Can you please provide suggestions on how I can improve my letter, its vocabulary and suggest where I can add more aesthetic features to my letter? Please also correct any grammatical errors if...

Can you please provide suggestions on how I can improve my letter, its vocabulary and suggest where I can add more aesthetic features to my letter? Please also correct any grammatical errors if noted? 

Growing up in a dysfunctional family is not fun. School is the worst. Those expressions you see when you’re walking past the mean students. You told me that you made many friends at school, but why then did you always stay at home alone every summer break? I never really liked to ask you about that, but now I wished I had. I’ve been in your shoes and I appreciated it when James said nothing, but always gave me a reassuring look. It was enough that I knew that he knew what I felt. But you’re different to me; you would’ve appreciated me reaching out to you. Self- reflecting in this sad chiaroscuro of this prison, I realized that I have faltered, I was cynical and rapacious. I’m paying the price.

Mother had been with me through this journey, bolstering my hopes but there comes a time when there is no hope left – instead of looking for cures, you look for acceptance. I am not complaining, I am just trying to show you that we’re in the same maze, but your path still does not lead to a dead end. Your will find the passage if you look hard enough.  

This situation brings back my memories to the first day back to school in grade four. I want to share my pain with you so you don’t have to experience what I did.

I was the quiet, nerdy kid who had minimum interactions with the rest of the world. I didn’t bother anyone, nobody bothered me. During my primary school, I had given up on making friends, staying by myself seemed the only option; I was a bomb that could explode at any second, so I tried to minimise the causalities. Because of my limitations, I could not participate in sports. Instead of being a part of a team, I was sitting, isolated in an impersonal hospital room. Mother and Father were very supportive but it was a tough period for the whole family. Paying off the medical expenses nearly broke us. People pitied us. Despite their exhaustion, Mother and Father juggled many jobs to give us the best life they could afford. The stress proved too much for Father though. Knowing that our family situation would never improve, especially with a new child coming (Mother was three months pregnant with you), Father left us. He walked out of the house and we never saw him again.

Shortly after he left, summer break was over and I began grade four. As soon as I moved into the grade, our class was forced to write a page about our holidays and what events took place. Events! I sat in my chair at the back of the class, resting the back of my head on the wall with my arms folded. I closed my eyes and listened to the eager kids sharing the joy of their summer holidays. Then it was my turn. I opened my eyes and gazed at the crumpled piece of paper on my desk. My story wasn’t something to share.  Who wants to hear about chemotherapy? Who wants to hear about Father running off and leaving his wife and kids destitute? Who wants to hear about a bald, lonely, depressed kid spending his summer holidays in a cancer ward?

My wobbly legs scarcely made it to the front of the classroom. I hung my head. Looked at my shoes like I might find the words in the leather. My mind somersaulted with crazy thoughts. Nothing I could share. The teacher broke the silence. “Johnathan?” My eyes stung. I tried to hold back the tears. But then I broke open like the dam floodgates after the rain. I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me whole. A warm hand on my beanie. Muffled giggles. Nothing more. When I woke up I was in the Nurse’s room.

My life changed from that day. Now, everyone knew that I was a freak. And we know what happens to freaks. No one really wants to know you. All I got was pity. The last thing I wanted. All pity did was create a barrier between me and them, pushing me neatly to the edges of society where I withered like a seed without water. My school years were a nightmare. It shattered me Joseph. It destroyed me.

You have been given a blessing Joseph, one I had to live without. Treasure it and be thankful. I know that all our lives have taken a major turn, will never be the same. But the path you have chosen has no exit. I am warning you. If you don’t turn your life around, you’re making my purpose in here pointless; my clock is no longer ticking, the battery has worn down. I was born unlucky but I was foolish to think that it had to stay that way. I am relying on you to change your path to keep the clock ticking for all of us.



Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that there are some very good points in your letter.  There are some real moments when the reader is pulled into the narrative that is offered.  There are some instants of the "eternal present," when something is in the past, but is really explored in the context of the present tense and the reader feels as if they are there, in that moment.  This is something to continue and try to impart in as many parts of the writing as possible.

In the third sentence of the opening paragraph, the issue of the "mean students" is raised.  I think that such an instant can be explored in a way where the reader's empathy is aroused.  Describe these "mean students."  Use sensory image to describe what is felt as you walk past them.  How do they look?  How do you feel?  What are the sounds you hear as you walk past them?  Later in the letter you do this with the "muffled giggles" idea and this type of perceptive detail has to be present in the work.  Get this in there and you really have done some good things.    When you talk about the regret later on in the excerpt with the "but now I wished I had," I think that you have to delve into this more.  The idea of regret is another instant where a connection can be formed with the reader because it is a distinct aspect of the human predicament.  Put the reader there in these moments and you have them connected to you writing.  In my own thoughts, I am not a big fan of the use of the word "rapacious."  It sounds too "SAT- vocabulary" and seems to take away from the naturally introspective voice you have established.  How about simply, "I realized that I have failed and I am paying the price."  This is something that you can bring out in the end, as well as a point of continuation.  (If you have to use the terms "cynical" and "rapacious," then discard.)

Your second paragraph is a contrast to the familial dysfunction that is articulated in the opening paragraph.  In talking about the role that the mother filled, it might be good to use this as an instant to bring out contrast.    Contrast mom with the dysfunctional nature of the family. You bring up the dysfunctional nature and perhaps the mother was the only safe haven in this reality, a haven in a heartless world.  Being able to integrate how mother was there when others wouldn't might help to really illuminate a dimension that could either add or minimize the dysfunctional nature of the family, a topic that itself could be enhanced more in the course of the letter.   I am not a proponent with the "I will share my pain with you."  It seems that you would simply do that in the letter without having to say it.  I think that it might help the aesthetic feel of the letter to simply show it and not say it.

Your description of childhood as a "ticking time bomb" has to be described more.  This is essential to unpacking the power of the letter. Talking about what this looks like from an emotional point of view is critical to illuminating the characterization of the protagonist.  More here is needed.  I think that exploring how mother and father both contributed to perpetuating this condition while seeking to alleviate it might be very interesting.  What did they do?  What jobs did they hold?  My guess is that the work they did might have reflected the pain of being at this moment.  Along these lines, I think that you have to go into more detail about what it was like when the father left home.  Explore the last moment you saw him.  It had to linger.  It could not have left.  There should be more here because it seems to feed the dysfunctional nature of consciousness that opens the letter.

In my opinion, I thought that the description of summer break was the best part of the letter.  The way it's described is really quite powerful and is matched with the "wobbly legs" in terms of speaking about it in front of the classroom.  There's some transformative elements here.  It makes sense that the ending of the letter speaks to how Johnathan's words are there to provide some guidance to Joseph.  Yet, I think that this has to be a bit more direct.   Something along the lines of how "my life is tainted, but yours has promise.  You can finish what I hoped to.  You are not weighted down by what I was weighted with."  I think that being able to illuminate this dynamic at the end of the letter could be quite a powerful ending to a letter filled with emotional potency.