This year has been a blur. After making our way through books such as A House On Mango Street, The Great Gatsby, and Grapes of Wrath, we have made it to our final book, Catcher in the Rye. It is here we will be examining the question, are words enough to capture feelings? You can take your guess now and see how it differs from my conclusion at the end of this written experiment.
Words. When you hear “words,” what runs through your head? Is it essays? Book? Newspapers? Is it conversations over the telephone? The dictionary? A baby speaking its first? Words function as a vessel to convey our thoughts, feelings, and emotions in the widest way possible. With thousands of words to choose from, we have any way we choose to describe the thoughts that demand to be poured out of our minds, if only we can choose which fit our thoughts best.
This year, we have improved our expression of words, both written and verbal. Through our class discussions and peer grading exercises at our table, we have built upon our prior knowledge of speaking our thoughts in order to better communicate to a variety of audiences. Through our model essays, practice paragraphs, and blog posts, we have used our pre-existing skills and new skills taught by Mr. Ziebarth.
Are words enough to capture feelings? I have found throughout this year that writing down important thoughts is imperative to my verbal communication. If I have an idea to share with the class, I write it down before, not only as a reference when I speak, but later on when I would like to reflect on my ideas for the day. On the flip side, sometimes it was easier to speak my thoughts instead of spending the time to write it all down.
Throughout the year, our essays have ranged from descriptive to argument, narrative to synthesis, as well as rhetorical. My work in the narrative essay in the beginning of the year represented me as a competent yet basic writer with the basic skills to craft an A essay but not an essay of A+ quality.
“Color absorbed the world around me, the chattering of people only slightly drowning the peace of the water falling. The wet air smelled and tasted delicious, almost sweet, something I loved so much about Washington and Oregon. I slid my hand along the cool railing, taking it all in.”
My basic descriptive adjectives showed that I could describe my surroundings with vivid description, but were just not enough to satisfy the reader. Something more was needed, and would be identified later in the year.
Catcher in the Rye’s antihero, Holden Caulfield, starts the essay off as an angsty teen that cannot communicate his feelings to others in a quality fashion. He only shows us small conversations, with lots of narration of his thoughts in the forefront while the actual action plays in the background of his commentary. Holden can basically state his thoughts, but cannot express them explicitly in a verbal fashion.
“Old Spencer started nodding again. He also started picking his nose. He made out like he was only pinching it, but he was really getting the old thumb right in there. I guess he thought it was all right to do because it was only me that was in the room. I didn’t care, except that it’s pretty disgusting to watch somebody pick their nose.”
Holden uses this time to rant to us about his teacher, not saying any of this out loud. Much of the novel uses this strategy to convey to the readers what Holden is thinking. Holden doesn’t choose to reveal much about himself verbally to the readers; it all comes out in his thoughts that are transcribed into the book.
As the year progressed, Mr. Ziebarth assigned projects such as the final project for first semester, which I chose to present as a Podcast, and various small presentations from table groups. It was through these, as well as constant class discussion, that I was able to develop my verbal skills. However, Holden did not have opportunities such as these to develop himself. He is out on his own in the world, sometimes with no one to talk to.
Near the end of the year, our class wrote a descriptive essay; this essay was about someone important to us, and an object or practice that seemed to be a huge part of them. I wrote about my cousin Lewis, who loves to bike. In this essay, I was able to better display my use of metaphors and appeals to emotion and establishment of credibility.
“Lewis took a plethora of AP courses in high school and worked to receive a degree in materials engineering from USC…He bikes like a type-A mother – mindful of his every decision and always hard-working to maintain his routine…He told me about his torn ACL last winter; he landed wrong off a ski jump and required surgery to reconstruct his ACL. After this, he went through months of rehab – but did not give up.”
These examples show use of metaphor, as well as appealing to the emotion of the reader through a devastating injury, and establishing credibility with the reader that Lewis is responsible and hard-working – he made it into USC through his dedicated mindset.
As I developed, we read Catcher in the Rye. By the end of the novel, Holden had developed just enough to express himself through his words – a form of communication that had been lacking quality throughout the composition. Holden was too scared to talk about his fears and life plans out loud, and only told the readers in a rant fashion. By the end, he was able to speak how he felt, even if not all the time. His words finally captured how he was feeling inside when he spilled his guts to Sally.
“‘I said no, there wouldn’t be marvelous places to go to after I went to college and all. Open your ears. It’d be entirely different…It wouldn’t be the same at all. You don’t know what I mean at all.’”
Holden expresses himself to Sally in long paragraphs, finally allowing his emotions to spill out of his mouth, rather than onto paper or all over his brain. After he does this, she is upset; this is new for Holden, and she did not expect him to express himself in this way. Holden has developed more as a character – his words perfectly captured his feelings of loss of love and connection.
Holden’s growth as a main character reflect mine. We both learned to better communicate our ideas and thoughts through words. However, Holden bettered his communication in the verbal realm, while I improved my skills in writing. Overall, we both improved enough to make a change in our styles and in important parts of our life – Holden, his lifestyle, and me, English class. In answer to the question, yes. Words are enough to capture feelings.