Anyone Can Be A Critic

As a fan of many narratives in television shows and films, I rarely thought about works of fiction through the eyes of a critic. For the most part I just watched and enjoyed, but English 131 has taught me to look at things, while having ideas formulate around my brain with questions about what the work means and why it does what it does. There is one assignment that comes to mind when thinking about this subject, and it is one that we, as students, started individually, but then completed as a class. In February, we were assigned to write a critical/analytical essay about a work of narrative, and make enough copies of the essay for everyone in class, so that we could discuss it and give feedback to the author. I thought this was immensely helpful to me as both a writer and critic. Thinking about pieces of narrative in a critical mind set is important to improving one’s own works and learning how to give proper and helpful constructive criticism about things that you feel strongly about. Being able to critically pick apart a work done by a professional author or screenwriter assists greatly in improving your own writing skills.

Criticism can be traced back as early as the first pieces of art being created. Sculptors and artists would be analyzed by their audience and would shape their work around what they thought would leave an impression on the people. These days, critics are even more prevalent, but it seems that their opinions are having less and less value. If people are disregarding the criticisms of professionals, and non-professionals, then how do they know in what ways they need to improve their content? For example, Zadie Smith wrote several books before Swing Time, and she took in the advice of many people that she received as feedback from her previous books to shape her writing for the novel. On the other hand, as he continues to write books in the Serafina series, Robert Beatty will take criticism and ideas, and he will implement them into the literary sequel to expand the overarching story and make it as good as he can.

The feedback that I received from my narrative paper, in which I wrote about the movie The Truman Show, helped me realize what parts of my writing need to improve. As Darnell Cole says in a 2009 article, “constructive criticism includes timely and specific negative feedback with useful strategies for skill improvement, support and encouragement” (as cited in Bennett, 2009). Constructive criticism, like what I received from my classmates in response to my narrative paper, helps tremendously in letting people know where they went wrong. Critique, though, is not helpful. Critique is just plain negative feedback that gives no insight on how an author can improve their work. When I gave out feedback of other’s narrative papers, I made sure to give them very constructive criticism. It was valuable experience for future situations in which I will have to articulate critical responses to someone’s ideas.

Providing critical commentary is a major part of modern media these days, and providing such commentary assists in one’s understanding of how to ameliorate their work. Writing a review of a film, book, tv show, etc. is a medium in which you can get your writing to the masses and audiences from the internet will, without a doubt, express their feelings toward your style. The narrative essay that made us look at someone else’s work with a critical eye exemplifies this. It had all the elements of writing a critical piece, distributing it, proving feedback to others, and receiving feedback from others. One other piece of writing we looked at in class, was a review of the films Ready Player One and Lean on Pete, written by a film critic in The New Yorker. While he sees Lean on Pete in a much brighter light, he focuses almost his entire review on Ready Player One, and that is no fault. He uses this as his style. He has fine-tuned his reviewing process, so that his most memorable arguments are against the movie that he doesn’t find very good. This is a notable example of using prior experiences to shape how you write. When looking at other’s art critically, you must learn from the mistakes that you see. That is being intuitive and all creative minds need to be intuitive to give their body of work the flow that it needs to be original and consistent.

Possibly one of the most famous critics in history was a film critic named Roger Ebert. He reviewed cinema for the Chicago-Sun Times from 1967 all the way until he unfortunately passed in 2013. He was, by far, the loudest and most important voice of critical commentary and his reviews shaped the way that many film fans and critics watch movies. He was quoted during a speech in 1994 saying “art is the closest we can come to understanding how a stranger really feels” (Ebert, 1994). This has shaped many people’s views and his work still holds incredible weight in the minds of modern movie-goers. Much of the work we have done in class follows, loosely, the same precedence that Roger Ebert has set. We learned how to think critically, how to send criticism in a well-mannered way, and how receive criticism to use as a catalyst for our work. This class has helped me immensely to watch a movie and think about the things that make it the way it is.


