Seed Shape Essay

A fractal is a mathematical geometric shape. As Ron Eglash describes in his Ted Talk, they are known to be used in modeling structures because they have a recurring pattern that progressively gets smaller. They take on a seed shape. Fractals are used to model many different things, one of them being African culture to model architecture. We learned about fractals our first day of class and have been building on the topic ever since. As we have learned, fractals apply to more than just math or architecture, they are also seen in pieces of literature. A fractal can be created in one piece of literature, as it connects the beginning, middle and end of a story. Fractals can also be created by connecting one piece of literature to another. By connecting pieces of literature, we are creating patterns. The patterns are seen at the heart of the readings. Although each reading is different, there are still underlying patterns that create this metaphoric seed shape. They all have similarities that relate to one another making the literature in our class a fractal seed shape.

The first piece of literature in our class that I feel adds to our seed shape is Everyday Use by Alice Walker. The story Everyday Use talks about an African American family who struggle with different perspectives about their heritage. In the story, Dee, the more educated prettier sister, wants the quilts their grandmother made as a symbol of their heritage. This is an issue because the quilts were promised to Maggie, her sister who is less educated but still very much appreciates and understands the value of the quilts. Dee believes that she is more deserving of the special quilts because she very outwardly displays her heritage. She even changed her name to Wangero to represent her African culture more. She says, “I couldn’t bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me.” However, just because Dee outwardly expresses her heritage more than Maggie it does not mean that Maggie is not close to hers. In fact, Maggie is the one who learned how to make quilts. The difference between Maggie and Dee is that Maggie represents her heritage through practice not public displays. The message behind this story is that heritage and culture is truly honored and respected through practice, not outward displays. The story creates a seed shape in it. It does this because the pattern of the importance of practicing your heritage is prominent throughout. The quilts in this story are symbols. They symbolize their heritage. The quilts are passed down through generations and represent family, something Dee doesn’t understand. The quilts in the story also have patterns. They are the Lone Star and Walk Around the Mountain pattern. Just as the patterns symbolize their family and the repeated traditions they practice. Just as the repeated patterns in the literature for our class create a fractal shape. 

Another piece of literature that creates our fractal shape is Narrative of the life of Fredrick Douglass by Frederick Douglass. He wrote this narrative to document his experiences as a slave. Throughout the story he talks about how dehumanizing slavery is. He emphasizes the horrors that slavery is by talking about the malleolus intentions of slave owners that include treating slaves as property and keeping them illiterate and uneducated. In the narrative, Douglass explains how he learns to read first from his slave owner’s wife and then is able to keep going and teaches himself with some help. After Douglass learns how to read, he starts to realize even more how wrong slavery is. After his final escape, he marries and writes his narrative to try and shed light on the truth about slavery. The pattern in this story is that knowledge is everything. The power of reading and writing helped Douglass while he was a slave. It got him through it and educated him, giving him hope and power. After his escape, Douglass used writing as an outlet to fight slavery. He wrote his narrative to tell his tale and the horrors he went through in order to help get change. In the narrative he says, “The paper came, and I finally read it from week to week with such feelings as it would be quite idle for me to attempt to describe. The paper became my meat and my drink. My soul was set on fire. Its sympathy for my brethren in bonds-its scathing denunciations of slaveholders-its faithful exposures of slavery- and its powerful attacks upon the upholders of the institutions-sent a thrill of joy through my soul, such as I had never felt before!”. This quote describes the joy and importance that literature brings in Douglass’ life. That knowledge is the most important tool.

These are two examples from our literature that show our fractal seed shape. The fractal seed shape can be used for many different things. They are just to represent patterns being repeated. The pattern for our class is that we must take a deeper dive and really pay attention to what the author is telling us. This is shown in Everyday Use because it shows that the importance of heritage is practicing it and not the public displays. It is also seen in Narrative of the life of Fredrick Douglass because it shows how powerful reading and writing is. This pattern will keep showing up in our class. We will have to look further than a first glance or what is being obviously displayed and we must dive deeper in the literature. 

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