A Response to a Response’s Response: AP IV BLOG PROMPT

A Letter from John Gardner: ‘Dear Susie West and Students’

It’s always unusual when highly-acclaimed writers write back to their readers. In this case, even more unusual the John Gardner wrote back to a teacher and a group of her students. In the beginning of his letter, Gardner addresses the story of Beowulf as a background for delving deeper into the content of his story. Gardner makes a point about Beowulf that was actually quite interesting to me because I never looked at the story from this perspective, but it actually makes quite a lot of sense. I never really saw the ironic component of that story where the character Beowulf plays the most idealized hero; however, even the most perfect hero cannot combat death and eventually Beowulf dies no matter how glorious of a name he has made for himself amongst the people. Also, Gardner knows his Foster information quite well. He even makes reference to ironic baptism that we’ve all been able to notice after our ongoing lookout for Foster elements.

As a true writer, Gardner has the ability to critique each of the three students’ papers. In my opinion, Gardner was a bit witty, if not sassy, in some of his response. He definitely likes to ensure that people know exactly what he means and he’s not afraid to be overly blunt about it. In fact, at some point in the letter, he states that “You’ve read, all of you, too quickly, too innocently–too much like children.” I find this comment a little bit insulting on their behalf as well as insulting to children in general.  At the same time, I have grown a tiny spark of appreciation for our class work with Foster since our ability to analyze books has grown as a result. I might not going to say that we’re so much better than these children because I don’t know exactly what they wrote in their letters and essays to him, but I do believe that we have a stronger grasp on literary analysis because of Foster’s book.

One of the main parts of his book that he addresses relates to the dragon. After our discussions in class, I think we all recognize that Gardner is not condoning the dragon’s philosophy. In fact, after reading this letter, we can be sure that he is not in favor of what the dragon believes and even finds that opinion of him to be appalling. I think that after reading this letter, we can better appreciate Gardner’s passion as a writer and implementation of his philosophical knowledge.


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