act it out in their mind. Others prefer the book method, because it can be a little more descriptive, and they will perceive it more in their mind as if they were there, instead of reading it or seeing it happen. In the end, whether it is pants or an old Greek play, perception has a lot to do with what we understand, so my big lesson from this is to try and perceive whatever I read in this class in at least two different ways. This way I can see two different sides of a story, and also be able to hopefully see both sides in class debates.