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Uncovering curiosity in Wideman’s “Stories”

Wideman’s short story “Stories” discusses curiosity on multiple levels both in content and in structure. Wideman does this by revealing curiosity from multiple perspectives.  The main indicator of Wideman dealing with curiosity is the sheer number of questions in the passage. When one is curious, that person tends to ask questions. While it is hard to parse out the questions because they are not punctuated with question marks, they are in fact inquiries. One can tell they are questions because the sentence structure includes question words such as  “why” and “how” and “if”. There are over 20 questions in this short passage. Through these questions, the passage expresses a multi-layered example of curiosity. The first layer is the narrator’s curiosity of the man walking in the rain eating a banana, exemplified by the many questions the narrator has about this man in the rain. Then, there is the layer of the reader, who wonders both why there are all these questions, without question marks, and why they are centered around something that is seemingly quite ordinary.

The end of the passage also reveals multiple layers of curiosity. When the narrator mentions that all his stories would be sad unless he was with a mysterious “you”, the reader begins to wonder. The reader might be curious as to if this is a love story, or just who the “you” is that the narrator is talking about and why is the narrator isn’t with this person.

Wideman is connecting his writing to the theme of seeing and reality in addition to curiosity, apparent when the reader does not know if the narrator is describing reality or falsehood. This reveals yet another layer of curiosity: the curiosity that the reader has when they wonder if the situation they are reading about is reality or not. For example, the reader might be curious if there is actually a man walking in the rain eating a banana or if it is a mere vision or a representation of something greater. It could even be a delusion or a hallucination. Through multiple pieces of writing structure as well as the content of the passage, Wideman deals with a multi-layered curiosity expressed through multiple perspectives.

TED Talk takedown

  1. The example of the wristwatch: In Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk, “Learning Revolution”, Robinson made the observation that mainly only people over 25 wear wristwatches and that most people under that age don’t. The main reason for that, he explains, is that people over the age of 25 grew up needing to wear a wristwatch to tell the time and those younger most likely use/used mobile phones. People who used to need to wear wristwatches still do, because they are used to it. Robinson uses this example to relate that way of thinking to the current school system. The people running the school system are so set in their ways that they won’t change what they are used to or change something that used to work in the past but no longer works. This is an issue, because the current school system has flaws that need to be addressed and changed.
  2. The comparison of our educational model to a fast food model: Robinson compares our educational model to a fast food model because it is an industry and thus everything is standardized. The fast food model and our educational model both try to produce things that are exactly the same with no individuality whatsoever. However, Robinson believes this is a problem. Because our educational model is like a fast food model, the school system is taking away students individuality and trying to form them into something they are not. He believes the school system should be more like an agricultural system, meaning that you won’t know exactly how every single thing turns out and everything will be slightly different, but all you can do is create the conditions under which children will succeed.
  3. The example of his wife writing a novel: Robinson explains how his wife is writing a novel currently; she will often disappear for hours and not even realize how long she has been working on the book. He claims that when you are passionate about something, an hour feels like 5 minutes, but when you are not interested in something, 5 minutes can feel like an hour. With this example, Robinson is trying to explain that the school system should be teaching and encouraging kids to do something with their life that they are passionate about and put less pressure on making sure kids go to college or pursue a professional career. The current school system puts this kind of pressure on students everyday, and Robinson believes that needs to change.

TED Talks – Sir Ken Robinson

The example of the fireman

     In Sir Ken Robinson’s Ted Talk “Bring on the Learning Revolution,” Robinson makes the point that human communities need to be diverse. Several years ago, Robinson met a fireman during his book signing, who recounted a story Robinson found striking. The fireman had wanted to be a fireman since he was young but as he grew older, adults in his life, including a particular teacher, discouraged him from the career path, believing it to be a waste of his talents. Adults believed that there are better careers, careers that achieve more or have higher incomes. However, the fireman disregarded the adults and became a fireman. Years later, he saved the life of the teacher who had told him, in front of the entire class, that his wish to become a fireman was a waste of his potential.

     With this example, Robinson reinforces that human communities need to be diverse and that by encouraging children to pursue a certain field, we are harming ourselves. Not everyone has to become a doctor or lawyer. Instead, human communities need firemen, construction workers, and teachers to support themselves. By stifling a child’s dream to become a professional in a “lesser” field, we are losing diversity and losing an opportunity for greatness.

