(Not) Reading Horatio Alger

Reading was once something I genuinely enjoyed. As I got older and decided to pursue a degree in Literature, reading has felt more like work and has lost a lot of its magic for me. Analyzing corpuses of texts, on the other hand, is something incredibly interesting and unorthodox. The Horatio Alger novel I have chosen to contribute to the class folder is “The Young Circus Rider.”

 

Prior to using Voyant Tools, I did some research on Alger via Wikipedia to get an idea of his style of writing. A major takeaway was how his writings were characterized as “rags to riches” narratives. With that in mind, I entered the text into Voyant and omitted common words such as “said,” “know,” “like,” and character names. After that, I noticed that “boy,” “man,” and “circus,” were among the top three most common words throughout the novel. It seems that Alger’s Wikipedia page could be accurate. I can make an inference that this novel is about a young boy who makes his living working at a circus. With a theme like “rags to riches,” I was surprised “money” didn’t crack the top five. I decided to look deeper into this and make use of the “Trends” tool in Voyant.

The above graph shows the frequencies of the words, “boy,” “money,” “man,” “circus.” I wanted to see if there were correlations between a boy making money at the circus. I included “man” because I figured if this boy worked enough to get rich, he could be referred to as a “man.” There is a noticeable pattern between “boy” (olive green) and money (tan) and at Document Segment 6, both “boy,” and “money” intersect. I think this data supports the idea that Alger stayed true to his reputation and wrote another “rag to riches” novel and we can make this inference without reading a single sentence.

 

Next, it was time to compare my text with some other Alger texts from the class folder. After cleaning up the texts, the most common words were, “Mr.” “boy,” “man,” “think,” and “good.”

What I found to be interesting was how “boy” wasn’t really prevalent in 2/5 of the works I chose (or at least compared to the other three). “Boy” is marked in green and we see how it is lower in frequency until we analyze “Train Boy.” The peak is at “Cashboy,” and when it hits my original text, “The Young Circus Rider,” we see a dramatic plummet in frequency.  This leads me to believe that TrainBoy, Cashboy, and The Young Circus Rider’s main character is a boy, but what about “Bound to Rise”, and “Nothing to Eat?” Since “Mr.” is common among the five texts, perhaps the boys in the novels have a father/mentor type figure to help them achieve success. And this could be the cause of “boy” having a lower frequency

 

Next, I wanted to reinvestigate the word “money” and how it related to a boy’s success in the novels. I used “boy” in pink, “good” in tan, which leaves “money” to be in green. Initially, my hypothesis was Alger’s idea of success was money. In order to have a good life, being rich was a major factor. Based on these results, I was surprised to see “money” fluctuates much as it did but it was even more surprising to see how steady “good” was. With this new data, we could make the inference that most of his novels having happy endings or consist of a lot of good things happening throughout the books.

 

Furthermore, I used nGram to look more in-depth at the terms “boy,” “money,” and “good” across all publications from the year 1800-2000. To no surprise, “good” is used more frequently, but what was interesting was the giant decrease is frequency during the 60s-70s. My initial thought was perhaps the Vietnam War influenced people to not write about “good” or happy things, but that seems like a stretch to me since there were no dramatic spikes during WW1 and WW2. It’s a possibility that a slang word became more popular than “good” during that era then phased out in the 80s. “Money,” and “Boy” have fluctuated closely for the past two centuries. This was not as surprising to me once I realized how closely they relate.  It is considered “American” to be a blue collar worker. Most men began working and making money as boys, so this is seemed like a common and plausible thing to write about.

 

It is astonishing how much information you can uncover about multiple texts with a single click of a button. Though we won’t get the full story by using Voyant Tools or nGrams, we can get an abundance of data that can help us make inferences. Reading the books will definitely help you in understanding the plot, but by studying data and trends, you are able to get a broader understanding of themes and trends that other authors partake in.

 

Improving the Wiki.

I will be adding more content to Blood Orange’s debut album, Coastal Grooves.  As it stands now, the wiki page features the tracklist and one sentence about the album. Considering Dev Hynes’ rising popularity, I feel it is necessary to provide more information about his first solo album. I intend to add more of a description about the album and more history as to how Blood Orange became a thing. I would also like to talk about the process of creating the album as well as the impact it had on the community. For instance, Pitchfork wrote a pretty interesting article about the album, so I plan on drawing from that and other sources. Lastly, I want to include a section where it lists if any song from the album has been used in a film or TV show.

A Look Into World War 1

Anthem for Doomed Youth

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
      — Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
      Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
      Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,—
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
      And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
      Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
      The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.
1920

“Bartleby The Scrivener,” Annotation Reflection

I want to start off by saying after viewing both annotated versions of the text, I was able to understand the short story better. But comprehension of the text isn’t the topic of tonight’s blog post. It’s how the annotations affected my reading experience.

I am familiar with “Genius.” It is my go-to site when I want to search the lyrics of music. This communal annotated version of “Bartleby The Scrivener,” was useful in that it helped my analysis of the work. In most of the highlighted texts, it explained the line(s) in further detail. For example, they annotated the line, “It is, of course, an indispensable part of a scrivener’s business to verify the accuracy of his copy, word by word.” The explanation is a long excerpt of the duties a scrivener has. This is cool because It gave me a ton of extra information about Bartleby’s job, but it didn’t really engage my thinking. I noticed that “Genius” didn’t ask too many questions to make me think about the text in a different way, instead, it presented somebody else’s analysis of the selected quotation. This is awesome because it can help readers who are struggling with understanding the text, but I personally wasn’t inspired to think outside of the box.

The Slate article on the hand did a great job at asking the reader questions to interpret the text differently. The annotations were bulkier and denser than the “Genius” version but I found those more advantageous. The annotation for the line “I am a man who…” made me consider the narrator’s contradictory personalities he displays throughout the story and then made me question how reliable the narrator is. “Genius'” explanation was simply defining the line.

In conclusion, I would prefer to use the Slate article to further my understanding of the story. It asked questions and presented ideas to guide me into a new way of thinking. “Genius'” only use for me would be if I didn’t understand the story.