51 F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940): What 'The Great Gatsby' Means to American Literature
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: I'm Shirley Griffith.
STEVE EMBER: And I'm Steve Ember with the Special English program, PEOPLE IN
AMERICA. Every week, we tell about someone important in the history of the United States. Today, we complete the story of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald.
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: In nineteen twenty-five, just five years after his first novel appeared, F. Scott Fitzgerald published "The Great Gatsby." It was a major event in American writing. "The Great Gatsby" is a story about success -- American success -- and what one must do to gain it. It is a story about appearance and reality. It is a story about love, hate, loyalty, and disloyalty. This is how the story begins:
STEVE EMBER: "In my younger years, my father gave me some advice. The ability to do what is good and right is not given out equally at birth. The rich and powerful -- who should have it -- often do not. And those who were born knowing neither good nor right, sometimes know it best." SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Jay Gatsby, the main character in the book, learns this moral lesson. He dies at the end of the story. Yet his spirit survives, because of his great gift for hope. It was the kind of hope, Fitzgerald said, that he had never found in any person. Yet it was hope that used Gatsby and finally, in the end, destroyed him.
Gatsby is a self-made man. Almost everything about his life is invented -- even his name. He was born Jimmy Gatz. As a child, Jimmy Gatz sets a daily program of self-improvement. These are the things he feels he must do every day to make himself a success.
STEVE EMBER: When Jimmy Gatz invents himself as Jay Gatsby, part of his dream of success is the love of a beautiful woman. He finds the woman to love -- as Fitzgerald did -- while training in the army during World War One.
The other part of his dream is to be very rich. That, too, was part of Fitzgerald's dream. In just three years, Gatsby gains more money than he thought possible. All he needs to do now is to claim the woman he loves. In those same three years, however, she has married someone else. The story of "The Great Gatsby" is told by a narrator, Nick Carraway. When Gatsby seeks to renew his earlier love, Carraway says: "I would not ask too much. You cannot repeat the past. " Gatsby answers: "Cannot repeat the past. Why, of course you can!"
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: For a brief time, Gatsby seems to succeed. He does not know that he can
never succeed completely. The woman he loves, Daisy Buchanan, is part of the very rich world that Fitzgerald found so different. It is a group that does not share what it has with people like jay Gatsby. Fitzgerald wrote:
STEVE EMBER: "They were careless people. They smashed up things and creatures. Then they retreated back into their money, or their great carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together. They retreated and let other people clean up the messes they had made." SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: The mess they make in "The Great Gatsby" is a tragic one. They hit a woman with a car, and kill her. Gatsby accepts the blame, so Daisy will not be charged. He, then, is killed by the dead woman's husband.
Not even Gatsby's few friends come to his funeral. Of all the hundreds of people who came to his parties, no one will come when the party is over. After Gatsby's death, Nick Carraway, the storyteller, says:
STEVE EMBER: "I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first recognized the green light at the end of Daisy's boat dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn. His dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to hold it. He did not know that it was already behind him ... "Gatsby believed in the future that, year by year, moves away from us ...
"So we beat on -- boats against the current -- carried back endlessly into the past." (MUSIC)
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: "The Great Gatsby" was not the popular success F. Scott Fitzgerald expected. Yet other writers saw immediately how skillful he had become. His first books showed that he could write. "The Great Gatsby" proved that he had become an expert in the art of writing. The story is told by a third person. He is a part of the story, but he rejects the story he is telling. His answers are like those heard in an ancient Greek play. The chorus in the play tells us what to think about what we see.
"The Great Gatsby" is a short novel whose writing shines like a jewel. The picture it paints of life in America at that time -- the parties, the automobiles, the endless fields of waste -- are unforgettable.
STEVE EMBER: Fitzgerald wrote at great speed to make money. Yet no matter how fast he wrote, he could not stay out of debt. By the end of the nineteen twenties, the Jazz Age had ended. Hard times were coming for the country and for the Fitzgeralds.
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: In nineteen thirty, Zelda Fitzgerald became mentally sick. She lived most of the rest of her life in mental hospitals. Scott Fitzgerald also became sick from drinking too much alcohol. And he had developed the disease diabetes.
In nineteen thirty-one, the Fitzgeralds returned to the United States from Europe. Zelda entered a mental hospital in the state of Maryland. Scott lived nearby in the city of Baltimore. Zelda lived until nineteen forty-eight. She died in a fire at another mental hospital.
