To the right is the first of 4 papers I wrote for my first year English professor. It was regarding the Captain's double in Conrad's short story "The Secret Sharer." The words written by the instructor (whose name I have stricken from the top of the page) are probably not very clear. But his sentiment is. My writing skills were lacking somewhat in September 1980, just shy of my 18th birthday. Being a sporting chap, he gave me a chance to re-write the paper for the next class. I won't bother posting it here, but the amount of red on the page indicated he was again down a pint of blood.
The semester played out pretty much the same for each of the papers and their re-writes I completed for Dr. xxxxx. They had to do with scenes in such classic novels as "In The Penal Colony" (Kafka), "The Turn of the Screw" (James) and "The Sun Also Rises" (Hemmingway). I was trashed and drowned in a sea of red with each paper and re-write I completed attempting to improve my writing (and grade). Keep in mind that I attended school to study sciences, not English. and had classes in chemistry, biology, physics, geology, calculus and of course English. I also had to attend 3 hour lab sessions weekly in chemistry and biology.
I'm surprised that I maintained my sanity during the first year. A 5th paper and subsequent re-write may have prompted me to the clock tower, sniping at bearded, tweed-coated academics that bore a resemblance to Dr. xxxxx. After the final exam, I was presented with my 48.5% grade; good for a chance to enjoy his class another semester. I did, however, discover that I could take the other first year English class. I wrote my papers for Dr. yyyyy and was given a C+ grade. Perhaps this English shtick wasn't so bad after all? I'm hoping that the first semester professor wasn't biased against me because his ex-wife was my English teacher in high school.
The bottom line? I deserved a poor grade for that ill-fated English class because my written skills probably did suck back in 1980. They still leave a lot to be desired as I'm the first to admit that I have difficulty telling the difference between a preposition and a proposition...and I'm constantly reminding myself: use the active voice
dumb ass! I just tend to go with what sounds good and flows. Grammar be damned.
I wish he could have used a bit more compassion at conveying his criticisms. Offered more encouragement. Or at least less discouragement. I think my love of horror began that year as I imagined evil ways of dispatching Dr. xxxxx with his own red marker. But I suppose that I really shouldn't judge him until I've walked a mile in his shoes (yep, I do know what a cliche is).