And the TWISTED teacher winner is…..

Julia Borgisi of Kenmore East High School in Tonawanda, NY!!!

::stands and applauds wildly::

Here are Julia’s correct answers:

What is the significance of the name of the game Tyler plays on his computer?

” Tophet, to summarize, means child sacrifice and/or hell. As Tyler is playing the game, he is living through his own personal hell as his “real” world crumbles around him. As he is conquering more levels (and advancing through hell) his personal life seems to get more and more convoluted. When he becomes stuck in the game, it seems to be at times where he is reevaluating his options in life (sacrificing himself through suicide being one very real choice). When he does “beat” the game at the end, he has also beaten the odds and survived his own twisted past; he is finally able to look beyond both the game and high school to see a real future.”
Which classic American play, often taught in high schools, helped inspire TWISTED?

“I think Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller is a perfect match- I could easily see a significant connection here. Tyler’s dad can be compared to Willy Loman- a man who is slowly losing it all career-wise and demands nothing but perfection from his children (especially his eldest son). Mr. Miller sees Tyler as a major disappointment, and Tyler’s imperfections fuel Bill’s anger and resentment towards his family. In both works we have deaths, whether literal or figurative. Willy commits suicide, while Tyler contemplates it and almost does the deed. We have the death of dreams- Willy’s dream for a successful career again and a successful son, Tyler’s dream of a relationship with Bethany and enjoying popularity. However, at the end of TWISTED we see new doors opening for Tyler and the Miller family; Tyler and his dad are both able to take charge of their lives, thus creating the possibility of a new life for the family as a whole.”

Pretty much everyone who wrote in got the first question correct. It was the second one that threw so many of you off. Most teachers thought I was referring to Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible. In fact, several wrote in with very convincing arguments about the connection between The Crucible and Twisted.

(Hold on to your red pencils, friends, we are about to have an interesting lit-crit moment.)

You see, I have never read The Crucible, nor have I have seen it performed. So while the parallels may be there, they are coincidental. Or maybe not so much, if you want to take the approach that both Miller and I concern ourselves with the emotional wasteland that lies behind the curtain called The American Dream, and the devastation visited upon families that lose their centers of love and integrity. (I offer that free of charge to anyone who is looking for a good thesis topic.)

I have, however, always been a huge fan of Death of a Salesman. When I saw it performed in New York with Brian Dennehy as Willy Loman, it left me so devastated that I sobbed for blocks and blocks as we walked uptown from the theater. My earliest thoughts about Tyler, the main character in TWISTED, were that he could have been the grandson of a man like Willy Loman. Tyler has to pay the price for the crushed, misshapen dreams of both his father and grandfather; men who thought that by earning a lot of money, they would be successful, and whose children paid the price for their ambition, confusion, and rage.

I hadn’t planned to do this, but one of the entries had such an amazing analysis of the Tophet question, I am awarding it an Honorable Mention and will be sending something off in the mail. The winner of the Surprise! Prize is Cheryl Maxian, of Fabius-Pompey High School.

Here is Cheryl’s explanation of the significance of Tyler’s computer game: “The significance of the game of Tophet is two fold: The main character describes the game as the player makes himself as powerful a demon as possible to survive the 66 levels of torment. Obviously our character Tyler has survived and is surviving all kinds of torment. At the beginning of the novel he’s at level 42 which would represent him already getting through 2/3 of his life’s goal (he has almost completed his community service and has become buff and stronger because of it). As the book comes to an end, Tyler completes the game and must choose his destiny – either that of good or evil. He has come so far and survived so much that it is clear that he will choose a path of good.

On a second level, Tophet is an ancient place where Phoenicians sacrificed their children to appease the gods. I think this is metaphorical for the various parents in the novel who “sacrifice” their children’s well-being by either ignoring them or by spoiling them, as they only pay attention to their own needs.”

Clearly, Cheryl has found her calling!

Any thoughts about these answers or anything else related to this? I heard from a number of you who want a contest for the brave souls studying to be English teachers. What would be a useful/fun prize?

In other news, the kids in our area went back to school today. I am SO GLAD I was not one of them.

Back to work!

So far, so good. My break from writing ended at 7am this morning as I went back to my story. A secondary character has grown significantly since I went on vacation so I spent all morning reconsidering the opening chapters in light of her changed position. It was not the kind of writing day you can measure in page production, but I think the story has more depth now, which is every bit as important.

I kept canning through the weekend…. and have more pantry adventures lined up for the weeks ahead.

If you can stand to see more pictures of preserved food, here they are.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic I wound up making another batch of pickles. This is what pickles look like when they are called “cucumbers.”

Image and video hosting by TinyPic You chop them into messes and boil yourself a batch of pickle water.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic The day’s production – pickles and homemade salsa (red stuff in the back)

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Ummmmm… pickle love.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic I also froze a bunch more peaches and green beans (not together in the same container, though) and I made plum jam and dilled green beans (in the back)

Image and video hosting by TinyPic And today I made another batch of spaghetti. For those of you who care, one-half a bushel of Roma tomatoes with a bunch of garlic, onion and herbs thrown into it cooks down to six pint jars of sauce.

I’ll post about the TWISTED teacher contest tomorrow. Be sure to drop by Sarah Dessen’s blog and congratulate her on the birth of her baby girl, Sasha!!