Up the Down Staircase
The text under consideration with a very unusual and remarkable title “Up the Down Staircase” is one of the best novels of our time was written by Bel Kaufman, an American author. She worked as a teacher of the English language and literature in a New York high school for 15 years. “Up the Down Staircase” is her first semi-autobiographical novel about an idealistic young English teacher, who is really excited about her future work with children at school.
But as it turns out, it’s not so easy to confront severe realities which do not coincide with her expectations. The given extract describes the experiences of a young high school teacher Sylvia Barret who is dissatisfied with the system of education, but nevertheless, she tries to cope with all those problems and handicaps in children upbringing and acts her own way. She finds her own techniques of teaching. But does she succeed in it?
Or is she supported by her colleagues? Or may be she is the only who is worried about these difficulties. In this text the author does not give her own answers on these and other questions giving this opportunity to the readears. It is a first person narration where the author thoroughly describes her colleagues, students and the general atmosphere at school. Through the whole text we feel author’s believes in finding the way to change the state situation.
In order to underline it she uses the phrase “hitch your wagon to a star” and we, readers of these lines want to believe that she will be able aspire such indifferent and apathetic people . She is considered a very creative person as she offers her pupils different types of class work completely non-typical for the school she works at; Children are proposed to listen to Shakespeare’s sonnet or discuss a very contradictive statements.
Strange as it may seem but she succeeds in it. But the problem is that it bothers just her. And speaking names in this story such as Mr. Winters that, on the one hand, shows his indifference and apathy. He got used to work there without any changes, and, on the other hand, this name reflects that he is severe and strict. Another speaking name is Mr. Bester. His name is formed by adding the suffix “er” to the superlative degree “best” that means that he is better than the best.
The story presented in a form of a letter begins with a personal greeting, where the author uses the enumeration “I can wash a blouse, think a thought, write a letter” is used here to underline that Saturday is the only day that can be spent by the main character. The general congratulation on the baby’s new tooth and her speculations about her future is a mark of her positive attitude towards her friend that is underlined by epiphora used in these sentences: “Though I hope that by the time she gets into the public high school system, things will be different.
A t least, they keep promising that things will be different ”. Describing the kids she uses the antithesis “physically mature – poor intellect”, which means that the pupils are hard to teach. Describing her experience of teaching without a book she shows the dynamics of the discussion and the pupils’ excitement as a reaction to the problem touched, so the author employs repetitions and parallel constructions: “no, no some said…no, no, others cried…”, and the most precious reward for her efforts is the “groan” of children.
Speaking about one of the obstacles in the way of teacher, she uses the metonymy “Admiral Ass”, that nickname is derived from his signature, but it is also a symbolic one – ass is the synonym of the donkey and describes someone dumb or thick, and admiral means that he is proud of his post. Speaking about the division of the teachers to the good ones and the bad ones she says that one of them “work their magic in the classroom” and others “find in the school system an excuse or a refuge”.
The title Up the Down Staircase just indicates it. According to Sylvia’s ranking system some teachers are best or “up” and others are not or “down”.. In conclusion, I should say that “Up the Down Staircase” is the enlightening story about an idealistic teacher who doesn’t surrender herself to a sense of apathy in spite all difficulties she confronts. Bel Kaufman shows her strong ambition to fight against established habits and find the right way of good teaching.