My Verdict: Adnan Syed Guilty

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Innocent teen or murderer?

 

The guilt or innocence of Adnan Syed is about to be determined, again, by the Baltimore judicial system. Syed’s original conviction and life sentence that he has been living the last 17 years has recently been overturned .  He has been granted a new trial but still remains charged with the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee.  So, the question of the day is, is Adnan Syed guilty of the crime he is accused of? Many believe him incapable of committing such a heinous act because of the person they know him to be. Rabia Chaudry, an immigration lawyer and friend of Syed’s, states in the podcast Serial that, “He was an honor roll student, volunteer EMT. He was on the football team. He was a star runner on the track team. He was the homecoming king. He led prayers at the mosque. Everybody knew Adnan to be somebody who was going to do something really big.” With such high praise, is there any doubt as to why she thinks him to be innocent?

 

Syed was portrayed as the all-American teenager despite being a conservative Muslim. But that is only what was seen on the surface. Syed kept his relationship with Lee a secret, drank, smoked, had sex, and even did weed with his friend Jay. His story bears a shocking resemblance to that of the Preppy Killer of 1986 . Robert Chambers at age 19 was found guilty of killing the woman he dated, Jennifer Levin, in New York City’s Central Park. Chambers was dubbed the Preppy Killer because of his model looks and the button down shirts he wore. The prosecutor in the case, Linda Fairstein said, “He looked like a male model, people treated him like a — like he was a graduate of — an Ivy League college and had this prep school background. And yet, in fact, his days were really spent with the underbelly of New York drug life.” No one could believe that Chambers was guilty of killing Levin based on the person he showed to society, but underneath he was someone completely different, just like Syed. Syed hid his true life from his conservative Muslim family because he was a teen and all teens lie according to Chaudry. But it makes me think, what else could he be hiding?

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Guilty again

Now that Syed’s conviction has been overturned and he is technically innocent until his new trial, his supporters want investigators to look for other possible suspects who could have murdered Hae Min Lee. However, police know that the most likely perpetrators of crimes against female victims are the ones closest to them. Syed’s supporters want nothing more than for investigators to turn their attention away from Syed, but it’s usually a husband, boyfriend, or someone the female victim knows who is most likely to hurt them. According to a National Institute of Justice study, two-thirds of violent attacks against women ages 18-29 had a prior relationship with the offender . Syed and Lee’s relationship ended at her instigation which could have created feelings of rage for Syed. After all, he was still a conservative Muslim and most likely exposed to the teachings of the Koran where women are considered subordinate to men. In “The Woman of Islam” article by Time, it states, “Women’s rights are compromised further by a section in the Koran, sura 4:34, that has been interpreted to say that men have “pre-eminence” over women or that they are “overseers” of women”. In light of these facts, Lee’s ending of the relationship may have been the tipping point for Syed giving him the motive he needed to commit murder.

 

Through all of this circumstantial evidence, there is what we know, or more accurately don’t know, from Syed’s own accounting of the events that day. In his interviews with Sarah Koenig for the Serial Podcast, Syed’s inability to recall any details about the day his ex-girlfriend was murdered suggests that he is covering up his involvement as people tend to remember what they did on the day a significant event occurred. This phenomenon is called  Flashbulb Memory which is defined as “the clear recollections that a person may have of the circumstances associated with a dramatic event [and] are a type of long-term memory”. These memories are focused around upsetting, emotional events, such as hearing that a loved one has died unexpectedly. In Syed’s case, hearing about the murder of his ex-girlfriend would surely qualify as an upsetting, emotional event. Typically, flashbulb memories are “high in details such as location, emotion, and surroundings”, yet Syed is unable to recall specific details of that day, including who he was speaking to at the library.

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Flashbulb memory failure 

Syed and Asia McLean apparently had a 15-20 minute conversation during the time Lee was murdered, but Syed only remembers the conversation after receiving letters from McLean, “Adnan says now that he does in fact remember seeing Asia in the library”. It seems highly suspect that Syed would not recall a lengthy conversation he had with the girl who could prove to be his alibi until her letters arrived after he was arrested. The timing of the letters and McLean’s refusal to speak to the private investigator that came to her house suggests that maybe McLean didn’t really write the letters. Maybe it was someone else who wanted to provide Syed with the alibi he needed and McLean was just a pawn in the plan. It was interesting to hear how clearly McLean remembered the events of January 13, 1999, but Syed can’t even remember talking to her on that dramatic day his ex-girlfriend was murdered.