STEVE EMBER: In nineteen thirty-four, Fitzgerald wrote another novel, "Tender is the Night." He thought it was his best. Many critics disagreed. They said Fitzgerald no longer recognized what was happening in the United States. They said he did not understand what was important to the country during the great economic depression.
"Tender is the Night" tells the story of a young American doctor and his marriage to a rich, beautiful patient. In the early part of his life, he believes in success through hard work. Slowly, however, his wife's great wealth ruins him. His energy is weakened, his work destroyed. His wife recovers her health while he becomes worse. In the end, she seems to have stolen his energy and
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: In nineteen thirty-six, Fitzgerald wrote a book he called "The Crack-Up." It describes his own breakdown, and how he attempted to put himself and his life together. "It seemed a romantic business to be a successful writer," he said. "Of course ... You were never satisfied. But I, for one, would not have chosen any other work. "
At the age of thirty-nine, he realized that his life had cracked into pieces.
It became a time for him to look at himself. He realized that he had not taken care of the people and things he loved. "I had not been a very good caretaker of most of the things left in my hands," he said, "even of my own skills." Out of the wreckage of his life and health, he tried to rebuild himself.
STEVE EMBER: Fitzgerald had always written many stories. Some were very good. Others were not good. He wrote quickly for the money he always needed. After his crack-up, however, he discovered he was no longer welcome at the magazines that had paid him well. So, to earn a living, he moved to Hollywood and began writing for the motion picture industry.
He had stopped drinking. He planned to start writing novels and short stories again. It was too late. His health was ruined. He died in Hollywood in nineteen forty at the age of forty-four. There were few people who could believe that he had not died years before.
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Fitzgerald was working on a novel when he died. He called it "The Last Tycoon."
Fitzgerald's friend from Princeton University, the literary critic Edmund Wilson, helped to get it published. Wilson did the same thing for a book of Fitzgerald's notes and other pieces of writing, called "The Crack-Up."
These books re-established Fitzgerald's fame as both an observer of his times and a skilled artist. That fame rests on just a few books and stories, but it seems secure.
STEVE EMBER: Today's program was written by Richard Thorman and produced by Lawan Davis. I'm Steve Ember.
And I'm Shirley Griffith. Join us again next week for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program, in Special English, on the Voice of America.
52 New Site Will Map Reports of Sexual Harassment in Egypt
This is the VOA Special English Technology Report.
A new website plans to use social media to help women in Egypt fight unwanted sexual attention. The site is harassmap.org.
The idea is to offer different ways for women to report sexual harassment as soon as it happens. They could send a text message by phone. Or they could report incidents directly through the website or through e-mail, Facebook or Twitter.
The site will then map the reports with different colored dots. Purple, for example, represents unwanted touching. Blue is for loud, offensive comments or whistling.
The official launch is expected on December twenty-fifth.
Rebecca Chiao helped create HarassMap. She says most of the reports gathered during testing include more than one offense.
REBECCA CHIAO: "What we're finding is that people are checking more than one category. So usually it's not just that someone is groped; they're groped and someone says provocative words to them."
The site lists whether or not a report has been confirmed.
Mrs. Chiao is a former employee of the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights. In two thousand eight the center released a report on sexual harassment in Egypt. Researchers interviewed more than one thousand women, including one hundred nine foreigners living or traveling in Egypt. Ninety-eight percent of the foreign women said they had been sexually harassed. So did eighty-three percent of the Egyptian women.
Rebecca Chiao says harassmap.org will help warn the public about areas where there is a high risk of harassment. It could also help police identify areas where security should be increased. And she says the system will provide another important service.
REBECCA CHIAO: "Every time we get a report, we'll send a response to the person reporting with a list of services that they can contact if they need help with legal aid or how to make a police report or [find] psychological help."
The women will also be able to share their stories online with other victims of sexual harassment. A similar project was launched in two thousand five in New York City. Victims can go to ihollaback.org to share stories of "street harassment" and to upload pictures of accused offenders. There are now ten Hollaback! websites around the world and more are planned. Earlier this month, Hollaback! released an application for the Apple iPhone that lets users report harassment as soon as it happens.
And that's the VOA Special English Technology Report, written by June Simms. We're online at voaspecialenglish.com and on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. I'm Faith Lapidus.
53 A Look Into the Life, Music and Art of American Indians
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I’m Shirley Griffith.