Works Cited

Bennett, Andrea. “The Benefits of Constructive Criticism.” USC News, University of Southern California, 16 Mar. 2009,

Ebert, Roger. “Roger Ebert.” The 11th Hour. 1994


Annotated Bibliography

Beatty, Robert. Serafina and the Black Cloak. Disney/Hyperion, 2015.

This novel tells a story of fantasy and heroism that is enjoyed by many fans of the young-adult genre. When reading this book, I noticed, not only how different it is from our other studied novel, but how much less I like it than Swing Time. If I had not thought critically of this book, I would have never come to that conclusion.



Smith, Zadie. Swing Time. Penguin Books, 2017.

This first novel we studied was a combination of coming-of-age and rivalry. It eloquently observed the behaviors and actions of two people throughout their lives. When critically thinking of this book, I thought about how complex the characters are. I thought they were completely fleshed out and well-written. I thought this would be an informative book to support my claims to that thinking critically is important.



Lane, Anthony. “Reality Hunger,” Review of Ready Player One, directed by Steven Spielberg and Lean on Pete, directed by Andrew Haigh. The New Yorker, 9 Apr. 2018, pp. 80-81

Since this is literally a critical review of two films, I thought that it would an important source of inspiration when explaining how feedback can shape a person’s style. When reading the reviews, I found that it gave well-written insights on ways to look at two different pieces of art.


Lewis, Michael. The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, Chapter One Excerpt. Norton, 2006. pp 15-16

This book, that was eventually adapted into a motion picture, is wildly popular and has received much criticism, as most pieces of art do. I read this excerpt form the first chapter and thought critically about what areas can be improved, and it inspired many of points in this paper.


Kichener, Caroline. “Why So Many Adults Love Young-Adult Literature.” The Atlantic,, 1 Dec. 2017, Accessed 9 Apr. 2018.

I thought this article was a good critical analysis of the behaviors of modern populations and their interests. It explains, in an insightful manner, why people love the contents of a genre that are targeted at a much younger market. It tells about what types of things people enjoy experiencing and what makes them feel.


Lucas, Jane. “Peeling Away the Window Dressing of History.” Jane Lucas, 26 Sept. 2017,

Ms. Lucas’ critical essay on the novel The Underground Railroad is a fitting example of critical commentary that gives an informative analysis of what the contents of the novel mean. It is comparable with our narrative essay assignment and shows how Colson Whitehead may be able to improve his writing.

An Unusual Childhood

ENG Paper 2Swing Time, by Zadie Smith, explores the broken lifelong relationship between the narrator, who remains unnamed throughout the novel, and a girl named Tracey. From an early age, both girls wanted to become dancers, modeling their lives and dance routines after the ones of popular dancing celebrities, in hopes that one day they morph into the people that they idolize. Parts one and two of the story delve deep into the childhood and early lives of these characters and introduces important side characters, like their parents, for them to interact with, and to help the reader understand their development and upbringing. One of the most engaging aspects of this section of the book is the early life and behaviors of Tracy. The way Tracy speaks to people, the way she carried herself, and how she sees the world, all make it seem as if the circumstances of Tracey’s childhood may have had a massive hinderance on her psychological being and mental health. Tracey is by far one of, if not, the most in-depth and well-written characters in this whole novel, and exploring the intricacies of how she came to be may answer some important questions about her character.

Tracey was raised by an obese, single mother who would spoil and pamper her child whenever possible. These leniencies on behalf of her mother caused Tracey to become very outspoken, without any sort of filter and not a concern for the feelings of other people. She would constantly say and do things that caused her heat, but she almost never showed any remorse for her actions. In part two, there was one day when Tracey and the narrator went to the birthday party of a classmate, and Tracey said the word “Paki” (78). After the narrator’s mother picked up the girls from the party, she started scolding Tracey for saying the racial slur, but Tracey was not paying her any attention at all, and when the mother finished her rant, all Tracey had to say was “It’s just a word” (82). This exemplifies her complete apathy for any opinion that is not her own, even from an elder and someone that kids would typically consider an authority figure. One authority figure that Tracey did not have present in her life very much was her father, who would appear here and there at Tracey’s home for distinct reasons, and was shown to be abusive towards Tracey’s mother. The explanation that Tracey always gave people for the absence of her father was that he is on tour as a backup dancer for Michael Jackson, which was also her explanation for why she was so good at dancing. The few times that the narrator met Tracey’s father, he seemed nice and charming and showed both the narrator and Tracey a lot of love, even though he was usually out of the picture, and usually did not seem to care about Tracey. These circumstances that Tracey had to endure during her childhood and upbringing may have had a massive effect on the mental well-being and behaviors of her character as she got older and as an adult.