 

Perhaps even more telling is Syed’s calm acceptance. In his recorded calls with Koenig, Syed is not the least bit outraged that his friend Jay would lie about what happened the day Lee was murdered resulting in his conviction. If Syed is innocent, then Jay is lying yet Syed fails to direct anger, or any emotion for that matter, towards Jay. Syed’s demeanor during his calls with Koenig is also not reflective of someone who has been wrongly accused of a crime indicating that he’s resigned himself to the punishment he deserves. When Syed says, “I definitely understand that someone could look at this and say, oh, man, he must be lying”, he seems to acknowledge that the facts of the case point to his guilt. A man who is innocent would loudly defend themselves against such accusations, but a guilty man quietly accepts his fate.

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My Opinions on the “Serial” Podcast

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Serial Logo

The “Serial” podcast discussing the case of Adnan Syed, who was convicted of murdering his girlfriend when they were both in high school, was intriguing and kept me interested until its conclusion. The host, Sarah Koenig, made valid points which were confirmed first hand by people through the use of their voices on the podcast. I felt that including audio from those who would have knowledge about the issue made the information being presented seem more credible and less biased. I believe that it also broke up the monotony of hearing the narrator’s voice helping to keep me attentive to what the other voices were saying.

 

However, the integrity of the podcast is challenged even before Koenig begins the investigative portion when she discusses the challenges of memory. Her argument is that teenagers couldn’t remember the events of a given day unless something significant happened, which she proceeds to prove by asking several teens what they did on a day

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What does our brain remember?

six weeks ago. I can even remember what I did yesterday in detail, so I know for certain that I wouldn’t remember the details of a day six weeks ago no matter what significant event occurred. Oh sure, I would remember what I did. But details? I don’t think I could. If I can’t remember the details of a given day, why would some other teenager be able to? So, right from the start I had concerns about the accuracy of the information being presented. It made me wonder if the people were actually remembering the events or if they were simply repeating information that had been suggested to them, by either the police to prove guilt or by a family friend to prove innocence.

 

In my opinion, presenting investigative journalism in the podcast format leaves much to be desired. Without the benefit of people’s expressions, it is difficult to determine if they are telling the truth. Also, how a person behaves when being interviewed, like shifting in their seat to indicate discomfort, is left to a person’s imagination which could introduce bias in the listener’s mind. Sometimes actions speak louder than words and a podcast prevents the audience from knowing a person’s true intentions. I think that investigative journalism should be presented in a format that allows the audience to both see and hear what is being communicated so that they have a better understanding of the issue.

Even though I feel otherwise, there are many people who like investigative journalism presented in this way as evidenced by the popularity of the “Serial” podcast. I think that the popularity of a podcast that investigates the death of a loved one would be difficult for the victim’s family as they are unable to find closure. This podcast is clearly biased towards Syed’s innocence which constantly puts doubt in the minds of the victim’s

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It’s all about money

family. Is the person who murdered Hae the one being punished or is the real murderer still out there? The popularity of the podcast raises these questions over and over so much so that it is frequently discussed in the media. The family may also feel that the death of their loved one is being used to generate profits for the producer of the podcast. It is in the producers’ best financial interest to present the case in such a way that listeners will continue to follow the series, yet should they be allowed to profit from the family’s tragedy? As a human being, I don’t think so.

 

Personally, I would rather read over listening to a text such as a podcast so I fail to understand its appeal. Reading gives me the benefit of going back over a sentence or paragraph to fully grasp what the author is saying. In a podcast, you have to stop and hit rewind which not only takes time, but is also frustrating as you might not rewind to the correct spot. That being said, podcasts add a certain amount of interest to the text being presented through the use of audio clips and the narrator’s tone – provided they have some inflection in their voice.

Applying Feminist Theory: Without Grace

 

Works Cited

Baig, Mehroz. “Women in the Workforce: What Changes Have We Made?” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 19 Dec. 2013. Web. 20 July 2017.

Bardy, Laverne H. “Men and Women: Their Changing Roles.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 21 Oct. 2014. Web. 20 July 2017.

Hoenig, Carol. Without Grace: A Novel. New York: IUniverse Star, 2005. Print.

Napikoski, Linda. “Key Events of United States Feminism During the 1970s.” ThoughtCo. ThoughtCo, 25 Mar. 2017. Web. 20 July 2017.

Seamone, Emily. “Women and Work in the 1970s.” Women, Work, and Life. WordPress, 12 Aug. 2014. Web. 20 July 2017.