STEVE EMBER: And I'm Steve Ember. November is Native American Heritage Month in the United States. This week on our program, we explore the modern life, music and art of American Indians.
(MUSIC: “The Dance”/Joseph FireCrow)
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Native Americans have had a busy year in Washington.
Earlier this year, Congress passed the Tribal Law and Order Act. This new law aims to give tribes more power to fight crime on the lands they govern. The goal is to increase communication and cooperation between tribal and federal law enforcement agencies and the court system. President Obama also signed another bill into law, the Indian Health Care Improvement Act. It provides more resources for tribal communities. It was included as part of the big health-care law passed by Congress.
STEVE EMBER: In October, the Department of Agriculture agreed to settle a discrimination case brought by Indian farmers. The farmers said the department had unfairly denied them farm loans. They brought their lawsuit in nineteen ninety-nine. The government agreed to pay six hundred eighty million dollars and forgive millions more in debts to settle the case. The payment does not require approval by Congress. But a proposed settlement of racial discrimination claims by black farmers does. The government has agreed to settle that case for more than one billion dollars.
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: The Census Bureau estimates that the United States has about five million American Indians and Alaska Natives, including people of more than one race. The number represents less than two percent of the country's population.
But those numbers are growing. American Indians and Alaska Natives are younger than the national population as a whole. About thirty percent of them are younger than eighteen. The Census Bureau says about two and a half million people identify themselves just as American Indian or Alaska Native.
American Indians and Alaska Natives were the largest racial or ethnic minority group in five states last year. Those states were Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota. Other states with large native populations include California, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, New York and Florida.
(MUSIC: “San Antonio”/Victoria Blackie)
STEVE EMBER: Author and photojournalist Vincent Schilling is a member of the Saint Regis Mohawk tribe. His books for young people include "Native Athletes in Action" and "Native Men of Courage." But he says young Indians are not the only ones who need to understand more about modern Native Americans.
VINCENT SCHILLING: "We are predefined by what we were in our history. I've had multiple times myself, people tell me, 'Well, you don’t look Indian.'"
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Vincent Schilling speaks at schools and companies about cultural diversity. He often begins by asking people to think about what they believe a Native American looks like. VINCENT SCHILLING: "And the standard answers I'll get are, you know, a gentleman sitting on the hill on horseback. He's got a full-feathered headdress. Or he's sitting cross-legged with his moccasins and a bow and arrow and a tepee in the background type of thing."
He says educating people is important to breaking down cultural stereotypes. VINCENT SCHILLING: "Even if it's one person at a time, talking to these kids or talking to these folks who are working at different places and saying: 'Look, here is Jordin Tootoo, he's a professional hockey player. Here is Alwyn Morris, Olympic gold medalist in kayaking. Cory Witherill, Indy race car driver."
STEVE EMBER: Mr. Schilling lives in Virginia, hundreds of kilometers from his tribe's reservation in the state of New York. But nationally about five hundred thousand people live on tribal reservations and federal lands.
VINCENT SCHILLING: "Native American reservations are probably one of our nation’s best kept secrets. What you will see a lot of times on a native reservation is there are some folks who are living well, but there are a lot places on reservations that are living in complete and abject poverty."
STEVE EMBER: The official poverty rate for all Americans last year was a little more than fourteen percent. The growth of gambling operations on Indian lands has brought new sources of money to some tribal communities. But almost twenty-four percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives were living in poverty last year.
High school and college completion rates for American Indians are lower than the national average. And rates of violence against women are higher than average. Those new federal measures include provisions that seek to reduce violence against Native American women. SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Conditions like these can make it difficult to succeed on the reservation. But leaving, says Vincent Schilling, is not an easy choice either.
VINCENT SCHILLING: "If you leave the reservation, you're leaving, period. And people sometimes feel like you're leaving and not looking back. But that's not the case. Sometimes we need to leave for opportunity."
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: But he also points to efforts to make the Internet and educational technology more available on the reservation.
VINCENT SCHILLING: "If we can get these college degree programs to really embrace online degrees and things like that, then we really can be bringing education to native kids and native folks in general."
STEVE EMBER: Vincent Schilling says that like many Native Americans who live off the reservation, he still has strong ties to his culture.
VINCENT SCHILLING: "I may be out here in Virginia Beach, and you know I'm running around -- I've got my radio show, I’m online answering emails. I’ve got my cell phone ringing and sending text messages and doing all these things.
