Latin American Literature
The reading selection for the week is as follows: Central Park by Octavio Paz, The Garden of Forking Paths by Jorge Luis Borges, Death Constant Beyond Love by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, and finally And of Clay We are Created by Isabel Allende. I took a moment to consider the theme of each of these stories, but after much reading and much consideration I have decided the clear theme is choices. Once we have reviewed each of the four stories we will review the best way to teach this theme to a Secondary Education classroom.
The first piece of literature by Paz Central Park is gifted with the theme of choices for good reason. The poem is a bit hard to decipher, but after reading it I feel that the theme fits well. Throughout the poem the words “Don’t cross Central Park at Night” are stated specially italicized after each of the stanzas. The story seems to me is quite foreboding in its choice of words and almost feels to me like a warning of something to come. The imagery in the poem makes me think of a hairy monster lurking in the park. The wording definitely gives me the feel that you should be wary of what your choice is. It’s as though the author of the poem is reminding you that you have a choice if you take the journey through Central Park. That is what I get from it.
This story of The Garden of Forking Paths by Borges is one that is very blatant with the theme of choices, in my opinion. It’s about a German spy who is hired to kill one Dr. Stephen Albert for reasons that aren’t quite clear to me. The German spy enters Albert’s home, the man he is hired to kill, and learns all about his ancestors’ publications of labyrinth stories. The mention of labyrinths and mazes is great symbolism for the choices a person makes. This spy is fighting with his decision to kill the good ol’ doctor. Regardless of what he has learned, it seems that outside forces bring him back to the decision at hand: should he kill this man or not? In the end he makes the decision and is arrested for killing the man. The symbolization here is that in a labyrinth or maze there are many paths that you can take in order to get to the center, this isn’t only one path you can take, and once you get to the center (where you are going) is it worth the journey to get there? Was it worth it to go down the path you chose?
Our third piece of Latin American literature Death Constant Beyond Love by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez. This was an interesting story starting off. At the beginning of the story I definitely gathered a bit of the same darkness and foreboding as Paz’s poem. Though in Marquez story, that feeling was merely at the beginning and dissipated from there. It really turned into something else entirely. The Senator in the story Onesimo Sanchez from my understanding is very ill and was estimated to be dead by Christmas of that same year. Another man in the story Nelson Farina was always asking Senator Sanchez to help him with his situation. His situation? Well I, from this excerpt I think he killed his wife: “For the first time in twelve years, Nelson Farina didn’t go to greet the senator. He listened to the speech from his hammock amidst the remains of his siesta, under the cool bower of a house of unplaned boards which he had built with the same pharmacist’s hands with which he had drawn and quartered his first wife…The woman (his second wife) died of natural causes a short while later and she didn’t suffer the fate of the other, whose pieces had fertilized her own cauliflower patch, but was buried whole and with her Dutch name in the local cemetery.” I mean… It doesn’t specify that Farina’s wife was dead prior to any of this, I suspect she wasn’t… We are getting off topic. Anyways, the reason I chose the theme of choices for this story was because of the Senator. He was dying, right? Well, even though he was married he was in love with Farina’s daughter Laura described as the most beautiful women ever seen. When the Senator lay with her one eve he realized she was wearing a, shall we say… Cock-blocking device? Not necessarily appropriate terms, but you get the idea. There is a key to this metal cock-blocking device and guess who has it? Nelson Farina! What a shocker! The Senator had a choice. Help Farina with his situation? Or… die never having slept with the women who held his heart? Farina made his choice… He helped out Farina only to die six months and eleven days later “weeping with rage at dying without her (Laura).”
I am sorry the last story review was long. Onto the final story, And of Clay We are Created by Allende. This was my favorite of all the pieces of literature. Unlike Borges story where the theme of choices in the story wasn’t so blatant Allende gracefully gives the undertone of the theme. It’s mostly about a news reporter named Rolf Carle who, while doing a television segment, found Azucena (meaning Lily) stuck in a mud pit. Her family and many other families were all victim to what sounds like a volcanic eruption followed by an avalanche. Carle stays with Azucena trying to help her out of the pit but was unable to do so. He stays with her for a while however, was unsuccessful in being able to free her. When the military was finally able to get a water pump to help free her, the fever that she got from the stress of the situation became too much for her and she died in the mud pit. The narrator at the end of the story, who sounds like Carle’s wife, describes that Carle re-watched all the footage his crew took of the incident repeatedly hoping to find some sense of other choice he had. Something else he could have done to save her. There’s no mention as to if he found it, but it’s certain that the theme of choices fits.
After analyzing the theme of choices for each of these four readings, what is the best way to teach this theme in a Secondary Education setting? According to Linde (2018) from Study.com it is good to first and foremost have students pinpoint the theme itself (in this case choices), find supporting evidence of why they think that is the theme, and then work to answer a set of four questions, one of which being: What makes a theme powerful or memorable? She suggests, for example playing all or a portion of a song, such as Taylor Swift’s song You Belong with Me. This particular song obviously doesn’t quite fit the theme of the stories, but it’s more for the purpose of getting students involved and keeping their interest with a familiar song. Have students write out what they think the theme of whatever song is chosen and to provide evidence that supports their thinking. The materials she suggests would be the lyrics of various songs, chart paper/whiteboard, and markers. These materials are for sketching a tree on the white board or chart paper. Students will need to make the trunk of their tree drawing large enough to write the theme in it. Once the tree is drawn and their theme is written in the trunk they need to draw the rest of the tree. Not is great detail as it isn’t necessary. They will simply need branches. At the end of each branch is going to be a short sentence or word that supports why the theme is valid for that song. It’s a simple way to get students to interact and enjoy some of their favorite tunes. What do you think of the chosen theme? Do you think it was accurate? How about the lesson plan idea? For more ideas on the lesson plan set up review the link below!
© Donovan G. Ward
I am attending college online with Grand Canyon University (GCU) for an English Teaching degree for Secondary Education. The first question I was asked when I made the decision to embark on this journey to be a teacher was, "Why do you want to be a teacher?" My response: "It is not for the money." Regardless, I am looking forward to being a teacher and am on this blog as part of a college course. I have written (never published) books and poetry of all kinds and have a love for writing in general. I have never done a blog before so we will see how this goes. Let's do this!