Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Summer Session #1: All Souls

We began class by discussing which prompts we responded to and why. Most students picked characterization of place and characterization of people. We discussed why these prompts were most attractive. We also discussed indirect characterization versus direct characterization. (Look these terms up if you are not familiar with them.) Fewer students chose to find and respond to quotations about writing style and narrative structure. We discussed why these prompts were more difficult and why they are important to consider.

This discussion led to the introduction of other important concepts: Aristotle's rhetorical triangle (logos=appeal to reason, pathos=appeal to emotion, ethos=appeal to trustworthiness); objective and subjective narration; and tone. (If these concepts are unfamiliar look them up.)

At the end of the first hour we then used the comment box below to share with each other three events/moments/passages in the book that we felt were most important, two characters that we thought were important even though others may have missed them, and one statement about Michael Patrick MacDonald's purpose in writing the book. If you missed Tuesday's session you should do this in the comment box below too. But because you were not present to explain your response aloud during our meeting you should explain your response in writing below.

Then we explained how particular parts of the book and particular choices made by the author contributed to MacDonald's purpose. The students present on Tuesday had a lot to say about this. We talked about style and purpose, characterization and purpose, structure and purpose. During this discussion we talked about narrative arc, juxtaposition, and emotional ambivalence. (If these concepts are unfamiliar look them up.) As we talked our understanding of MacDonald's choices (in other words, his rhetorical strategies) deepened along with our understanding of the book's purpose.If you were not present on Tuesday choose an event/moment/passage from someone else's list in the comment box below. Explain how that event/moment/passage contributed to MacDonald's purpose.

For the last sliver of class we discussed the extent to which MacDonald's point about pride is true in Gloucester. We were able to advance some interesting ideas but weren't able to dig into developing and supporting these ideas. (We'll return to our relationship to our own environments later in the year.)

We'll next meet on June 30 to discuss Nickel and Dimed. As you read look for quotations that reveal the importance of structure/organization/sequence in the narrative; the importance of the narrative voice, style, and tone; the importance of characterization and character development; and the importance of characterization of places. Gather the quotations as you read, then next week I'll post the assignment. (I'm leaving in an hour or so to spend the week camping in far northern New Hampshire. More soon.)


  1. three events in all souls that need to be discussed are the busing riots, getting into the drug game, and davies death

    two characters that we may have missed and should be discussed are nellie and seamus

    i think what michael patrick macdonald wants us to take away from the book is that bad places can ruin good people. he really wants us to notice how where someone lives can affect them and change them.

  2. Three significant events
    1. Family moving to Old Colony Project
    2. Davey dies
    3. Steven's trial
    Two characters we may have missed
    1. Michael's brother Joe
    2. Coley
    What do you think MacDonald wants you to take away from All Souls?
    I believe that the purpose for Michael Patrick MacDonald's narrative is for it's readers to fully comprehend what families living in Southie understand about the neighborhood. He wanted to invite us into his understanding of the racism, crime, and pride. By showing us his childhood views of the street life, bus riots, and family death as well as his later years reflecting and help end violence.

  3. Moments: Stevie's Trial, Davey's death, Fire Hydrant
    Characters: Chickie, Grandpa
    I think Michael Patrick MacDonald wants you to take away from All Souls that life is a mixed bag.In many parts his life was horrible and people might pity him for it. But in the book you learn about all parts of his life, the joy of playing with the neighborhood kids and the death of his siblings and sometimes it doesn't balance out.

  4. Three important events in this book are: when Frankie is discovered to be the one on the news that is dead and its aftermath, when they first move into Southie as outcasts but soon become a part of the community,and when Steven is proven innocent after being found guilty and what it means to Michael and his family.
    Davey and Grandpa are important people to the story as a whole. Grandpa has his own opinions to what goes on and how it should really be but remains loyal to his family when they face trouble. Davey, even though he was only around for a short time, shows the Southie that nobody else wants to talk about or wants to see, this ultimately leads to his suicide, because he can no longer take notice without feeling anything causing him to jump to his death.
    Michael MacDonald wants us to take away from this book that although life can be hard and there will be struggles that you should not run away from your problems.