The comparison of our educational model to a fast food model

     In Sir Ken Robinson’s Ted Talk “Bring on the Learning Revolution,” Robinson states that our educational model is very similar to the fast food model. Everything is processed, and there is one ultimate end goal. The goal of the fast food model is not to nourish the human body but to reach maximum profits. In the current educational model, the process of learning is standardized and the goal of education is to attend college. Just like fast food is detrimental to the body, the educational model is draining students of their passion. Robinson argues that education needs to be tailored to each student. Not everyone needs to go to college because everyone’s talent and passions are different.

The example of his wife writing a novel

     In Sir Ken Robinson’s Ted Talk “Bring on the Learning Revolution,” Robinson says he believes that passion drives humans. Robinson’s wife is a writer who isolates herself in her room for hours while she writes. Robinson says she has a passion for writing, which is why she is capable of sitting for hours on end writing. In our society, he believes that passion is the motivation to achieve more. It doesn’t matter if the interest is in writing or insects or investing, passion will push a person to work harder and reach a higher level in their field.

The Man, The Banana, The Artist

     Like most, he started as a line, but then the lines started to multiply, crossing each other in a convoluted game of cat’s cradle. He blossomed into an elaborate image of circles and triangles and lines. With a swish and click, his limbs disappeared, and he became a human. A human man holding a banana, walking in the rain.
     The artist leaned back against his chair, squinting at the grey scale image. It was missing a sparkle, a shine, a touch of magic. With another click and swish, the banana turned yellow, and the artist leaned back against his chair, satisfied with his creation. Who cares if the art world would criticize the nonsensical nature of his work? Who cares if some rabid fan of his work would stalk him down and ask why the banana was yellow when everything else was grey? After all, he created art for his fulfillment.

What Wideman’s “Stories” Means to Me

     In Wideman’s “Stories,” the author expresses the idea that reality is subjective because it has multiple layers and can be influenced by perspectives. The fact that Wideman chooses to title his story using the plural form of ‘story’ demonstrates that there could be a plurality of reasons behind how and why the man is eating a banana and walking in the rain. What the speaker sees in front of him is just the surface reality, a reality that is constructed through sight. Sound, taste, smell, and feel can all create new realities. For example, the horrible smell of the durian fruit belies its sweet taste, conveying two distinct realities or impressions. Behind the surface is a plethora of possible reasons and explanations for the man’s behavior; this might be why Wideman decides not to end his questions with question marks. By doing so, the speaker states possible facts about the man, “where did he get the banana” and “does he enjoy bananas.” The facts that the speaker states are still posed as questions, allowing a number of possibilities, answers, and realities to exist.

     What the speaker chooses to believe is a side of reality, a reality that he perceives from examining the man. The facts the speaker poses are open-ended and open to many different interpretations, leaving room for many different realities. In the end, the speaker believes that “all the stories [he] could make from this man… would be sad” but with “you,” it could be otherwise. The stories or realities that the speaker sees are shaped not only by his experiences but are also influenced by the perspective of others. Wideman shows that seeing something is one reality, and that reality is not necessarily objective since it can be affected by different perceptions and experiences.

Example Analysis of Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk

  • The example of the wristwatch

 

In Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk, “Bring on the Learning Revolution”, he talks about how hard it is to change things through the following anecdot: e. Teens to not wear watches because they have never had to wear watches because it is a single function device that they didn’t need, whereas the generation before them wears a watch simply because when they were kids, to tell the time they had to wear a watch because it was before the digital age so they had to wear a watch to tell the time. This proves the point that just because we have a system doesn’t mean that we are going to innovate and create a new system. For the older generation innovating would be to stop wearing watches because it is a single function device but they have gotten into the habit of just wearing the watch even though there are other better ways out there to carry less things on your person.

 

  • The example of the fireman

In Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Speech, “Learning Revolution”, he advocates for a diverse educational system through the following anecdote. Robinson tells the story of someone that said he always wanted to be a ;fireman ,however one teacher ridiculed him for his choice. Recently he saved the teacher’s life who had doubted him. This the linear education system doesn’t work for everyone because society should be trying to get everyone’s talents to surface. That doesn’t happen when the education model is linear and doesn’t allow for the person to develop the talents that surface. For society to function it needs a variety of talents that the current model doesn’t provide.

