Letter to the Opinionated Writer

The Great Gatsby, written by the infamous F. Scott Fitzgerald, tells the lonely tale of a wealthy man: known by everyone, yet never truly seen. Nick Carraway, a pathetic lowlife who moves to New York in hopes of gaining popularity and fame, narrates the story, which is kind of unfortunate because his character is really annoying. At the beginning of the story, Nick goes to dinner with his cousin, Daisy Buchanan, the novel’s most high-maintenanced and selfish character. She and her husband, Tom, live in a rich neighborhood. Nick obviously doesn’t belong, but he is lucky because, by the grace of God, he is introduced to Daisy’s golfer friend, Jordan Baker, who Nick quickly titles “Lady Friend of the Week Award,” yet he never actually verbally admits to it. One would think that their acquaintance would be the highest point of action at this particular dinner party because, hello, he’s Nick, and she’s supposedly gorgeous and richer than rich can get. But then, Nick finds out that Tom is having an affair with some side-chick, Myrtle Wilson, and everybody knows about it, including Daisy. Still, nobody directly addresses the issue with Tom, and instead, they all continue about their extremely awkward, I-can-literally-see-the-tension-in-this-room kind of evening. Weird, right?

Then, a couple days later, Nick goes with Tom to visit this Myrtle character, which is extremely uncomfortable for everyone, and Fitzgerald really shouldn’t have put the experience in his book at all, but then again, he’s from Minnesota, so he’s probably accustomed to weird circumstances, don’t yâ knōw? Anyways, eventually, Nick, Daisy, Tom, and Señora Baker all end up at the most extravagant party, hosted by Mister Jay Gatsby himself. Well, it says that he hosted it, but literally nobody sees the guy until he very creepily and gently whispers “well, hey there, Old Sport,” into the ears of Nick, who is spending time with his “friend,” Jordan. Then, he asks to speak with Jordan alone, which one would think would leave Nick feeling pretty jealous because, if Nick and Gatsby were to get into a fist fight, we all know Jay would sock the “k” right off of the end of Nick’s incredibly unoriginal and over-used name. However, when Jordan leaves, Nick transfers all of his emotional energy onto Daisy, who we all know he secretly, but unadmittedly, has a crush on, and it’s like Jordan doesn’t even exist until she comes back to tell Nick about a secret love that Gatsby and Daisy used to share, which blows everybody’s mind and definitely gives the readers clarity on why Daisy acts like a complete and utter psychopath. And that’s pretty much all of the most important parts of the story, or at least, the only ones worth reading.

The end.”

Well, kind of.

It’s at least the end of a terribly long, and border-line offensive, example of a highly opinionated summary of Fitzgerald’s most popular piece of art. That’s right, the information above is in no way factual, practical, or acceptable for use by any of you hooligans looking for information to include in your own book reviews (I’m talking to you, highschoolers; just READ the book). In fact, the only purpose for the nonsense written above is to prove this point: personal opinions, while valuable and worth having, seldom have a place in academic writing. Even if one might think that Nick is the bratworst*, that information is not, in anyway, relevant to the events that actually took place in the story, unless the author specifically said so. Trust me, there are times when I, too, want to rip a story to shreds and tell my professor exactly what I thought about every character and event that took place, but I can guarantee you that there isn’t a single professor on this green earth who would have accepted the work above as a book review of The Great Gatsby without handing it back with some pretty stern, probably red, opinions of his or her own written on it, too. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place when opinions are acceptable, even welcomed, in academic writing. Most professors love hearing about their students’ personal thoughts and perceptions of things; however, when those are what they’re after, they make it abundantly clear in their instructions. So, when you’re unsure if you should include personal opinions in your writing, look to your assignment sheets, syllabi, and Writing Center family to help you determine if doing so would be appropriate. In fact, consider taking an even bigger leap and ask your professor directly! Doing so will not only clarify what he or she wants, but it shows that you truly care about your work and want to succeed.

So, to the opinionated writers who have stuck with me this long, know that you are not alone. We’ve all been there, and it really is difficult to completely eliminate opinions from certain assignments, but it is possible, and the UWC is here to help.

* Brat•worst, (brätˌwurst): a play on words. Taking from the extraordinary vocabulary of The Karoline Faith Ott.

Written by Haley

P.S. I promise The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite books, and I respect Fitzgerald’s work with all of my being.

P.S.S. I have nothing against Minnesotans. All good things here.

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This Is Halloween

Halloween, or at least the celebration of it, is probably one of the most controversial topics in Christianity. I’m including baptism versus sprinkling, communion versus the Lord’s Supper, and Hillsong versus hymns in that assessment, too. Parents all across America argue over whether or not the celebration of Halloween, or the distinct lack thereof, encourages their children to participate in witchcraft. The topic is polarizing; in many people’s minds, a person is either pro-boredom or pro-Satan—nothing in between will do.

The exception: my house.

We didn’t really celebrate Halloween until I was older. We might have worn costumes we already had around the house and eaten candy we got at church, but trick-or-treating was for the neighborhood kids. We didn’t even watch the Peanuts special when I was little.

Then, as I got older, Mom got outnumbered, and we went trick-or-treating for the first time when I was in high school. (Note to parents: your teenagers will be somewhat miffed if you do this, because they get funny looks from the neighbors if they’re unaccompanied by smaller kids. Trust me.) To fifteen-year-old me, it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, but the younger kids in my family had fun.

Astonishingly enough, out of the eight of us, zero have shown any interest in witchcraft. Granted, one of us is two years old, but still. An amazing statistic, right there.

So, which perspective saved our spiritual lives? The anti-fun perspective or the anti-Jesus one?

Neither. I’ve never considered Halloween to be any different from any other holiday, save for the unfortunate lack of canceled classes. With Thanksgiving, I can focus on the feast and the football, or I can focus on thanking God for my bountiful life. With New Year’s Eve, I could get drunk and make out with some stranger, or I could spend the evening praying and asking God to bless the new year. Valentine’s Day? Even without a “significant other,” I can focus on the infallible love of Christ in my heart.

Halloween is the same way. I could dress like a vampire and go around sucking blood (wait, nobody actually does that?), or I could take the opportunity to reach out to all the kids roaming the neighborhood. Schools don’t typically talk about Jesus, so trick-or-treating is a great way to briefly encounter all the kids in the neighborhood at once. That doesn’t happen every day!

It is possible to throw a pack of Gospel tracts in the bucket of candy without dressing up. It is perfectly reasonable to host a movie night without bubbling cauldrons of potions. It’s these sorts of acts that will truly help get the message of Christ out to the masses—more than any candy boycott or angry internet post.

It’s okay to dress up and hand out junk food if it’s clear that getting down on the neighborhood kids’ level is the best way to reach them. It’s also okay to avoid those things if doing so will only raise suspicions or guilt. Buy leftover candy on clearance on November 1st if you must. (I know I will.) None of this makes a person any more or less of a Christian by itself. What makes someone a Christian is Christ’s presence in the heart, and no little cowboy or witch at the door is going to take Him away.

Be cautious and be discerning, but be open. After all, we still have to decide between “Oceans” and “It Is Well.”

Written by Catherine

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