Maggie

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Tradd St. Croix: The Pain of a Friend-Turned-Enemy

The Lords of Discipline, by Pat Conroy, is a novel that focuses on Will McClean, a young, nervous teenager entering his first year at the South Carolina Military Institute (a fictional military college based on the Citadel) in Charleston, South Carolina. Soon after he arrives, the dreaded life of the plebe begins; however, Will finds strength and hope in three of his classmates who become his best friends: “Pig” Pignetti, Mark Santoro, and Tradd St. Croix. Pig and Mark are big, strong guys from the North, and Tradd is from a very wealthy, “old Charleston” family with history at the school. The book follows Will in his journey to learn what it means to become a man and he faces many grueling challenges within the system, but the true villain of the novel is not revealed until the very end. The reader is meant to feel as shocked as Will does as he is forced to step back and re-evaluate all that has happened to him in the past four years. Even though it is not how you read the novel, I will explain the plot as it relates to the true villain of the story, Tradd St. Croix.

At the Institute, there is an exclusive secret society named The Ten. The alumni of The Ten are some of the most powerful at the Institute, and men in the military. One of their purposes, which increases their need for secrecy, is running out the plebes who they consider unacceptable to wear the Ring, which students receives upon graduation. The Ten will resort to unfair, and even violent action to eliminate weak plebes. Tradd’s father attended the Institute, and is a member of The Ten. Tradd, despite his small stature and unintimidating nature, is bound to be inducted into the society. He is, yet he does not tell his friends. For most of the novel, Will tries to do the right thing, and often he comes into indirect contact with The Ten. The novel is set during the 1960s, and as an upperclassman, Will is asked by one of the officers to serve as a mentor to the first black cadet to enter the school. Will agrees and takes his role very seriously. Of course, a black student is just the type of abnormality that the Ten try to run off campus. Once Will is personally involved in the situation, he begins to learn a lot about the Ten and who is involved that both scares and empowers him. Since Will is linked to the black student, Pierce, he also becomes a target of The Ten. While all of this is going on, Will’s roommate, Tradd, knows how much Will is suffering and struggling. While he consoles and attempts to help, he also maintains his allegiance to The Ten.

This is simply one example of how the Tradd/Will conflict increases as Tradd continues to hide his secret. At the end of the novel, Will is able to put the pieces together, but he realizes that his best friend, someone he had trusted, had been a contributing factor to the great challenges Will faced while at the Institute. Their friendship is forever destroyed. Maybe Tradd had little choice in whether her became part of The Ten or not, but he continually lied to, deceived, and sold out his best friend, a villainous choice that resulted in death, ridicule, violence and anger.

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Judith Sargent Murray: A Feminist Ahead of Her Time

Judith Sargent Murray lived before the term feminist existed; however, she displayed advocacy for women’s rights in a manner that would have surely earned her that title in a different era. Murray was born in 1751 in Massachusetts. She first became aware of gender inequalities in her own household. As children, her younger brother began studying the classics, a subject that her parents refused to provide for their daughter. Murray became very familiar with this type of gender inequality – especially in education – all during her life. Murray married young, a common practice for her time. In the world she lived, women were always dependent on someone: their father until they were old enough to marry, and then they were to be dependent on their husband. When her husband, John Stevens, began experiencing financial issues, Judith wanted to be included, but her husband refused. Murray believed in an equal partnership between husband and wife, because she witnessed herself the distance that could be driven between the two when they were not able to work together, as equal partners. John’s debts continued to grow, and he was not able to handle the situation he had created. He fled to the West Indies – without Judith – to escape his creditors. He ended up dying there.

Murray was left widowed, with children and no way to provide for them or herself. This experience cultivated some of her strongest ideas about improving women’s status. She realized, however, that before women could be given opportunities remotely equal to men, society would have to dismantle the fixed belief that women were inherently inferior to men in almost every aspect of life. Murray was left in America a defenseless widow. She believed that that alone was reason enough to prepare women for financial independence. Women could not simply rely on the men in their life to support them forever.

We know about her forward-thinking ideas because Murray was a writer. She wrote many short stories and poems – some of which were published – that included characters and themes that promoted her ideas. Most famously, Murray published a three-volume book of essays under a male pseudonym, The Gleaner. Writing as a man gave Murray the liberty and credibility she would not have had if she had written under her own name. And that was exactly the problem she was trying to address. She did not believe it was fair to treat men as though they were more capable than women in any field. The Gleaner was famous within its own time, and established Murray as a successful author. One of her most famous publications was actually published under her real name: “On the Equality of Sexes.” Her ideas were radical for her time, and they questioned issues that were still existent in the early twentieth century society. Judith Sargent Murray is a hero because she actually addressed the problems she faced in her own life. Thousands of women probably faced similar situations, but Murray was not content knowing she deserved better. She set a ball in motion that is still rolling today. Believing that women and men deserve equal education is a given in our time, but it was not until very recently. It is because of women such as Murray that the status quo was changed, that centuries-old traditions of treating women as inferiors were abolished.