Archetypal Characters in Without Grace and Cinderella

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The novel I selected

“Many literary critics are of the opinion that archetypes, which have a common and recurring representation in a particular human culture or entire human race, shape the structure and function of a literary work” (LiteraryDevices Editors). I believe that the presence of these archetypal characters in literature helps readers understand the identity of the character represented by the archetype as well as provide a sense of familiarity.   In the novel, Without Grace by Carol Hoenig, and the movie, Cinderella, archetypal characters of the hero, the mentor, and the sidekick are compared to illustrate how they are used to help shape the literary work and how the archetypal similarities are consistent to the character universally defined in the “collective unconscious” (“Collective Unconscious”).

 

Vicky, who begins her life on a farm in a small town in upstate New York, represents the archetypal character of hero as a traumatic event leads her on a quest to find her mother, hoping to learn about her true self as she transitions to adulthood. “The hero is after some ultimate objective and must encounter and overcome obstacles along the way to achieving this goal,” (Scribendi, Inc.). The discovery that her mother left when she was a baby initiates her quest, and Vicky’s family are the obstacles she needs to overcome since her father and grandparents refuse to reveal any details about her mother even getting rid of pictures and her clothes. Vicky, as the hero “undertaking a long journey during which she must perform impossible tasks” (Barker), eventually uncovers pieces of information about her mother to help her on her quest. “It was also in those woods, a season or two later, that I found out Grace hadn’t always been a Finley; she had begun life as a Dormand,” (Hoenig, 77). Vicky’s quest is symbolic of the hero archetype and is

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Vicky and Cinderella represent the Hero Archetype

also represented in the character of Cinderella. Cinderella as the hero archetype is on similar journey of self-discovery resulting in her transformation from slave to princess. The death of her father after remarrying her evil stepmother was the traumatic event that led Cinderella on her quest. Just like Vicky, the obstacles she needed to overcome were initiated by her family, such as the tearing of her mother’s dress that she was going to wear to the ball. Vicky and Cinderella in their heroic journey, begin their life in the “Ordinary World” in a disadvantaged state receiving the “Call to Adventure” for their quest from their inner self as a result of a traumatic event. As the hero archetypes in their respective literary works, the reader now has insight into how Vicky and Cinderella will fulfill their journey resulting in their transformation into their true self.

 

Kevin, as Vicky’s older brother, serves as the mentor archetype as he provides guidance to Vicky on her quest to find her mother and ultimately discover who she truly is. “The mentor character must display enough expertise and wisdom to be able to support the protagonist or hero through their external or internal journey, or both,” (Emkay). Kevin advises Vicky not to discuss her quest with their father or grandparents as he knows they will stop her in her quest to find her mother. “Even Kevin, who had always liked teaching me things, whispered that we weren’t allowed to talk about her, which made me all the more curious,” (Hoenig, 22-23). The archetypal character of mentor will also provide gifts to the hero on their journey, such as when Kevin “…gingerly slipped out a 3 by 5 Polariod holding it out for me,” (Hoenig, 36) revealing a picture of their mother.

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Kevin and The Fairy Godmother represent the Mentor Archetype

Kevin’s representation of the mentor archetype is also represented by the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella. The Fairy Godmother too provides guidance to the hero, Cinderella, when she advises her to maintain hope and that she will be successful on her journey to be transformed from slave to princess. The Fairy Godmother also provides gifts to help Cinderella on her journey including a gown for the ball, glass slippers and a coach which is representative of the mentor archetype. Kevin and the Fairy Godmother as the mentor archetypes provide the hero with the motivation, tools and wisdom they need to complete their quest. Their presence gives the reader an understanding of their role in helping the hero on their journey as well as their purpose in the literary work.

 

In the novel, Brenda represents the sidekick archetype to the hero, Vicky. “The sidekick as [an] archetype, also has a set of reasons for being: to support the main hero on their journey. A sidekick must have a purpose, and that purpose is to be with the main hero,” (Emkay). Brenda supports Vicky in her quest to find her mother and transform herself from the family cook to a famous chef in Montreal. In her supporting role as the sidekick archetype, Brenda has similar external goals to the hero, Vicky, as she too dreams of living in Montreal. “The moment Brenda had found out that Mrs. Fitz, my home economics teacher, planned to recommend me for an apprenticeship at a major restaurant in Montreal, she grabbed on to my apron strings, intending to come along for

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Brenda and Jaq and Gus represent the Sidekick Archetype

the ride…,” (Hoenig 81). However, Brenda’s main purpose as the sidekick archetype is to act as Vicky’s confidant and loyal friend. In the movie, Cinderella, Jaq and Gus serve as the sidekick archetypes to Cinderella. Jaq and Gus support Cinderella in her quest to go to the ball by re-designing her mother’s dress so that she may be transformed into a princess. They also serve an important role in aiding Cinderella’s transformation when they get the key to the room where Cinderella was locked away allowing her to try on the glass slipper. Brenda and Jaq and Gus are representative of the sidekick archetype which allows the reader to appreciate their importance as faithful supporters existing to assist the hero on their journey.

