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Jordan W.
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Writing
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Question:

Explain the role of an unreliable narrator in fiction. How can we use this concept to reflect on our own lives?

Jordan W.
Answer:

An unreliable narrator adds layers of potentiality to a work. Rather than presenting the story as objective reality, where the reader may be expected to have a specific experience, an unreliable narrator's fallibility is in some ways more accessible and can tell more than one story. Rather than presenting a perfect record of events, an unreliable narrator creates a relatable vehicle for the reader to step into. It is easy to see through the eyes of a person who shares our faults. The notion that the story as told may not be what really happened forces the reader to confront a number of possibilities in interpretation. This reflects back upon the narrator, too, and may color and recolor how the storyteller is viewed. This method of telling a story ultimately echoes the way we experience the world. Emotions, inattention, and environmental factors keep us from perfectly experiencing and remembering our lives, and we may deliberately suppress details when we tell our stories to others. By confronting this, we hopefully understand ourselves better and make it easier to recognize, and forgive, the fallibility in our neighbors.

Literature
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Question:

In Milton's "Paradise Lost," the devil is presented as compelling and dynamic, which led some to criticize how he was portrayed. Consider the role played by the devil's personality in the conflict and what it says about Milton's overall portrayal of the Judeo-Christian cosmology.

Jordan W.
Answer:

The Church's concern over the portrayal of the devil is that he was too likable, which is a dangerous thing to present the prince of evil as. However, there are several important considerations to be made about this portrayal - it is fundamentally human, it is parallel to the teachings of the church on sin, and it says something about God. The devil as a tempter of humanity makes little sense if his impulses and emotions do not match ours. Human imperfection and our anger when being confronted by it is a common experience. Instead of framing the conflict as between elemental forces, Milton puts it in terms anybody can understand - the devil didn't get what he wanted, and felt enraged and betrayed. The church's greater concern was how likable the devil was portrayed. However, it matches well with Christian theology. According to the Bible, Jesus said "...Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light." (2 Corinthians 11:14). It makes little sense to suggest that the devil wouldn't be attractive to humans. If he was repulsive, the struggle against sin would not be a problem. Thus, the church ironically protested a biblically accurate portrayal of the devil. The relatability and attractiveness of the devil work together to make Milton's ultimate argument - if Satan is this powerful and impressive, how much more so must God be? While the church protested that readers would like the devil too much, his defeat says that God is mightier, good triumphs over evil, and that while we might understand and like the devil as portrayed in Milton's book, we should nevertheless prefer the mystery of God's holiness.

Civil Engineering
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Question:

Explain the purpose of expansion and contraction joints in concrete structures.

Jordan W.
Answer:

Concrete is a brittle material composed of aggregates that bear load and a cementitious matrix that binds them together. The matrix itself has little tensile strength, allowing concrete to break or crack under much lower stresses in tension than compression. To limit undesirable cracking, allowances are made in construction to account for concrete movement due to shrinkage (during curing), thermal strain (under normal operation), and long term creep (due to load over may years). Expansion and contraction joints work with reinforcement to limit the number and size of cracks, and to concentrate them in controlled areas. Such joints may utilize waterstops or joint fillers to prevent water from penetrating between the two sections of concrete. This improves the long term durability of the concrete as well as maintaining its aesthetics to some degree.

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