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I know it’s been a while since my last general post or announcement. I thought it best to wait until I knew you had finished Huck Finn. (Notice how confident I am that you have!) I have another “homework’ assignment for you based on it. Before I explain what it is let me first provide a little preface to it. Toni Morrison was an African-American novelist, essayist, and professor. She won the National Books’ Critics Circle Award for her novel The Song of Solomon; in 1988 she won the Pulitzer Prize in Literature for her widely acclaimed and best-known work, Beloved–which was made into a film. In 1993 she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. She also wrote a rather personal assessment of Huck Finn, which I’d like you to read. Before you do let me emphasize, as you’ll see for yourselves, that’s it’s a “personal” piece of literary criticism. I want you to be aware of that because after we read Ragged Dick (more on that later) you’ll be submitting your mid-term paper and I’d invite you to write your own essay in such a personal way, so to speak. I was never one for the rather phony and goofy conventional literary essay students were asked to write. You know, the kind that is supposed to be ‘objective’ and not include the subjective “I” or “me.” In other words, rather than writing “I found some of the humor in Huck Finn to spotlight society’s flaws,” “One might find the humor in Huck Finn highlighting society’s flaws.” Well, aren’t you the ‘one’? Of course, if you’d prefer to write your paper in that ‘objective’ style I’m cool with that. First, you have to find and read the Toni Morrison essay. You can do that by going to a Google search and typing in “Toni Morrison, This Amazing Troubling Book.” The first site that should come up will be “this_amazing_troubling_book.pdf-UCT English Dept.” Please read it; then submit a 2/3 page “Response Paper” of your own to it, which may include some of your own opinions/ assessment of Huck Finn. That’s it. While it shouldn’t take you too long, let’s say you submit it by this Saturday. Please do so via email. In the mean time, could you also start reading Ragged Dick, if you haven’t already. I’m assuming that if any of you have you haven’t gotten very far along. It’s a quick read, as you’ll see, and you can likely breeze through half of it in two sittings. Before you do get into it, pose the age-old American Dream statement into the form of a question (like a Jeopardy contestant!): Can anyone, any citizen of the US (heck, maybe even non-citizens) be successful (for the sake of argument financially speaking) so long as they work hard, don’t give up, and keep ‘faith’ in not only being successful but maintain faith in America providing the opportunities for becoming successful? Ragged Dick was meant as a prescription, a template, for its (almost largely male) readers to be successful. Look for what those ingredients are in its Success Recipe Playbook, so to speak. Let me suggest a couple of films you might want to check out while you’re reading Ragged Dick. One is one of my all time favorites, “Working Girl.” That’s probably because the main character is from Staten Island, where I grew up–don’t hold that against me. The other is “Trading Places.” They’re both comedies from the 80’s–check out that hair in Working Girl!–and they may seem a bit dated, although I think they hold up well enough.

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