 

  • The comparison of our educational model to a fast food model

 

In Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk, “Bring on the Learning Revolution”, he points out how we should be treating our students and how are treating our students through the following metaphor. The educational system is like the fast food place. They are trying to make the same thing as many times as possible as quickly as possible with the exact same technique for every kind of food. Our society should be treating education like a high end restaurant that doesn’t do the same thing for every plate of food. This metaphor shows how we are trying to make the same child over and over with the same ingredients and method. This assumes that every child is the same when in reality that is not the case so we should switch over to a high end restaurant model where every dish and ingredient is treated with the care it needs. To create a functioning society we have to not assume every child is the same and treat them like they are different in the classroom and give them each the care and nurturing that they need to succeed and blossom.

Jemma’s Analysis of Wideman’s A Man Walking in the Rain Eating a Banana

Wideman’s “Stories” has everything to do with interpretation. The text is interpreted by different people. Wideman’s story gives the reader insight into interpretation by writing through the definition of interpretation and writing with ambiguity so that the reader can determine for themselves what they want to understand. So what is interpretation exactly?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, interpretation is the act or the result of explaining something to someone or a particular adaptation or version of a work, method, or style. In Wideman’s story the reader sees both definitions. In Wideman’s story the first section explains the scene through the use of questions followed by a perspective switch into the first person that invites the reader into the narrative. Interpretation in the first definition of the word is achieved through the first half of the story.

The narrator tells the reader what is in the scene but the observations of the character are written with such ambiguity that is impossible to tell whether the man eating the banana is separate from the narrator. The initial section where there are only questions reads like a train of though so could be either coming from a separate narrator or the man eating the banana. The ambiguity with which it is written leads the readers to interpret the piece themselves. What also comes through with Wideman’s story is that the reader needs to bring their own experiences and views on the world which make this piece interesting because every reader has a different interpretation based on their own experiences in life and what they see as reality. This is shown in the quote “The only answer I know is this: all the stories I could make from this man walking in the rain eating banana would be sad.” Everyone’s interpretation of the scene in front of them would be colored by how they are feeling and their previous experiences. The second part of the definition is shown through the unique format in which he chose to write it. Traditionally stories are written with questions with a question mark at the end and sentences with a period at the end. This is not the case for this piece of text. Every sentence is phrased as a question with periods at the end of each which makes you think about the underlying meaning behind the sentence and how to interpret that question that isn’t really a question.

Theo’s Version of A Man Walking in the Rain

A woman walking in the snow eating a kiwi. Where did she get this kiwi it’s not kiwi season. Where is she going with that kiwi. Does she mind the snow. Does she feel it on her face and hands. Does the snow effect the taste of the kiwi. What is she thinking about. She doesn’t even acknowledge the snow. The woman then enters a fruit shop where she buys more kiwis. Why does she need these Kiwis are they the only things she can’t eat? Maybe she makes kiwi jam. We will never know why this woman had that bunch of kiwis on that snowy day.

Maya’s Version of A Man Walking in the Rain

A man walks in the rain enjoying a banana. What are the thoughts that go through his head while he eats his banana? As the man eats his banana, I see him looking around at everything surrounding him. He sees children splashing in puddles, people running to take cover, and people standing under an awning waiting for the rain to stop. The banana that he eats lights up the gloomy rainy day. As he eats the banana he enjoys the sweetness of it. The banana seemed to be the perfect banana. But why does he sit in the rain? Why not eat the banana when it is warm and sunny? Why not eat the banana in the comfort of his own home? Does he have a home? The man seems to enjoy the banana like it is the light of his life as if it brings pure joy to him. I have never seen someone enjoy a banana so much. Have you? He enjoys his banana as if it is his one piece of happiness. That banana is all he has.

For the original story click here.

The Pianist

 

Lang-Photo

I wonder what the composer was feeling when he penned this piece. Why is the pianist dressed in black and white. Do all pianists have to be dressed in black and white. What is the symbolism behind this black and white motif. The pianist matches the piano. Why does the pianist press the pedals. Was the artist sad when he wrote this piece? The emotionality is very interesting I wonder if it is intentional. You would really enjoy this.

 

source: image 1