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1) Analyzing the Poem from Gwendolyn Brooks, "The Preacher"

The preacher: Ruminates behind the Sermon is a poem by Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks (1917-2000). The poem mainly tries to provide a glimpse into how people view God and who actually God is, mostly by asking critical questions. Although the poem leads the reader into certain conclusions, yet not all the conclusions are agreeable with. Particularly, the impression that the author gives in stanza four when she says that God: tires of looking down (line 1); never looks straight (line 2); tires of being great (line 3); and lacks a hand to hold (line 4), the author by impression leads to the drawing of wrong conclusion that God suffers loneliness. However, this is not so. In the first instance, such a notion would only serve as a conjurement of God in absolute anthropomorphic terms.

Nevertheless, it is important to note that the objection to the idea set above would only stand if the reader took the author's literally. The converse could be correct if many in their minds take God to be the candy or the vending machine in which people slot coins of prayers and supposedly good deeds as a way to fortunes from God. This line of thinking would definitely present God as a Santa in heaven only bent on hearing our prayers, and hence God assuming the horizontal angle that Gwendolyn mentions in the fourth stanza, line two.

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Thus, in a nutshell, the poem reveals God's character, if the poem is taken more carefully. This is especially so because the poem in its entirety of a parody and a caricature of who or what God truly is. The author created this parody by describing the manner in which the average and majority of mankind inchoately surmises God is. As a matter of fact, the author intends that by caricaturing God, the reader may be shocked out of his selfish stupor to rethink what God is and to redefine his relationship with God.

2. Analyzing the poem On His Blindness by John Milton

The poem On His Blindness by John Milton must have been written around October 1655. The dominant theme in the topic is aligning one's purpose with the will of God. This is to the effect that the poem seems to be a reverberation of the Biblical Parable of the Talents. There are a lot of literary devices that the author uses to convey his message. For instance, there is contraction, as can be seen in the word Log'd instead of lodged in line 4; and o'er instead of over, line the 13th line. The mood and tone that are set in the poem are retrospective, forward-looking and serious, respectively. The poet also uses internal monologue in the poem as can be seen in the seventh line (Doth God exact day- labor, light denied?) and in the ninth line, right through to the fourteenth line. Although the internal monologue is to serve mainly as the window to the author's reflections and thoughts about God, yet it remains a fact that they are mainly to let the reader know the truth about God and how He bases and works on the principle of labor and reward.

At the same time, it is important to note that the poet has used irony to underscore the theme in the poem. Particularly, this can be seen in the third and subsequent lines where even death as being hidden within the persona, is referred to as a talent. The irony is seen in the fact that usually, people consider a subtraction of values. It is probable that the author sees death as a value (a alent) as an inherent part of humanity (hidden within) which catalyses humanity to work with vigor, knowing that his time on earth is limited. This leads to man exploiting his talents for far greater and eternal rewards.

3. Analyzing and responding To the Group's One Assigned Short Story

There are several stories which have been told by Sandra Cisneros (b. 1954), but arguably, the most famous she has written is The House on the Mango Street. The story must have been written around 1978 since it is around this time that Cisneros completed her MFA, from the Writers' Workshops in the University of Iowa; and this being her first novel. The novel was written in the United States since it was her first novel which she immediately wrote after completing her M.F.A. in Iowa. However, contextually, the story is narrated by a child of color- a family of Mexican roots.

It is also important to take stock of the circumstances which spurred on Cisneros into putting down the novel as being primarily antecedent, and not really triggering factors. The antecedent factor was her background which was consistently punctuated with the family's financial instability. Thus, it is obvious that the circumstances she narrates are first hand experiences, since the narrator or the persona of the story refers to herself by taking on the plural form of personal pronoun 'we.'

