Eric Anderson – Unknown


Writing has always been one of my favorite pastimes. As an English major at my university, I always tried to do my best to demonstrate that I was an intelligent person who could think creatively on many subjects. To me, assignments such as essays were neither taxing nor dreaded. On the contrary, the challenge excited me, and I usually put a great deal of time and effort into each assignment.

“Prepare a book review,” said Dr. Gill, my Freshman English teacher. “An intelligent analysis of ‘The Educated Imagination’ by Northrop Frye, due next week.” Dr. Gill was never one to make life easy for his students. On the contrary, he seemed to consider it his life’s purpose to disprove any ideas that his students could come up with. Every class would always turn out the same: Dr. Gill assigned a story, we discussed the story, the class gave it’s thoughts on the story, he explained why every thought the class had was idiotic, and then he would dismiss the class 20 minutes early in an irritated sulk, muttering about the failing standards of the American educational system.

So, with the thrill of an unspoken challenge ringing in my ears, I began work on the book, pouring over its pages, researching its sources and citations, even going as far as to discuss its points with my peers. Hours of perfectly formed sentences and well-linked clauses flowed forth through a time tested method of constant revision. After three straight days of work, I finally finished forming an excellent review of the book, one of which I was sure that Dr. Gill would be proud.

Then I fatefully brought up one of Northrop Frye’s points to my room-mate, who was a good friend, mild genius, and well-proven person with which to throw ideas around. He listened to my ramblings thoughtfully for a few minutes before stating politely that he considered it to be the most ridiculous thing that he had ever heard. Stunned, I demanded that he explain himself. To my increasing displeasure, he did and made perfect sense while doing it. Stunned and momentarily distraught, I returned to my room to contemplate what exactly I should do.

After much thought on the subject, I began to agree with my room-mate’s points. In a stroke of rebellious insight I tore through my copy of “The Educated Imagination” with a renewed vigor, striking through each unbelievable phrase with uncanny accuracy. My yellow highlighter was a blur as I destroyed Frye’s work, page by page, never resting until my task was completed and every erroneous statement had been exposed. Much later, I sat with my yellow-soaked book on my desk in front of me, ready to move on to the next step.

I opened my already completed essay and immediately deleted it. I had no need for any previous trains of thought; this new essay would be groundbreaking. It would be a landmark in the life of my teacher, who finally had a student with the mental capacity to comprehend the foolishness of the book he had assigned. I was sure that upon his reading of my essay he would either congratulate me on my discovery of his hidden plot to open our minds, or else strike the Northrop Frye book from his list of class supplies from that moment on.

Several hours later, I gazed upon my newly completed work- a masterpiece, clearly reminiscent of the classic authors that had been forced upon students for countless years. I imagined that soon after I turned in my essay Dr. Gill would be approaching me with wondrous applause, excited at the literary prodigy that had been thrown into his class. I printed my paper (and an extra copy, just in case) with confidence that by the end of the week I would have mastered my Freshman English class and begun a fast-paced track to greatness.

With an air of confidence and achievement, I turned in my essay the next day. I added it to the pile with the same mindset as a man attending a ceremony for an award that he’s already won. With a skip in my step, I wished Dr. Gill a good afternoon and went along my merry way. In my delight, I decided to take a different route through the English department on my way back to my dorm room. As I stepped down the left wing staircase I noticed a glass display case on the wall of the stairwell. I stopped to examine it, and then dropped my backpack to the ground in silent horror. Encased on the wall was a brand new copy of “Northrop Frye and the Phenomenology of Myth,” by Dr. Glen Gill.
I have no idea how much time I actually spent gawking at that copy of my teacher’s work…Did he really think highly enough of Northrop Frye to write an entire book about him? Would he be prejudiced against my paper that blatantly regarded Frye as a sub-par author? Was there still time to return to the classroom and rip the paper from Dr. Gill’s hands? 

In a panic, I quickly ripped open my backpack and grabbed the extra copy that I had printed the night before. Every sentence filled me with dread and a nauseas feeling crept over me as I read each new claim.  I began to think, as I read through my slanderous work, that maybe everything would be alright. Maybe he would be compassionate and not give me a failing grade, thus allowing me the ability to make it up to him. Maybe there was the possibility that he would not take any of my foolish ramblings as actual insults to his favorite author. Then, my eyes rested on the last sentence of the paper: “I hope for Frye’s sake that he was not depending on the sale of his book for food money.”

Destroyed and demoralized, I closed the pages of my damned paper and began to ponder whether or not my life was still worth living. Around the time that I decided that my life could still be salvaged from the murk in which it had fallen, I noticed something odd about my paper’s heading. At first all seemed well, proper MLA format, header in its proper place, title centered (“A Mediocre Tome,” by the way). But, under my name, right before the class title, stood the space usually reserved for Dr. Gill’s name. I say usually reserved for because in that case Dr. Gill’s name did not occupy that spot. Instead “Dr. Dill” gazed tauntingly up at me from the paper, a quick thrust that decapitated my already wounded sanity and caused me to drop to a level of distress from which I was sure I could never recover.  I could not imagine my life ever reaching a lower point, and searched wildly for any method of appeasing my distraught psyche.
So, I quickly returned to my dorm and struck my room-mate.

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