"The Jacket" and "Theme for English B"

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"The Jacket" and "Theme for English B" by Mind Map: "The Jacket" and "Theme for English B"

1. Themes

1.1. Both stories include themes of being a minority, and the struggles that come with it. For example, when the speaker is wearing his ugly jacket, he thinks "Although they didn't say it out loud, 'Man, that's ugly,' I herd the buzz-buzz of gossip and even laughter that I knew was meant for me" (Soto 7). Even though the speaker know that no one is saying insults out loud, his insecurities from being a minority contributes to his anxiety.

1.2. In "Theme for English B", the speaker tries to make a point that he is the same as everyone else. In his paper for his teacher, he writes "I guess being colored doesn't make me NOT like the same things other folks like who are other races" (Hughes 25-26). The speaker is trying to connect with his teacher and explain that they are not so different even though their race is different.

1.3. In "The Jacket" by Gary Soto, the speaker finds an object that becomes part of his identity, even though he does not like it. Just like in "Theme for English B", both speakers have an identity that is connected to them even though it may not be entirely beneficial to them. The student in Hughes's poem is black, so he is mistreated because of his skin. The speaker is "The Jacket" has an ugly jacket that he can not get rid of that he thinks is dictating him and his actions, causing him to receive bad grades and be an unpopular student.

2. Characterization

2.1. The characters in each poem could not be any more different. The student in "Theme for English B" is forward and confident, trying to explain to his teacher that they are not that different, even though they have differences in their skin color. However, the speaker in Soto's short story is insecure and in denial. The speaker blames all his problems and unfortunate events on his jacket, instead of realizing who's fault it really is for his bad grades and unpopularity.

3. Conflicts

3.1. Conflicts causes hardships for the person dealing with the conflicts. In "The Jacket", the speaker deals with external conflict. From the external conflict which was when everyone "talked about how foolish [he] looked in [his] new jacket", it created hardships such as internal conflicts (Soto 2). The humiliation of wearing the ugly jacket made him receive external conflict which lead to internal conflict.

3.2. The external conflicts towards the speaker in "The Jacket" causes internal conflicts as well. When the speaker kept seeing people turn away from him to make fun of him, he blames his "mother for her bad taste and her cheap ways" when picking out clothes for him (Soto 3). Also, by wearing the jacket he believes it is causing his grades to drop. The significance of this is that it shows how the jacket causes internal conflict because he thinks the jacket is like bad luck which brings down his confidence.

3.3. Racism is a huge problem in our world and the speaker in "Theme For English B" has some conflict with that topic. When writing his paper to his instructor, he writes "so will my page be colored that I write? Being me, it will not be white. But it will be a part of you, instructor" ( Hughes 1). The significance of this is that it the speaker explains to his instructor on what he goes through being black. He feels the isolation he gets from his instructor and his class which is the conflict. Being the only black, we can assume people look at him differently and he feels all those things.He just wants to be accepted.

4. Motifs and Symbolism

4.1. In "The Jacket" by Gary Soto, the speaker's jacket is use as a symbol for poverty, the speaker's own insecurities, and his isolation. While reflecting on his own life, the speaker notes " I blame that jacket for those bad years. I blame my mother for her bad taste and her cheap ways. It was a sad time for the heart" (Soto 10). The speaker blaming his mother for her cheap ways reflect how their family is poor, and that his own insecurities does not allow him to live with what he has. The speaker also blames his jacket for why he is lonely, and why no girl in a dark dress has approached him, or why he hangs out with the ugly boys. In "Theme for English B", the speaker writes "I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem" (Hughes 7). Colored was the word used on many signs above segregated restrooms or water fountains, for example. Therefore, Hughes is trying to show how the speaker in the poem feels isolated from his other classmates, as he is the only black person in the class. In both texts, the speakers feel isolated and lonely, and wish to change it.

5. Language

5.1. In "Theme for English B" Langston Hughes uses many words like "I" and "me" to try and break down differences between the teacher and the student. Langston also uses many allusions to try and relate to the reader and teacher. In the poem, the speaker writes, "I like a pipe for a Christmas present, or records---Bessie, bop, or Bach" (Hughes 23-24). In Gary Soto's "The Jacket" he uses figurative language like similes and personification to better describe what the jacket is to the speaker. For example, when the speaker retrieves his jacket, he remarks "that green ugly brother who breathed over my shoulder that day and ever since" (Soto 12). Gary Soto uses personification to portray what the jacket really means to the speaker, someone who was always there for him through the good and the bad, someone who is part of his identity.

5.2. Langston Hughes also uses a bit of wordplay in "Theme for English B". When he asks if his paper will be colored when he writes, it is referring to how his paper may be graded differently from others because he wrote it. These words also refer to how the black ink will color the paper once he writes on it.

6. Connections

6.1. A connection to the text "The Jacket" was when my friend bought a pair of shoes that he really liked. The only problem was that most people thought that shoe wasn't really good or in style. I tried to encourage my friend that it didn't matter what others thought, it's what you think about it yourself. Sadly, what I said didn't matter because people instantly started to judge him and it affected him greatly. He really liked that pair of shoes but he didn't like being made fun of. He try to wear them out as quick as possible so he could get new shoes but his plan ended up not working. In the end, he had to switch back to his old pair which was all worn and beat up just so he wouldn't feel embarrassed.

6.2. Today, kids are being bullied all around the world. From being bullied because they look different, sound different, dress differently, kids are hurt from the hurtful comments made by others to them. The result from being bullied can cause serious results such as death. There are many news reports of kids committing suicide and the reason for this is from being bullied. Although the speaker in "The Jacket" did not commit suicide, the hurtful comments still brought him down and other kids are brought down as well from bullies.

7. Jonathan Li Darren Chang Period 6