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Tutor profile: Anne L.

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Anne L.
Columbia University '18 Recent Graduate; 4+ Years Teaching Experience
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Questions

Subject: SAT II Literature

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Question:

"Bildungsroman is the combination of two German words: Bildung, meaning "education," and Roman, meaning "novel." Fittingly, a "bildungsroman" is a novel that deals with the formative years of the main character - in particular, his or her psychological development and moral education" (Merriam Webster) How does novelist Jamaica Kincaid subvert Bildungsroman coming-of-age conventions in "Lucy" and what narrative techniques does she employ in doing so?

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Anne L.
Answer:

Subverting the canonical form of the Bildungsroman, Jamaica Kincaid rejects mainstream Western literary convention (wherein “the non-white subject is still the bad conscience of the contemporary novel, obviously so in the Realist tradition”) by allowing her main character, a woman of color, to speak directly about herself (“Paths,” 8). It is Lucy’s voice, raw and intimate, that forms and controls the first-person narrative and monologue of the story. Kincaid’s sparse and economical prose is all the more authentic for its denial of lyricism; Lucy associates “flourishing words and phrases” with “living life in a greeting card” (10). Her own speech patterns are harshly, heedlessly blunt and almost incoherently elliptical; the reader is often forced to contribute conjunctions where Lucy leaves them out, emotion becoming oddly asynchronous and detached from action (“I was unhappy. I looked at a map”) (9). Having just arrived in New York from the West Indies to work for a wealthy family, Lucy is often silent and withdrawn, weighted down with the mental baggage of historical trauma: “I felt that if I could put enough miles between me and the place from which that letter came, and if I could put enough events between me and the events mentioned in the letter, would I not be free to take everything just as it came and not see hundreds of years in every gesture, every word spoken, every face?” (31). For Lucy, marked by Mariah’s family as a perpetual “Visitor,” contains within herself all the chronic anger and inexpressibility symptomatic of her subjugated and displaced black immigrant identity, conditions that invalidate and collapse “the essential fullness and continuity of the self,” that which Realism values above all else (“Paths,” 2).

Subject: English as a Second Language

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Question:

Would you agree or disagree with the statement that “the difference between ​center​ and ​centre demonstrates that Americans and Canadians speak a different dialect"?

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Anne L.
Answer:

I would disagree with the statement that “the difference between ​center​ and ​centre demonstrates that Americans and Canadians speak a different dialect.” In terms of spelling, Canadian English tends to apply a combination of British and American rules; in the particular case of ​center​ vs. ​centre​, the original British spelling of ​centre ​has been retained in Canada. Other subtle British linguistic traits (ex: saying “those/these ​ones​”) also reflect Canada’s closer, more longstanding historical affiliation with Britain. Meanwhile, the American convention of spelling the word as ​center ​can be attributed directly to the efforts of Noah Webster and his proposal that the spelling of words ending in ​-re​ be changed to ​-er​; for Webster, a new standardized spelling system with norms independent and different from that of British English would be one means of cultivating and consolidating a linguistic sense of American identity. However, written orthography does not necessarily reflect or represent the actual language that people speak, and so the difference between ​centre ​and ​centre​ is manifested in writing but not in oral speech; because the pronunciation of the word itself remains the same regardless of its different forms, it would be inaccurate to use this fairly negligible orthographical variation as the defining basis for differentiating American and Canadian spoken dialects.

Subject: English

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Question:

Please analyze the socio-linguistic implications of the dialogue contained in the following passage from Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist: "I tossed off the clothes," said Giles, throwing away the table-cloth, and looking very hard at the cook and housemaid, "got softly out of bed; drew on a pair of-" "Ladies present, Mr. Giles," murmured the tinker. "-Of shoes, sir," said Giles, turning upon him, and laying great emphasis on the word......"'

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Anne L.
Answer:

This exchange from ​Oliver Twist ​shows the general linguistic development of the Victorian penchant for euphemism and the rampantly prescriptive environment in the nineteenth century, particularly prevalent among members of the rising middle class. Victorian prudishness resulted in heightened sensitivities and linguistic reticence; there was a widespread, proscriptive need to censor suggestive English words like “trousers” that referred to supposedly baser, indecorous aspects of life. Because obscene profanities emerged then from the tabooed subjects of the body and sex, “trousers” was also seen as guilty by association, being an article of clothing inherently connected to “private” body parts. To refer to one’s “trousers” in the public sphere (and especially in female company) would have been considered shocking and scandalous in the nineteenth century; instead, this “vulgar” word had to be replaced with purposefully vague euphemistic designations like “unmentionables.” Dickens’ satirical tone is thus reflected in the passage, in which Giles—forced under social pressures to conform to Victorian linguistic norms and the implied moral values tied to them—avoids uttering the word “trousers” and ultimately resorts to using an indirect, obviously artificial euphemistic reference to “shoes” instead.

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