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Samantha N.
Graduate student at The College of New Jersey
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Writing
TutorMe
Question:

Write a brief memoir about a non-life-changing event.

Samantha N.
Answer:

For the first time in over a week, there is silence. Not complete silence, no – it doesn’t buzz in my ears or thrum like a guitar string tuned uncomfortably tight inside my veins. Someone shifts. Someone swears. I accidentally clink my heel against a loose stone and listen to it clatter away, down the side of the little mountain of brown dirt and gray stone and reddish clay that all just looks dark under moonlight. We breathe. It is the closest thing to silence that I’ve ever known. The sky is hard to look at, hard to grasp, hard to get a sense of when it stretches over the universe so completely, but I try. When is the next time I’ll see the stars shine so bright? Not in New Jersey, for sure, where New York’s smog creeps past borders and suburban streetlights drown out everything but the headlights on cars coming home past curfew. I breathe. A few seconds later, my neighbor breathes. We are barely out of sync. My mind is on Pop and death and faith and the future, and it is on nothing at all. It swirls like a galaxy print on a phone case – flat and false. I read once that true meditation is not clearing your thoughts but letting them come and go, flowing through existence. I’ve never been good at that. I tend to obsess and catch on whatever unfortunate topic lodges itself in my brain. Sometimes it’s a TV show that I like, or a project I’m working on, or the sheer act of obsessing itself. But right now, it’s quiet. Nice. I’m not sure how many of our fifteen minutes are left, but I don’t waste too much time wondering. It seems ridiculous to ponder time while staring at stars in the desert. People have stopped moving, stopped kicking rocks. A plane flies through our view, blinking rapid red flashes, and then it is gone. We inhale. We exhale. There are over forty people on this trip, but I can only remember a handful of names after nametags come off. Everyone else seems to remember mine. I don’t know if they like me, but I’m pretty sure they don’t hate me, at least. (I obsess about that a lot – how people perceive me, how they think about me. It’s irrational, and probably egotistical, but I worry anyway.) For this brief moment, I don’t worry. I don’t feel like myself, either. I don’t know who I am without worry. I hold my breath. It’s sort of sad. Our counselor pulls us back from the stars. It’s a rude awakening in a rocky, itchy bed I brush dirt from the back of my sweaty knees and join the loose circle among brush and boulders. We tiptoe so we don’t disturb the world. Holding hands, we talk about our moments with the sky. I cry at some. I won’t share mine. When we stumble back to the tents, phone screens as poor flashlights, I’ll write in my water-stained journal and struggle to hold onto that moment before it dissipates. I will pretend I have no cried at all, and I’ll stay away until one by the bonfire so that the rush of unity can last just a little longer. But for now, we breathe.

Literature
TutorMe
Question:

How does Shakespeare utilize stereotypical masculine behavior to criticize male pursuits of love and romance?

Samantha N.
Answer:

Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream utilizes typically masculine behavior to question male pursuits of love and romance. In Midsummer, the characters fall into a macho-masculine pattern of behavior in order to convey their desire and love. Demetrius is instantly possessive of Hermia, who loves another, as he refers to her as “my Hermia” and follows her into the woods when she leaves Athens to escape the fate of marrying him, showing a stereotypical portrayal of masculine dominance. Meanwhile, Helena bemoans the fact that “we cannot fight for love as men do” and urges Demetrius to use her poorly if only she could have his love. However, once the spell has been cast and the love triangle is thrown into disarray, all the characters exhibit violence – typically male – traits. The men challenge one another to a sword fight for Helena’s affection and the women engage in a brief altercation that involves threatening to gouge one another’s eyes out. This is deemed as an acceptable and appropriate approach to pursuing love under the constraints of a patriarchal, macho masculine society. In the end, it is not the masculine qualities that successfully lead these characters to their happy endings, though they do get them somewhat far. In Midsummer, the lovers are put to sleep by Puck before ever coming to blows. Regardless of which type of masculinity the characters align with, it is ultimately futile in the pursuit of love. Puck, who frankly lives outside the notions of gender binary due to not being human, pairs the youths “correctly” by using magic, a typically feminine-attributed skill or trait. Thus, while the masculine is a tool in these works to pursuing love, it is the feminine that allows them to obtain it in the end.

English
TutorMe
Question:

What is a common theme in Arthur Miller's The Crucible and Death of a Salesman? Why do you think these themes resonated with Miller and his audiences?

Samantha N.
Answer:

It is clear from the themes of American identity present in both The Crucible and Death of a Salesman that Miller was interested in the evolution of the national norms and culture in the aftermath of World War II. The Crucible's focus on the mob mentality and community cohesiveness shows his concern with the public's incoherence and lack of trust in the McCarthy Era while Death of a Salesman's obsession with the American Dream addresses his and following generations' realization that the country's opportunities and priorities were shifting, as well as its national identity.

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