Critical Lens Essay


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Critical Lens Essay

Whenever someone performs a task, he/she can labor over it carefully,
or do a rushed job. A student writing an essay describing the causes
of the American Revolution, or a president proposing ways to end World
War II illustrate two situations where both simple and complicated ways
to address a problem exist. Writing a non-analytical response to the
essay question would be easy to do. Likewise, dropping atomic bombs
over cities, razing them and eliminating many people would not be
entirely morally correct. H.L. Mencken^s assertion that ^for every
problem there is one solution which is simple, neat, and wrong^ is
excellent for assessing the literary elements in two works: Fences by
August Wilson and Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson. Fences is
filled with difficulties between characters, and many of these were not
reconciled in a proper manner. One problem involved Cory, a high
school student and his father, Troy. Cory, an accomplished football
player wanted to focus on his team and play in college. However, his
father was against Cory^s goals, insisting he prioritize his work and
house chores over the football. Ordinarily, there is nothing wrong
with a parent making major decisions for his/her children, but in this
case, Troy^s solution to the problem was simply to go behind Cory^s
back and revoke his membership on the team. Going behind one^s back is
an easy way out of resolving a problem^the person was plainly too
indolent to spend the time to find a more mutually acceptable
solution. Troy^s demeanor is unacceptable not only with Cory, but also
with other characters in the book. For example, when Lyons asks him
for a small amount of money, Troy creates a big scene, detailing
problems he had had in the past with getting credit, such as paying for
furniture through ten-dollar monthly installments. It is clear that
Troy is rather selfish, for he tries to keep what little amount of
money he has for himself. In Snow Falling on Cedars, readers observe
different types of problems. While those in Fences tend to be between
two people, those in Guterson^s book usually involve a large group of
people, often the entire town of San Piedro. The principal question
throughout the novel centers around who killed Carl Heine. The entire
town seems to show prejudice against Kabuo, primarily because he is
Japanese. This prejudice is obvious even in affairs unrelated to
Kabuo^s trial. In a descriptive paragraph about life in San Piedro,
readers learn that Japanese workers at the Port Jefferson mill were

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referred to as ^Jap Number 1, Jap Number 2, Jap Number 3, Japan
Charlie, Old Jap Sam^ and so on (75). Actually, Japanese people are
curtly referred to as ^Japs^ throughout the entire story. One of the
most poignant parts of the book describes in meticulous detail the
setup of the Japanese internment camps. The United States in confining
the Japanese was executing a simple, neat, and wrong ! solution, since
it really had no justification for doing so besides fear of Japanese
spies with World War II. Looking at literature from different
viewpoints can be very interesting. Instead of analyzing tone, style,
diction, and plot elements as in traditional English papers, in a
critical lens essay, one searches through the works trying to find ways
they can be interpreted through a specified perspective. Not only is
literature studied, but also the lens. A positive consequence is that
it becomes easier to integrate outside information into a critical-lens
style essay. One can select various applications to real life, ranging
from important decisions of a country in foreign policy to how to
approach a writing task can be in order to strengthen the piece.


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