One major tell that Tracey is not psychologically well-kept is her behavior throughout the book, but specifically when she was a child. She shows signs of being bipolar and maybe even crossing the line of acting sociopathic though her actions multiple times throughout the book. A major event occurred in part one of the novel where Tracey became irrationally angry at the narrator because their teacher had taken away all of the students’ Garbage Pail Kids, a trend which Tracey had set in motion. So, following this action by their teacher, Tracey forcefully took the narrator back to her own home, and made rude comments about her dancing abilities, which made the narrator cry. Then, the narrator started playing with Tracey’s Barbie doll by herself, feeling about her inability to dance like Tracey, while Tracey played Pac-Man by herself ignoring the narrator, who was playing with Tracey’s Barbie doll. A few minutes later, the narrator says that “Tracey’s heart mysteriously softened towards me: she slipped from the bed and joined me cross-legged on the floor. Together we got that tiny white woman’s life in order” (55). Tracey’s sudden shift in attitude and treatment towards the narrator could possibly indicate an unhealthy mental state, like if she were to be bipolar, which lines up with many of her actions.

This action begs the question: Is Tracey mentally unstable? Looking at the facts about the types of things she does and how she treats other people, it is very possible that she is. Her actions and thought process line up the most with being bipolar, which is a disorder that causes sharp shifts in mood and attitude. This is best exemplified in the situation from the second paragraph when Tracey’s heart “mysteriously” softened without any warning. Narcissism is another character trait that Tracey exhibits throughout the novel that can lead to mental unstableness. She constantly brags to the narrator about how she is a better dancer and how her life is better than the narrator’s. Tracey most likely did this to make the narrator feel bad and make herself feel better because of her terrible childhood circumstances. All this evidence leads to the major possibility that Tracey may be a sociopath, which, in most cases, can often go unnoticed throughout someone’s whole life. Tracey’s possible sociopathy could be the main cause of all her strange behavior and actions from her childhood through to her adult life. This is shown in her adult life by her complete disassociation from the narrator and her apparent self-adoration. Maybe if Tracey had had a more normal home life as a child, she would not be as mentally unhealthy as she is.

Whether she is mentally stable or not, Tracey is an interesting character to study and her mannerisms and attitudes towards other show obvious signs of some type of difference between her and the rest of society. She has such an apathetic view of the people around her, without any remorse, that it’s a really a wonder how she was successfully able to manipulate people into tolerating her. Many of these things, though, are easily accredited to the fact that she grew up without a father, was spoiled by her abused mother, and had a natural talent for dance and ballet. Being the childhood friend of the narrator, Tracey at least had a level-headed friend that tried to teach her what’s right and wrong in society and in school. People like Tracey, who may be sociopathic or have some other mental disorder, should be treated cautiously and carefully as they may become as unhinged as Tracey was in Swing Time.


Works Cited

Smith, Zadie. Swing Time. 2016. Penguin. 2017.

My Birthplace

I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina on August 26, 1999. My family went through some hard times while in Argentina, mostly because right before I turned one year old, I got Meningitis and spent two weeks in the hospital. Soon afterwards, in January of 2001, we moved to America, so I never really got to experience what it’s like living in a different country. I’ve been back to visit my family three times, once when I was 8 for a month during the summer, then when I was 15 I went for winter break and got the chance to experience Christmas and New Years with my extended family for the first time. The most recent visit was right before this school year began, in August. The pictures I attached to this post are from my visits to Buenos Aires. The first one was when I was in a restaurant with my family when I was 15, and the other two are pictures from my most recent trip in August.

January 2015
August 2017
August 2017