  5. In the book ALL SOULS, three events that are crucial to have an understanding of are: Davey's time spent in Mass Mental, the forced busing riots, and Stevie's trial. Two characters that may have been overlooked in the book are Laura and Coley. Michael Patrick MacDonald wants you to take away from the book the strength of the community. Throughout the many struggles each family endured they managed to band together and persevere.

  6. Events:
    1. The death of baby Patrick Michael MacDonald.
    2. Davey's suicide.
    3. The Grandfather's death and funeral.

    1. Patrick Michael MacDonald
    2. Seamus Coleman King

    What does the author want you to take away from the story?

    I think Michael Patrick MacDonald wants us to take away the awareness of the events that occurred in South Boston, and the knowledge that there are many places that faced and still deal with white poverty, drugs, and the concealment of violence in the streets.

    - Ella B.

  7. 3 Important Events:

    When Micheal realizes James Whitey Bulger did not help South Boston like everyone thought he did, but that he was a main part of the problem.

    When Micheal becomes a part of the gun buybacks, and tries to prevent more violence in the street instead of ignoring it.

    When the MacDonald family moves the the neighborhood of Old Colony

    Two unnoticed characters:
    Davey and Frankie

    Micheal Patrick MacDonald wants the reader to take away that change in a neighborhood is possible, if something is done to try to change it.

  8. Three key events: Charlestown vigil (first and last chapters),Davey's suicide, busing riots and how the MacDonalds responded to them on a daily level (and how that impacted the kids' upbringing)

    Two characters who could have been touched upon more: Coley, Whitey Bulger

    What MacDonald wants the reader to take away from the book and/or understand about Southie: to bring understanding and reach for consideration of the truth about Whitey Bulger-era's Southie and its dark side.

  9. 3 events:
    -The passage where the author keeps getting asked at the train station "where are you from?"
    -The story of how Mary dropped out of school over her hair
    -Kevin's suicide letter
    2 Characters Overlooked:
    -Aunt Nellie
    -John Joseph MacDonald

    I think M.P.M. wanted us to take away that loyalty can often blur the line between right and wrong and to be able to step back from the crowd and think for yourself.

  10. Events:
    pg 19; when baby Patrick is lost because the hospital had "filled its quota of charity cases." this event gives insight as to why the residents of southie are so defiant and proud. This attitude helps cover their emotional wounds.
    pg 109; when MacDonald first admits how unfit for kids Old Colony is. He felt fine when he was growing up, but now that he has a baby brother to care for, he didn't feel so sure. "But I couldn't help worrying for Seamus, with his fresh clean baby smell and brand-new terry cloth baby suits, in the middle of sll this nger and confusion and drug dealing and fighting."
    pg 213; when MacDonald nearly falls back in love with his neighborhood "Jesus, this is the greatest place to grow up" I thought. This one quote demonstrates what everyone saw in Southie until their lives were interrupted by another death.

    Characters: Davey is one of the most important characters because he literally displayed how Southie could make someone go crazy.
    Frankie is also essential to the story because he exemplified how difficult it was to "get out". Despite his success in the boxing ring, he was still dragged into a crime that took his life.

    I feel that MacDonald wanted us to emerge with a greater sense of gratefulness and thoughtfulness, for many of the readers of this book may take their life for granted. He wants us to think about the world around us, and to think about how we can improve that world.

  11. 3 key events
    1. The vigil ceremony to remember lost children
    2. Stevie's court case
    3. Kathy's coma
    2 character we may have missed
    1. Davey
    2. Kevin
    What does Michael Patrick MacDonald want the reader to leave with after reading the book? What purpose should be obtained?
    What is to be gained by the reader from the book All Souls is that society can have many angles to play by and no matter how terrible a town or group may seem there will always be a sense of pride. To belong to a group is what people desire and good or bad everyone has a home that they will always remember. There will always be injustice and terrible places to others and it will all matter on the person's point of view to determine where a terrible place may be. The purpose is to learn how different perspectives lead to different view of homes and of good and bad places.

