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Tutor profile: Claudia S.

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Claudia S.
High School English Teacher
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Questions

Subject: Writing

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Question:

Write a creative film review for the movie "Thelma and Louise".

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Claudia S.
Answer:

Ridley Scott’s “Thelma & Louise” Defies All Expectations Louise, a hardworking and determined waitress played by Susan Sarandon, casually advises a smoking patron that she is “too young for cigarettes”, but not because it will wrinkle her skin or destroy her lungs. Louise surprises us by telling her youthful customer that cigarettes will “ruin her sex life”, the first hint that perhaps this isn’t a film about a couple of conventional women heading out for a girls weekend. Geena Davis’s character, Thelma, is much less headstrong when we meet her. An obedient wife of her absurdly idiotic and abusive husband Darryl (played by Christopher McDonald), her small sense of autonomy is revealed through her rebellious plan to sneak out with Louis for a weekend vacation; a seemingly thoughtless decision that proves to be quite her style as the film progresses. While Louise isn’t tied down by an oppressive marriage as Thelma is, she still is attempting to escape the emotional stress of her man through the weekend trip. Thelma and Louise are tired of the men in their lives and in desperate need of an escape. What neither the women nor the audience expects, however, is just how radical the escape they started out on will become. The friendship between the two women is curious, as their personalities often juxtapose rather than compliment each other. Louise is independent, careful, yet angry, with her hair drawn tightly up against her head, while Thelma is cute, flirty, and naive- a classic ditz. The stereotypes that these two women embody would be unimpressive if it weren’t for the surprising development that occurs throughout the course of the wild events that ensue. Against all odds, these women learn to compliment each other in the most unlikely of situations. Louise’s hard outer shell has a tendency to break, which can result in anything from a dead rapist to an emotional breakdown in the midst of a police hunt. Luckily, Thelma stands by with her optimism and impressive ability to quickly adapt, despite her vulnerability. Perhaps the most unpredictable aspect of the film is the fact that both Thelma and Louise make the decision to stick together and turn away from the men in their lives, whether it be their abusive husband, the loving man they have a complicated history with, or Hal, the FBI agent who is trying his best to help them. It turns out, shockingly, that two women would consciously choose to shut out and rebel against any male figure in their lives and pursue a life together as friends. While “Thelma & Louise” acknowledges the various roles that men can play in the lives of women, the good and the bad, the film also creates a reality that is rarely portrayed: the idea of women not wanting or needing any interference or interaction with men. The opportunity is presented in plenty, and yet the road trip that decidedly and dangerously isolates them from society the farther they go also provides Thelma and Louise with a brand new and undeniable sense of freedom. They learn that no man is worth the price of such genuine freedom, not even the FBI agent who is attempting to offer them the freedom he believes they are looking for. While there are certainly aspects of Scott’s “Thelma & Louise” that could use further development (What actually happened in Texas? And why is it that Hal knows and cares so much about these women?), it is a boldly feminist film that highlights issues of sexism without creating victims of the female leads. The film’s utter denial of the necessity of men is profound and refreshingly unfamiliar, even over two decades after the initial 1991 release. This, along with the profound character development and meaningful plot, warrant “Thelma & Louise” an A-.

Subject: Literature

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Question:

How do the themes of violence and motherhood play out in Toni Morrison's novel "Beloved"?

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Claudia S.
Answer:

Grappling with the concept of familial violence is difficult, especially when it’s as graphic as a mother choosing to saw the neck of her young child. Toni Morrison explores the idea of mother-to-child violence more than once, however, demanding that the reader consider how and why such a horrid action could be done by someone whose role is to nurture, not cause harm. Is the idea that Sethe loved her children so much that she was willing to kill them justifiable? The trauma, dehumanization, and lack of autonomy involved in slavery is conveyed so strongly and sorrowfully throughout Morrison’s Beloved that one can understand Sethe’s thought process (not one rooted in insanity) on the path to violently murdering her children. In her essay on mothering and violence in different Morrison novels, Amanda Putnam discusses Sethe’s choice to kill Beloved as a decision that was rooted in a grasp at autonomy. Sethe could not fathom the idea of her children dying by the hands of slave owners like Schoolteacher. Rather than submit to traditional notions of motherhood that would actually aid those attempting to bring Sethe and her children back to bondage, Sethe chooses to rebel against the nurturing stereotype in a moment of pure protection. Putnam argues “While Sethe’s actions are ghastly, they are also compellingly dominant—she chooses what will happen to her and to her children.” (38). In a moment of strength, rather than insanity or weakness, Sethe embodies the “mama bear” figure, but because attacking her oppressors is not an effective option, she protects her children from the worst outcome imaginable, saying “‘I took and put my babies where they’d be safe.’” (Morrison, 193). In her characterization of Sethe, Morrison has created a female strength that seems unimaginable outside the experiences of slavery. The black woman narrative not only in Beloved, but many of her novels, highlights so vividly the struggles that they’ve had to endure, as well as the coping mechanisms that come along with them. Sethe’s lack of remorse about her decision only serves as an acceptance and understanding of the original Sethe, Margaret Garner. It seems as though through Beloved, Morrison is sending a message to Garner that expresses an understanding of actions and an appreciation of strength. Work Cited Putnam, Amanda. “Mothering Violence: Ferocious Female Resistance in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Sula, Beloved, and A Mercy.” Black Women, Gender & Families, vol. 5, no. 2, 2011. EBSCOhost, jcu.ohionet.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=mzh&AN=2012026348&site=eds-liv

Subject: English

TutorMe
Question:

Name a historical figure that inspires you.

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Claudia S.
Answer:

I have always been an avid reader, so when I began college as an undecided undergraduate, it was no surprise that I stumbled into the English department based purely on personal interest (and not future financial planning). I thoroughly enjoyed the majority of my English classes, but they weren’t entirely novel to me. Canonized literature, while spanning a variety of different genres and topics, still has a tendency to bring up primarily the names of various white, male, and well-known authors. It took me until my sophomore year of college to understand that literary standards in the United States were shifting towards inclusivity! It wasn’t until my American Authors course that I was introduced to a writer who entirely shifted my ideas about what canonized literature could look like: Toni Morrison. I had heard her name before, but I had never actually read any of her work. The first work of hers that I read, Beloved, not only introduced me to an entirely new genre of writing, but also taught me that canonized literature does not have to center white, European narratives in order to be revered. As a Black writer, Morrison broke the narrative that Black American literature has to center itself around the actions of White America. Lyn Innes explains in her obituary for Morrison that “Morrison spoke of her lifelong concern as a writer to move away from a notion of writing by African Americans as sociology, influenced by its awareness of a white readership, and concerned with the encounter between black people and white people” (2019). Instead, Morrison intentionally strayed away from the American tradition of centering White narratives. Although Morrison died in 2019, she remains a giant of 20th century literature; her work will continue to inspire writers and readers who’ve become accustomed to a certain type of respected American literature. Morrison’s life is a testament to artists who feel they don’t have a place in the current artistic spaces- she highlights that if one cannot find a pre-existing space to fit in, then they must create their own space. Works Cited Innes, L. (2019, 8 6). Tony Morrison Obituary. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/aug/06/toni-morrison-obituary

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