"And every once in while I get crazed and I will stop, put everything down, go out to my porch, light some sage, which is a way of clearing away energy, and embrace my native heritage through my own personal ceremony. And [I] look up to my ancestors and creator and say, 'OK, I’m getting a little crazy here, bring me back down and center me.'"
(“Face the Music” – Joseph FireCrow)
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Joseph FireCrow was named artist of the year at the Native American Music Awards earlier this month. Mr. FireCrow is a member of the Northern Cheyenne Nation of Montana.
The ceremony took place at Niagara Falls in New York. It brought together native artists from
throughout the Americas.
(MUSIC: “Don’t Forget About Me”/Michael Bucher)
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Michael Bucher, an Eastern Band Cherokee, began playing professionally four years ago. He won the award for best folk recording for his album "Believe." Mr. Bucher says the launch of the Native American Music Awards twelve years ago has had a huge effect in the community, especially on the young.
MICHAEL BUCHER: "The impact that we have now that the Native American Music Awards has given our youth something to look up to and aspire to I think also."
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: He says it is important for musicians to set a good example.
MICHAEL BUCHER: "You can stay away from the drugs, and you can stay away from the alcohol and the gangs.
STEVE EMBER: The Smithsonian Institution in Washington opened the National Museum of the American Indian in two thousand four. The museum presents the history and culture of native groups from North, Central and South America.
The latest exhibit is called "Vantage Point." All thirty-one works in the exhibit explore identity, history, culture or landscape from a Native American point of view.
For example, artist Marie Watt, a Seneca Indian, sews together recycled fabric. In some ways the work is like piecing together a quilt.
Ms. Watt creates most of her pieces in a circle. She spent a day at the museum inviting visitors to help her create a new work.
MARIE WATT: "You can come and go when you please. No sewing experience in necessary. Any age person can participate. You can be two years old or one hundred."
If there are weak parts within the project, she simply adds more stitches for strength. MARIE WATT: "Everybody’s stitches are really important."
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Performance artist James Luna is a Puyoukichum or Luiseno Indian from Southern California. He almost always creates works that are recognizably Native American. But he says they do not have to be.
JAMES LUNA: "I do believe it doesn't have to look Indian to be Indian. It's the very fact that I am an Indian making art that it becomes Indian art."
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Many of the exhibits at the National Museum of the American Indian present modern history. "Vantage Point" is a good example. The exhibit includes not only paintings and sculpture but also digital video. Rebecca Trautmann is the exhibit curator. REBECCA TRAUTMANN: "I think that people are often surprised when they come to this museum and see an exhibition of modern or contemporary native art. And that is something I hope this exhibition will do, is surprise and challenge people's notions of what Native American art is, what Native American artists do."
(MJUSIC: “Medicine Power”/Joseph FireCrow)
STEVE EMBER: Our program was written and produced by Brianna Blake, with additional reporting by Susan Logue Koster. I'm Steve Ember.
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: And I’m Shirley Griffith. You can find transcripts and MP3s of our programs at voaspecialenglish.com. You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.、
54 Babies and Intelligence: The Latest Findings
BOB DOUGHTY: This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS, in VOA Special English. I’m Bob
FAITH LAPIDUS: And I’m Faith Lapidus. This week, we will discuss scientific findings about
how intelligence develops in babies.
BOB DOUGHTY: Not long ago, many people believed that babies only wanted food and to be kept warm and dry. Some people thought babies were not able to learn things until they were five or six months old.
Yet doctors in the United States say babies begin learning on their first day of life. The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development is a federal government agency. Its goal is to identify which experiences can influence healthy development in people.
Research scientists at the Institute note that babies are strongly influenced by their environment. They say a baby will smile if her mother does something the baby likes. A baby learns to get the best care possible by smiling to please her mother or other caregiver. This is how babies learn to connect and communicate with other people.
FAITH LAPIDUS: The American researchers say this ability to learn exists in a baby even before birth. They say newborn babies can recognize and understand sounds they heard while they were still developing inside their mothers.
Last year, a study from the Netherlands found evidence that unborn babies can remember sounds. Dutch researchers studied almost one hundred pregnant women. They played sounds to the fetus and watched its movements with ultrasound equipment. They found that by thirty weeks of development the fetus could remember a sound for ten minutes. By the thirty-fourth week, it could remember the sound for four weeks.
BOB DOUGHTY: Many experts say the first years of a child’s life are important for all later development. An American study shows how mothers can strongly influence social development and language skills in their children.