  12. Two characters that I feel were overlooked in some way were Davey and Stevie. Davey is supposed to be "crazy", a paranoid schizophrenic. He makes a lot more sense than what you would think. People look him over because of the fact he was in a mental hospital, but when he talks about how crazy everyone is, he was speaking a higher level of truth. That being, that something was not right in the best place in the world.
    Stevie is another character that I believe was not analyzed by the reader as much. He was one of the younger kids that was robbed by his innocence very quickly in a way we all could see, an innocence that every kid in Southie lost at an early age.
    Three most important events that happened would be:
    -Davey's death
    -The Vigil
    -The trial (where everything was unfolded)

    Michael Patrick MacDonald would like us to understand that Southie isn't the bigoted place that we all know it as, it is made up of family. The purpose in this memoir was to highlight all of the lows and highs of the family and after all of this, come out thinking Southie is a beautiful place.

  13. The reaction to the Busing Riots
    Frankie's Death
    The part where Mike sells mescaline at Illusions

    Davey and Kathy


    Michael Patrik Macdonald wants us to take out of the story the feeling that Southie is a living, breathing entity. Not just a place that has fallen on hard times, but a community of people that have dealt with issues of drugs and violence and crime with honor, and have never accepted any help from anyone. Even more so, Southie is, in Macdonald's eyes, a community of people that take care of each other, and help each other through any hardship in their lives when no one else will.

  14. Event: The attempted suicide and eventual death of Davey MacDonald, and the effect it has on Ma p.152
    Event: Frankie being murdered after a robbery, and the steps taken by Ma to try and cope with the loss of her son. p. 185 & 187
    Event: The refusal to take care of Patrick Michael MacDonald at the hospital, this then led to the infants death by pneumonia. p. 19
    Character: Davey, he is rarely mentioned, but when mentioned it has to do with his mental state. I wanted to know him on a more deeper level.
    Character: Johnnie. Johnnie is shown to be the military man of the family, serving in the Navy Seals. We only see his tough military side, not the deep emotional level that I wanted to know.

  15. three events:
    * Busing riots and how it affected the kids in Southie.
    The kids grew up learning to hate African Americans for no other reason than just hate. People in Southie used to see how poor and despised they were by the richer community and having a group of people "below" them was a relief to their egos. Having the kids growing up with that mentality was just plain wrong.
    * Davey's Death and how tragic it was to MacDonald's family.
    Davey was the oldest and even though he was schizophrenic, he could make perfect sense somtimes. MacDonald kept talking in the book of how much he was afraid of Davey doing something crazy like suicide. It was very sad, but somehow Michael's family already knew. That hidden pain and the whole silence going on in Southie about "shameful" deaths was a huge problem in the community and Michael's family was first hand experiencing that.
    *The vigil and how emotional and important this event was for Southie.
    they had been in silence for years. MacDonald kept repeating in his book about how no one in Southie was a "snitch" and no one talked about deaths or anything wrong with Southie for that matter. The vigil was the first time mothers and whole families were showing pain and emotions towards the tragedies that happened in their lives. MacDonald was the one that helped and made the vigil possible and I think even for him, it was the first time he came to horrible conclusion he was in extreme pain that he lost four brothers to Southie.

    two character:
    * Stevie: he was just a kid when he was accused of murder. MacDonald's family had already gone through so much and now his little brother was going to jail. I just feel that we should know more about Stevie so we could judge ourselves his actions and motives.
    *Johnnie: MacDonald talks about Johnnie as him being in the military and being all rough. He never talked about Johnnie as his brother who lived in Southie or explained to us who Johnnie really is. The reader just knows Johnnie as the brother in the navy.

    I think MacDonald's main purpose in writing this book was to get what Southie was like when he was growing up. More importantly, show the public how pride can sometimes become something evil like it turned in Southie. They were all poor, racist Irish families thinking they were the best out of South Boston. The deaths, drugs, and crimes were so awful and people dealt with it in a daily basis. Michael showed the story of Southie from an insider's point of view during its breaking moments like the busing riots and the drug filled streets. MacDonald wants us to understand that even though the people seemed awful, they were all families and friends looking out for each other. They were a close community that asked no one for help. I think he got that message across by his close narrative and how he went deeply into every story he told. Michael wanted the reader to not just focus on Southie as bad, but to understand the situation and its people as a whole.

  16. Events
    1. The death of Patrick Michael MacDonald. The death of baby Patrick was quickly explained and never really brought back into the story.

