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VARIOUS TEXTS: From 'Thirteen Reasons Why' by Jay Asher

From Cassette 4: Side B
(Sections in bold letters are the texts from Hannah's tape, all others are by Clay Jensen, the first-person narrator)

Text:

Would you want the ability to hear other people's thoughts? Of course you would. Everyone answers yes to that question, until they think it all the way through. For example, what if other people could hear your thoughts? What if they could hear your thoughts ... right now?

They'd hear confusion. Frustration. Even some anger. They'd hear the words of a dead girl running through my head. A girl who, for some reason, blames me for her suicide.

Sometimes we have thoughts that even we don't understand. Thoughts that aren't even true — that aren't really how we feel — but they're running through our heads anyway because they're interesting to think about.

I adjust the napkin holder in front of me till Tony's booth is reflected in the polished silver. He leans back and wipes his hands on a napkin.

If you could hear other people's thoughts, you'd overhear things that are true as well as things that are completely random. And you wouldn't know one from the other. It'd drive you insane. What's true? What's not? A million ideas, but what do they mean?

I have no idea what Tony's thinking. And he has no idea about me. He has no idea that the voice in my head, the voice coming through his Walkman, belongs to Hannah Baker.

That's what I love about poetry. The more abstract, the better. The stuff where you're not sure what the poet's talking about. You may have an idea, but you can't be sure. Not a hundred percent. Each word, specifically chosen, could have a million different meanings. Is it a stand-in—a symbol for another idea? Does it fit into a larger, more hidden, metaphor?

This is the eighth person, Hannah. If it's about poetry, then it's not about me. And there are only five names to go.

I hated poetry until someone showed me how to appreciate it. He told me to see poetry as a puzzle. It's up to the reader to decipher the code, or the words, based on everything they know about life and emotions. Did the poet use red to symbolize blood? Anger? Lust? Or is the wheelbarrow* simply red because red sounded better than black?

I remember that one. From English. There was a big dis­cussion on the meaning of red. I have no idea what we decided in the end.

The same person who taught me to appreciate poetry also taught me the value in writing it. And honestly, there is no better way to explore your emotions than with poetry.

Or audiotapes.

If you're angry, you don't have to write a poem dealing with the cause of your anger. But it needs to be an angry poem. So go ahead ... write one. I know you're at least a little bit angry with me. And when you're done with your poem, decipher it as if you'd just found it printed in a textbook and knew absolutely nothing about its author. The results can be amazing ... and scary. But it's always cheaper than a therapist. I did that for a while. Poetry, not a therapist.

Maybe a therapist would have helped, Hannah.

I bought a spiral notebook to keep all of my poems in one place. A couple days a week, after school, I'd go to Monet's* and write a poem or two. My first few attempts were a bit sad. Not much depth or subtlety. Pretty straightforward. But still, some came out fairly well. At least, I think they did. Then, without even trying, I memorized the very first poem in that notebook. And no matter how hard I try, I can't seem to shake it from my head even today. So here it is, for your appreciation ... or amusement.

        If my love were an ocean,
        there would be no more land.
        If my love were a desert,
        you would see only sand.
        If my love were a star —
        late at night, only light.
        And if my love could grow wings,
        I'd be soaring in flight.

Go ahead. Laugh. But you know you'd buy it if you saw it on a greeting card.

There's a sudden ache deep inside my chest.

Just knowing I'd be going to Monet's to write poetry made the days more bearable. Something funny, shocking, or hurtful might happen and I'd think, This is going to make for one fascinating poem.

Over my shoulder, I see Tony walking out the front door. Which seems weird. Why didn't he stop to say good-bye?

To me, I suppose, these tapes are a form of poetic therapy.

Through the front window, I watch Tony get in his car.

As I tell you these stories, I'm discovering certain things. Things about myself yes, but also about you. All of you.

790 words

Source:
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Penguin Books, 2007, pp. 174-177


Annotations:
*wheelbarrow - Schubkarre
*Monet's - name of a diner, cafe


Assignments:
1. How would you describe Hannah's state of mind? Take into account her poem.
2. Why does Hannah say that poetry helped her more than a therapist would have been able to?
3. Annalyse the figurative language in Hannah's poem.
4. Hannah in 'Thirteen Reaspns Why' and Holden Caulfield in 'The Catcher in the Rye' are both outsiders in their surroundings. How do both handle their situations?
5. What do you think should be taught in a subject like 'Peer Communications'? Could it help young people to treat one another more respectfully?



amazon.de Thirteen Reasons Why
by
Jay Asher
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