The study involved more than one thousand two hundred mothers and children. Researchers studied the children from the age of one month to three years. They observed the mothers playing
with their children four times during this period.
FAITH LAPIDUS: The researchers attempted to measure the sensitivity of the mothers. The women were considered sensitive if they supported their children’s activities and did not interfere unnecessarily. They tested the children for thinking and language development when they were three years old. The researchers also observed the women for evidence of depression. The children of depressed women did not do as well on tests as the children of women who did not suffer from depression. The children of depressed women did poorly on tests of language skills and understanding what they heard.
These children also were less cooperative and had more problems dealing with other people. The researchers noted that the sensitivity of the mothers was important to the general health of their children. Children did better when their mothers were caring, even when the women suffered from depression.
BOB DOUGHTY: Another study suggests that low birth weight babies with no evidence of disability may be more likely than other children to have physical and mental problems. American researchers studied almost five hundred boys and girls. They were born in, or admitted to, one of three hospitals in New Jersey between nineteen eighty-four and nineteen eighty-seven. At birth, each child weighed fewer than two thousand grams.
The boys and girls had an average age of sixteen at the time of the study. They were asked to complete intelligence and motor skill tests in their homes. Their test results were compared with those of other children their age.
The study found that the young people with low birth weight often had more problems with movement skills than others. These problems were more common among males, those with injured nerve tissue in the brain and those who had been given oxygen supplies for days as a baby. (MUSIC)
FAITH LAPIDUS: Experts say the first three years of a child's life is the most intensive period of language and speech development. This is the time when the brain is developing. Language and communication skills are believed to develop best in an environment that is rich with sounds and sights. Also, the child should repeatedly hear the speech and language of other people. The National Institutes of Health says evidence suggests there are important periods of speech and language development in children. This means the brain is best able to learn a language during this period. Officials say the ability to learn a language will be more difficult if these periods pass without early contact with a language.
BOB DOUGHTY: The first signs of communication happen during the first few days of life when a baby learns that crying will bring food and attention. Research shows that most children recognize the general sounds of their native language by six months of age. At that time, a baby also usually begins to make sounds. These sounds become a kind of nonsense speech over time. By the end of the first year, most children are able to say a few simple words. But they may not understand the meaning of their words. By eighteen months of age, most children can say eight to ten words. By two years, most children are able to make simple statements, or sentences. By ages three, four and five, the number of words a child can understand quickly increases. It is at this age that children begin to understand the rules of language.
FAITH LAPIDUS: A long-term American study shows the effect of early education on future
learning abilities. The study followed more than one thousand three hundred children from birth through the ages of ten or eleven. It found that children who received higher quality care before starting school had better language skills by those ages than children who had lower quality care. The study is known as the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. It is said to be the largest, longest lasting and most complete study of child care in the United States.
BOB DOUGHTY: The children included in the study were born around nineteen ninety-one in ten areas of the country. Researchers examined the quality and amount of child care the children received until they were four and one-half years old. Child care included any care provided by people other than the child’s mother that lasted at least ten hours a week. This included any care given by fathers or other family members.
The researchers then examined each child’s performance in school and social development. They also measured other influences, such as the quality of classroom education and parenting. FAITH LAPIDUS: The researchers examined whether the developmental qualities that had been observed in young children were still present a few years later. They found that the older children who had received higher quality child care continued to show better ability in tests of language skills.
Researchers tested the children’s ability to name objects shown in a series of pictures. The study confirmed that a link between high quality child care and better test results continued as the children grew older. It also found that the children’s ability was not dependent on the amount of time they had spent in child care.
BOB DOUGHTY: New studies about how intelligence develops are published each year. Recently, Science News magazine reported findings from one such study. The report described research that suggests babies develop language skills from musical and rhythmic exchanges with their mothers. An interactive nursery rhyme like “Itsy Bitsy Spider” is an example of the kind of emotional
exchange that helps babies to learn and grow emotionally and socially. Some researchers believe such songs may also prepare babies to learn rules and practices of their culture. (MUSIC)
FAITH LAPIDUS: This SCIENCE IN THE NEWS was written by Brianna Blake. Our producer was June Simms. I’m Faith Lapidus.
BOB DOUGHTY: And I'm Bob Doughty. You can find transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our programs at voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of America.
55 Scientists Recycle Oyster Shells to Aid Chesapeake Bay