    2. When Michael Patrick MacDonald realizes Southie isn’t that great of a place. He sees his brothers playing but he knows that crime will soon fill their lives.

    3. When the MacDonald family moves from Jamaica Plain to Old Colony. The family has to earn the trust and respect of the community and it shows how they are one united family.

    1. Kevin, because he demonstrated how it was so hard to get out of the drugs and crime of Southie but so easy to fall right back into it.

    2. Johnnie, because I never felt as if I grew to know him like the rest of the family.

    Michael Patrick MacDonald wanted the readers of All Souls to learn that growing up in a neighborhood like Southie it is extremely hard to go your separate way, to get out of circle of drugs, crime and death. He wanted us to learn how easy it is to fall into the unpleasant events and how a town can ruin almost every person that is put into it.

  17. Events

    1. Grandpa's death

    Grandpa's death is the only death in the story that the author is able to make peace with easily, because it is the only death in the family that is of natural cause.This shows that the author could arguably be more grieved by how his siblings died, rather than the fact that they died.

    2. Ma moves to Colorado.

    Ma moving away from the neighborhood, makes Michael Patrick MacDonald realize he is not the only one who recognizes the many things wrong with the environment he grew up in.

    3. Steven's conviction is overturned.

    Steven's lawyer, Stevenson was willing to work pro bono for Steven's appeal and the fact that they won gave Michael MacDonald hope in the law after years of knowing people who are wronged by it.


    1. Seamus easily faded into the background when Steven went to jail, and I was curious about what he was really feeling through out the trial.

    2. Nellie kept appearing in and out of Ma's life,but I wanted to know how her life was.

    Michael Patrick MacDonald's purpose in writing All Souls is to show how a neighborhood like Southie could ruin people, at the same time give a sense of belonging to someone like him. The author liked the feeling of belonging somewhere, but he did not use that as an excuse to not tackle the many issues Southie had. His love for Southie made him want to help it in any way that he can. The grand vigil that he helped organize expressed this,because he wanted to try to give Southie's citizens some closure with all of the deaths they had to live through.

  18. Events
    1. Davey's death. Michael realized how much pain his brother was in. He also realized he was not a good brother to Dave's in the last few days of his life. I think this was turning point in Michael's life and made him realize how living in South Boston can have such a big effect in someone's brain.
    2. When Michael realized the police would rather send a thirteen year old to prison then admit they were wrong
    3. The MacDonald family moving from Jamaican Plane to Old Colony. Michael learned of the rules of South Boston and how the people he used to be friends with were considered bad people.
    2 characters
    Patrick- Patricks death changed Ma into a better mother because she believed it was her fault. His death also gave Michael the respect he has for Ma because seeing her cry was his oldest memory.
    Frankie- Frankie was the golden child of the MacDonald family. He was admittedly mom's favorite and when he died so did the hopes of him becoming a prized boxer and supporting his family.

    Michael Patrick MacDonald wanted the readers of All Souls to take away that through struggle and pain a family should always stick together. I think he wanted to show that just because you aren't related to someone doesn't mean you aren't family. He considered South Boston to be one big family who always had their backs. Also, I think he wanted readers to see that in some instances you should swallow your pride to support the greater good.

  19. Events
    kathy "falling"
    kevin getting married
    all the deaths/murders that happened in crowds but went unsolved.

    these just show you how disfunctional his family was and how disfunctional his neighborhood was.

    chicky- she only shows up for a brief period but she really shows what kind of a person ma is. it also shows what kind of neighborhood that is when other people can fight a pregnant woman.

    davey- after his death he isn't mentioned at all. he isn't forgotten by michael but he isn't mentioned.

    michael patrick macdonald wrote this book so that he could finally say what he wasn't allowed to in sothie. he could say who killed who and who did drugs. he wasn't allowed to before so he did it now.

  20. Three Events:
    1) Leaving "Mac" behind and moving without him (because of the chaos he caused in the household)
    2) Bus Boycott (because of how it affected Southie as a community)
    3) Davey's suicide (because of the affect of his death on the author)

    Two Characters:
    1) "Mac" the father/man who beat Michael P. MacDonald's mother
    2) Whitey Bulger (because of how well he hid all the damage being done in Southie)

    One Statement:
    1) I believe MacDonald wrote this book to prove a point, or several of them. I notice the theme of pride in certain things, like heritage and standing in the local community.

