The Fall of Rome

“Those candle flames were like the lives of men. So fragile. So deadly. Left alone, they lit and warmed. Let run rampant, they would destroy the very things they were meant to illuminate. Embryonic bonfires, each bearing a seed of destruction so potent it could tumble cities and dash kings to their knees.” 
― Brandon Sanderson, “The Way of Kings”

I’ve always had a fascination with fire. As a child I would sit in front of the fireplace and watch the flames leap. The ethereal shades of orange and yellow licking upwards had a way of mesmerizing me. I always wondered how something so beautiful could be so destructive, how something so dazzling could turn everything in its path to ash given the opportunity.

Over the course of this semester, it occurred to me the same could be said for humans. We have the power to do unbelievable things. We built the Seven Wonders of the World, we put a man on the moon, and we’ve created systems allowing for instantaneous communication around the globe; but we have also done more then our fair share of razing. Empires have been brought to their knees for no other reason than to change the status quo. We have committed atrocities towards each other simply because of differences in religious belief and skin color. This is why the theme of my portfolio is that humans have a fundamental need to see things, be it governments, relationships, or lives, come toppling down.

I’ve always had a problem with English classes, because I don’t particularly enjoy writing. I got bored writing the same type of paper in the same format time after time. I had never had a teacher allow me to write about anything that caught my attention, and that’s what I loved about this ENG1101 class. I had free reign to write about any topic that caught my eye, and I truly believe has made me a better writer. Being given free range over my writing topics has also allowed me to see how seemingly unrelated topics can share themes. At first, I couldn’t understand how “Brokeback Mountain”, David Freese, and modern day Russia could possibly be related to each other, but thanks to Sensei Simrill’s teachings, I was able to dig deeper into the subtext of the stories and find a common thread.

“The student must kill the master” — Professor Simrill

In my first essay, I analyzed the symbolism in Annie Proulx’s “Brokeback Mountain”. “Brokeback Mountain” is absolutely stuffed to the brim with symbols, as I show in my paper, but it also offers a commentary on humanity’s need to see things destroyed. “Brokeback Mountain” tells the story of two gay cowboys from Wyoming who can not live happily ever after due to prejudice in the Midwest against homosexuals. In fact the prejudice is so great that there are two separate incidents men being murdered because they are gay. Reading the piece, I could feel the hatred burning within the murderers, like a fire just waiting to erupt, and I could feel their need to destroy someone else’s happiness because it did not fit into their notion of what happiness should be.

My second piece is about World Series hero David Freese and his struggle with alcoholism. I think this was really the piece that helped me come up with a theme. I’m a huge baseball fan, so this essay was also an opportunity to write about a topic I love dearly. David Freese was a millionaire baseball player with an entire career ahead of himself, and he still staked it on the thrill of driving drunk. Fortunately for David, the worst thing to come from his drinking was a probation sentence, but his willingness to risk his highly successful life for a few brief moments of adrenaline highlights the human tendency towards destruction.

My third and final piece was about the censorship of the media in modern day Russia. Ever since Russia invaded Crimea a few years back, I’ve been reading stories about Vladimir Putin’s censorship techniques and hostility towards America. Putin’s crusade against unfavorable media coverage illustrates how far people will go to destroy just because they can. Putin has unchecked power and he uses it to destroy people’s lives because there is no one to stop him.

From Ancient Rome to modern day Moscow, humans have loved to watch society crumble to dust. Sometimes we destroy so that something new can be born, and sometimes we burn things down because it’s pretty to look at. No matter the reason, humans undoubtedly have a fetish for destruction. And while this project taught me about my own fascination in destruction, it also showed me how fun it is to create. I’m thankful that I was given the freedom and encouragement to research things I was found interesting, and I truly believe my journey through ENG1101 has made me a better writer.

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