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Sue Sylvester: A Comedic Villain

The hit television show Glee features a set of characters that embodies one of the traits of heroism we have discussed in class: the underdog. The glee club featured in the show, despite their talent, struggle with the reputation they have among their peers. They are seen as losers for dancing and singing show tunes, and often, the football team enjoys throwing slushies in their faces. From time to time, one of the glee club’s performances increases their popularity; however, they always seem to fall back down, facing many individuals who want to do away with the glee club altogether.

One of the people in the show who most vehemently fights to do away with the glee club is Sue Sylvester, coach of the school’s cheerleading squad, the Cheerios. In addition to their fellow peers bullying them, Sue also blatantly and maliciously bullies the glee club members. Sue says herself that she is “pure evil and doesn’t hide it.” However, her purpose in the show is to add to the comedy. Sometimes she comes off as extremely hateful, but her ridiculous actions and pride in herself provide a lot of laughs for the show. Whenever she gets upset at school, she storms through the halls, pushing students into lockers and knocking their books on the floor, like a true bully. In a recent Christmas episode, she portrayed the Grinch in one of the scenes. Since the beginning of the show, Sue Sylvester has been the club’s greatest obstacle to overcome. She repeatedly announces that it is her goal to annihilate the glee club, and she attempts this through many avenues.

Sue primarily targets Mr. Schuester by repeatedly insulting his hair, his clothes, his romantic interests, and his position as director of the glee club. She also constantly tries to re-allocate funds from the glee club to her Cheerios. These villainous acts permeate the show, and often discourage the club from wanting to continue. One of the most hurtful, villainous acts Sue commits is giving the glee club’s set-list for regionals to a rival school. The other team performs first at the competition, and Schuester’s glee club is forced to put together a new set-list last minute, an unfortunate choice that possibly cost them the competition.

Even if she is only one person, Sue Sylvester packs enough evil to antagonize an entire school. Because of the positive intentions of the show, the glee club continually is able to overcome the role of underdog and feel a sense of pride for themselves. Sue is a bully and loves to be mean, but during two seasons of the show, we have seen glimpses of another, kinder side of Sue that she usually suppresses. It’s almost as if she decides to hurt the glee club, then intentionally ameliorates the hurt she caused so that the club survives thus allowing her to continue her torture. In this comedy about the success of the underdog, Sue Sylvester perfectly fills the role as comedic villain in her essentially futile attempts to bring down the glee club.

 

This video features lots of scenes featuring Sue doing what she does best: hate.

 

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Atticus Finch: A Moral Guidepost

The novel, and subsequent movie, To Kill a Mockingbird takes place in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama during the 1930’s. The distress of the Great Depression and Southern segregation has turned many in the town against each other: the rich against the poor, the blacks against the whites. At the center of Maycomb and all of its depravity stands Atticus Finch, the ultimate picture of morality. Atticus is a well-respected local lawyer and the widower father of two young children, Jem and Scout. In view of the entire novel, Atticus encompasses almost all of the Great Eight traits we have associated with heroes. He is reliable, intelligent and wise. He is extremely caring, selfless in his actions, and resilient in the effects of those actions. While inspiring to many citizens of Maycomb all along, by the end of the novel, Jem and Scout are proud of their father, and his devotion to morality inspires them.

In the role that he takes most seriously, Atticus raises Jem and Scout by emphasizing the practice of treating everyone in the way that you would like to be treated. Instead of simply lecturing these beliefs into his children’s minds, Atticus leads by example, the ultimate accomplishment for a hero. Atticus sums up his feelings on parenting when he says, “Before Jem looks at anyone else he looks at me, and I’ve tried to live so I can look squarely back at him.” Atticus’s son and daughter do not initially look to their father as a hero; their naiveté prevents them from realizing the strength that it takes to live as straight of a life as their father does.

The incident that most poignantly shows Scout, Jem, the reader, and the entire town of Maycomb Atticus’s unwillingness to falter from his morality is when he agrees to defend Tom Robinson, a black man, in a case accusing him of raping a white woman. Atticus puts his heart and soul into defending Tom’s innocence, and he definitely has to face the repercussions of that decision. The same moral conscious that once awarded him respect now places him as the object of scorn by most of Maycomb’s white citizens. Despite Atticus’ presentation of impressive evidence proving Tom’s innocence, the all-white jury finds him guilty. One of Atticus’s most important statements to Scout about moral behavior permeates the entire novel: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” To live a morally right life is heroic in and of itself, but to continue to stand by those convictions when faced with threatening hatred shows the strength and courage of a hero. And to impress these moral convictions onto the next generation due to their respect for that individual demonstrates the enduring nature of not only the hero himself, but also the admirable qualities he embodies.

 

This scene from the movie fully demonstrates Atticus’s devotion to being morally straight, the way he has instilled that behavior into his children, and how the morally correct choices that Atticus make ostracizes him from the community.

 

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