  21. Three Events:
    1. Ma's conversations in the Donut Chef (this event shows what kind of a person Ma is and how she is not ashamed of her family and where she comes from)
    2. Davey being institutionalized (this event shows how the MacDonald family's main priority is freedom and this connects to the book as a whole)
    3. Frankie's death (this event shows how broken the family has become)

    Two Characters:
    1. Kathy, I feel she is often overlooked by many readers because MacDonald focuses on her beauty as a main part of her characterization. It is not until much later in the book do we get a glimpse past Kathy's beauty and see what kind of a person she truly is.
    2. Debbie Alinardo, we only get a glimpse of her character at the very end but her character really ties the whole story together. Her character shows how the people of Southie are like one family and how they care about each other.

    One Statement:
    I think MacDonald wrote this book to show the different affects of pride, both negative and positive, and its impact on his family and South Boston.

  22. Events
    1.Davey's Death; Davey's death was a very emotional event as well as one that Ma didn't want to come to terms with. She couldn't believe that her son would want to kill himself. His death greatly impacted his family through the rest of the story as well as the rest of their lives. At the vigil MacDonald arranged, he claims how he was still looking for his dead brothers among the living, showing that no matter how many years go by, it still hurts him how his brothers were stolen from their family so early in their lives.
    2. Kathy's Fall: Kathy's accident was a very scary as well as a very moving part of the story. It was amazing how many people came to see her in the hospital even though she was in their for that amount of time. And the dedication MacDonald showed to his sister by being at her bedside every day was heart warming. He didn't want to lose another one of his siblings and was going to do everything in his power to make sure that that wouldn't happen. He didn't want his Ma to suffer anymore heartache either, for he feels she has dealt with too much.
    3. Steven's Trial: Steven's trial embodied not just the dedication MacDonald had to his family, but the injustices that were happening to citizens of poor communities at that time. If you could pin a "low-class" citizen with a crime even if they didn't do it, the police would make it happen. All of the corruption made the police as well as the judicial system one hard system to trust. MacDonald knew his brother was being dealt and unfair hand and would do anything to right that wrong's that have been done to his family.
    1.Johnnie: Johnnie seemed as though he was a separate entity from the family itself. Frankie was a good child, but his life was cut short. Johnnie lived throughout the whole story, and just seemed to be living his live individually without his family. I wish I could have known more about him,
    2. Coley; Coley seemed to be the only positive man that entered the family's life. He did improve the household and get along with the children, and even came back around after Ma beat him up in the hospital. I wish MacDonald would have told us if he actually enjoyed have Coley around, and if he thought of Coley as some sort of loser or a decent guy.
    MacDonald just wanted people's stories to be told who weren't able to tell them on their own. This is why he participated in setting up vigils. I feel as though that is why MacDonald wrote this book. He wanted all the innocent souls lost to have a justified reason for dying, and it was all because of corruption that they were subject to in their community. MacDonald wants to speak out for families who have lost but are afraid to vocalize the pain they have suppressed and dealt with due to their trauma and loses.

  23. Events:
    1. The death of Michael's kid brother, Patrick, was emphasized as MacDonald's earliest memory of his mother- a woman who was constantly being described as confident and prideful. This is important because it shows how weak and vulnerable Ma was when losing a child for the first time, and as the family's death toll continued to rise, we see that vulnerability creep back, and we know that Ma never really came to terms with Patrick's death in the first place.
    2. MacDonald's grandfather's death was important because of how emotional the event is for the author and his reader. We pick up on MacDonald's acceptance of his grandfather's death, and we share with him that same peace as he explains that it was the first time someone in his family dies of natural causes, as opposed to violence.
    3. Life for the MacDonald's was permanently changed as they moved to Southie, and it was this culture shock that made this event so important. The hostility shown towards the "outsider" family was ironically what brought them closer together, as they stuck up for each other and eventually learned the ropes. Eventually they became a part of the quirky Southie family themselves.