 

The novel, Without Grace, and the movie, Cinderella make use of the archetypal characters of the hero, the mentor and the sidekick to provide the reader with insight into the characters. A comparison of the characters in the novel and fairy tale highlighted the similarities of the different archetypes represented by Vicky and Cinderella, Kevin and the Fairy Godmother, and Brenda and Jaq and Gus confirming their common representation across literary works. Since archetypal characters are based on common world experiences across the human race, I believe that they have a consistent universal definition in a person’s “collective unconscious” giving readers a sense of familiarity resulting in a better understanding of the literary work.

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Cinderella movie poster 1950

 

 

Works Cited

Barker, Danika. “Archetypal Literary Criticism.” Scribd. Scribd, n.d. Web. 12 July 2017.

“Collective Unconscious.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 03 July 2017. Web. 12 July 2017.

Emkay, Hunter. “Character Archetypes–F for Fallen Mentor.” Word Hunter. Word Hunter, 14 June 2016. Web. 12 July 2017.

Emkay, Hunter. “Character Archetypes–S for Sidekick.” Word Hunter. Word Hunter, 14 June 2016. Web. 12 July 2017.

LiteraryDevices Editors. “Archetype – Examples and Definition of Archetype.” Literary Devices. LiteraryDevices.net, 11 Mar. 2015. Web. 12 July 2017.

Scribendi, Inc. “5 Common Character Archetypes in Literature.” Scribendi Editing and Proofreading. Scribendi, n.d. Web. 12 July 2017.

Why University English Should Be Required For Entry Into University Courses

As a student in high school, taking English is compulsory from grade 9 through grade 12.

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Aspects of effective writing

At first, I thought it was unnecessary since the career path I am interested in doesn’t directly connect to the English curriculum.  However, I started to realize that English isn’t just about writing poems or reading Shakespearean plays.  It provides you with tools and helps you develop skills that are vital to success in all aspects of life, and is especially helpful to those pursuing a university education.  Even though a lot of students consider Grade 12 University English to be a burden, I believe it to be an essential part of a high school education as it gives you a foundation in writing, communication, and analysis.

The importance of English to those entering university is evidenced by the fact that all degree programs require Grade 12 University English as a prerequisite.  Our modern day educational system requires English teachers to provide instruction on proper grammar, sentence structuring and formatting.  These skills are extremely valuable since a lot of programs require students to write essays, lab assignments and other university projects.  Studies have shown that the most successful job applicants and employees are the ones who can write well.  This shows writing is a skill that will help a person succeed, regardless of their future profession.  Also, English teaches how to determine the key points in a piece of literature, which is crucial when taking notes in university.  In high school, teachers guide students through the writing process by printing off notes and providing the structure for writing projects.  However, as I move on to a post-secondary education, I am expected to be more independent and create writing projects on my own without assistance from professors.  Without the skills learned in Grade 12 University English, I believe it would be very difficult to take proper notes and produce quality writing assignments in university.

In addition, English allows students to acquire communication skills that will help throughout their entire life.  This is a skill that people use every single day making it one of the most important they will learn!  Whether a person is a waitress at a local restaurant or an emergency room doctor, both professions require excellent communication since people need to understand them in order for them to do their job effectively.

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The components of English class

Elementary and secondary English classes provide students with a foundation that will help after high school whether they choose to enter the work force directly or purse a post-secondary education.  Depending on the university program, these skills may not be further developed so students need to have a good base before leaving high school.  Participating in class discussions, giving presentations, and commenting on other students’ work are ways Grade 12 University English classes helped to prepare me for the future.  The communication knowledge I have developed through the English curriculum will definitely benefit me for the rest of my life.

Finally, English helps students analyze a variety of texts and videos which can be researched further and presented in a professional way.  This is critical in university as students may not have access to resources, like professors or teaching assistants, to discuss the content learned and get clarification, so being able to analyze the content independently will definitely help a person thrive in university.  Grade 12 University English prepared me for this, having to work with many different types of material including novels, plays and videos.  Learning how to analyze key points gathered from these materials and then answering questions or writing essays based on this information is common in university no matter which program I choose making English valuable to my educational success.

In conclusion, Grade 12 University English should be a requirement for all university programs.  This class provides students with the necessary tools to successfully complete any program I choose to pursue at university making it an important part of my high school education.  Even though many students may not be interested in a career that connects directly to an English program, I am certain that they will be able to obtain their dream job if they use the writing, communication and analysis skills taught to them in their high school English class.

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What you’re taught affects how you communicate