The contextual setting of the story plays a critical role in the dispensation of the theme. For instance, the narrator is a little girl of Mexican and American roots. The itinerant family is always mobile, with the parents always on the lookout for means of livelihood and low cost environment. Thus, the setting is a stark reminder of the systematic and structural socioeconomic ostracisation that the people of color as the racial minorities underwent, while in the US. The family as a social unit is presented in the setting as being important in the formation of the theme and the character of an individual, given that the narrator speaks as the only girl child among seven siblings. That the Mexican American tradition pegged a lot of values to children is a matter which is readily seen in the fact that despite the financial constraint that the family underwent, the parents proceeded to have children more than six.

To a great extent, the setting and the conversation between the nun and the narrator affect greatly, Esperanza's sense of self. Simply, the nun, on inquiring where the little girl of the narrator lives, becomes too astounded to believe, when the narrator points at her domicile at the third floor.  When the nun looks at the paint peeled house which had numerous nailing on the window to as the frames to keep Cisneros and her siblings from falling off, she becomes too shocked. This shocks the child too as she learns that their situation was not just abnormal, but also humiliating. However, the shock is constructive since it creates a resolve on the narrator to one day have a proper house.

From the story, a family remains a family, regardless of the financial distress it undergoes. A family's main purpose is not to really bequeath children with luxurious living or abundance, but to inculcate values in the children. Despite the financially severe background, Cisneros goes ahead to excel in academics and secure herself a brighter future.  However, the family presented falls below the American dream since the American dream envisions a family which is able to decently afford the three basic needs, healthcare and education- vaalues that Cisneros' family was far away from. 

4. Analyzing Any Other Fictional Story or Prose Text of Choice from the Literature and Spirituality Text

The story that is to be looked at is known as Zaabalawi and was written by Nagub Mahfouz, the first Arab speaking Nobel Prize winner in Literature.  The setting, time and character of the author both contextually and in isolation help in the formation of and development of the two themes which are change and spiritual poverty. In the first instance, the aspect of change is seen in the fact that initially, the protagonist is in possession of sound health, but is suddenly taken ill by a disease which outwits doctors.  Thus does not only underscore the theme of change, but also serves as the event that triggers the protagonist into searching for Zaabalawi, a holy man who is reputed to have healing powers. The concept of spiritual poverty is seen fundamentally in two ways. In the first instance, the narrator ingeniously interweaves the physical and the spiritual as realities which integrally interact, though being separate and distinct.

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This above is to the effect that in thinking one has a physical need; he ends up being acquainted with the spiritual need. Particularly, the protagonist had gone in search of cure for his illness but the journey is turned into a spiritual quest. Conversely, the reality is communicated in the person of Zaabalawi: he is both a healer (attends to physical needs) and a holy man (attends to spiritual need). Apart from this, the aspect of spiritual poverty is seen in the fact that not only is the need and the person attending to the needs intertwined with spiritual elements, but by the author maintaining that the search for the illness was not merely a physical need, but actually a manifestation of spiritual illness.

By referring to the existence of an illness that defies modern science, the author sets a tone of voice which is both serious. The seriousness of tone is seen in the fact that he challenges the authority and credibility of modern science as not being absolute: a matter which totally recalls the need for thorough investigation.

Zaabalawi can be read as social criticism, since it discounts modern science as not being the panacea to all illnesses. Thus, the author seems to dissuade the society from total reliance on the material (given that science reliance only on the material), and to acknowledge the importance and totality of the spiritual. Similarly, Zaabalawi remains a religious allegory, given that it challenges the religious order which was at the time leaning towards religious fundamentalism. To understand this, one has to take to stock, the fact that Zaabalawi is written at the time of Anwar Sadat becoming part of the Camp David Treaty with Israel- a development that totally irked  the Islamic radicals. The message of tolerance can in no way be missed herein. Particularly, religious allegory presented in literature is seen in Zaabalawi presenting himself as a bar, and him proscribing intoxication as the pathway to Zaabalawi. Obviously, this generates a lot of tension. another instance that generates tension in Zaabalawi is seen in the author attacking established religious institutions by portraying a situation in Zaabalawi where those considered not to be spiritually inclined (the drunkards, the musicians and the calligrapher) are the only and very individuals who come into contact with Zaabalawi, the symbol of truth and spirituality.

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