    1. I felt Michael's father, Mac, was a character that was overlooked throughout the story. In every way, we are shaped by our parents, and even though he was only there for a little while, I think that Michael was shaped by his father. Michael learned how to be a better man from his father's bad examples, and I would have liked to know more about Michael's earlier relationship with Mac, and how he observed and learned from him.
    2. Davey was an important character, not only to Michael and the rest of the MacDonald family, but to the story as a whole. He is the epitome of how terrible things can happen to good people, especially when trying to survive in a place like Southie. It was like Davey wasn't only battling the hate and violence that came with living in Southie, but he was fighting his own separate battle within himself. One that none of the MacDonald's could stand up and help him fight.

    I think what MacDonald sincerely wants is for his readers to walk away with a new awareness for the hardships of the people living in Southie. How the violence, the killing, the drugs, and the crime can take as many lives in poor, white projects as it can in districs like Roxbury and Dorchester- as MacDonald had mentioned, cities that the people of Southie "thanked God they didn't live in." He wants us to know that anything can go unnoticed for as long as you let it, but as soon as one person stands up for what they believe in, they will be surrounded by an army of followers.

  24. Events:
    1. Moving into Old Colony. This was MacDonald's entrance into the exclusive Southie neighborhood. He was no longer an outsider.
    2. Kevin's involvement as a dealer on the streets. Michael MacDonald saw for the first time the happenings of Old Colony in relation to drugs, murder, and suicide.
    3. The busing riots. Although Southie is dysfunctional in many aspects the riots were a symbol of unity. They showed that Old Colony residents were willing to fight for their beliefs and eachother.

    1. Johnnie MacDonald
    2. Seamus MacDonald

    MacDonald finally revealed a world hidden by pride and dignity that are so many peoples realities. Changes cannot be made when the issues are not public knowledge, when the issues develop and prosper in silence. He's asking to be noticed.

  25. Events:
    1.) The busing riots in Southie, when other kids would ask Michael where he was from to decide if they should fight him.
    2.) When Frankie died; he was the favorite and his death put Ma over the edge. It just showed that even the best ones couldn't always get out.
    3.) When Stevey is put into jail for a crime he clearly didn't commit. Being a thirteen year old falsey accused of murder brought stress to the whole family.

    1.)Whitey Bulger: He has such an influence on everyone in Southie, yet he keeps his hands clean. It's just another lie and deception for the people in Southie. They think they have this amazing protector when really he is double crossing them and working with the government. He is just another lie in all their lives.
    2.)Kevin- Kevin is a symbol of all that Southie represents. He was a good kid; funny, lovable, but always living on the edge trying to make a quick scam. This kind of attitude is what turned him to drugs and crime in Southie like many of the other kids.

    Until now Southie has been a completely secret world. MacDonald simply wanted to break Southie's silent code and make a change. He's asking for people to see this whole world that we didn't even know existed. He's been silent for so many years and this book is his way of breaking the silence and showing people not only his life but the lives of everyone in Southie.

  26. Events:
    1) When Davey got sent to Mass Mental, and Ma and Michael visited him. Michael showed what Davey had to deal with, even though it was not his fault he went through horrible things. This shows that even when bad things happen, they can have a long-lasting affect, even without them understanding.
    2)The Bussing Riots, because of the way that race affected not only the community of Southie, but the surrounding neighborhoods as well.
    3)Frankie's death, because it showed how the community came together in times of sadness, and how the people of Southie respected Frankie for all he had accomplished with his life.

    1) Whitey Bulger was a character I would have like to know more on. Even though he was an important figure in South Boston at this time, he kept hidden and quiet, which is why MacDonald could never find him.
    2)Davey was a person in All Souls that I would have liked to learn more about. He had been through so much in his lifetime, and I would have liked to know how he was feeling when he was in Mass Mental, or I would have liked MacDonald to include more information about what Davey was like before the Mental Institute.
    In his book, MacDonald works to reveal truth of the South Boston he grew up in. He lets the reader into the little world he grew up in, filled with drugs and violence, but still an overwhelming sense of pride of their Irish heritage and pride that they are from Southie. I think MacDonald wanted the readers to understand what is truly going on in this neighborhood, and how gangs and violence can affect entire families and communities, even the ones not involved.