000 wing mural inspired by American literature conveys a bitter reality

September 11, 2018 — by Anna Novoselov

When they walk past room 006, students notice an elaborate mural inspired by “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck and “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald. While upperclassmen might be reminded of the themes of the two classic novels, underclassman might wonder what the mural’s components represent.

“Once you take English 11, you can finally analyze it and understand what it all means,” senior Kay Jewler said. “It’s a fun puzzle to try to solve on the school walls.”

Jewler, along with seniors Karen Chow, Cameron Lin,  Anisha Byri, painted the mural last year for their second-semester English 11 Honors final project, which required students to interpret the course in a creative way. The mural features symbolic images from both novels and depicts the disparities between the United State’s economic classes, revealing that the American Dream is not always accessible to everyone.

The main elements of the mural are two hands; the bottom left manicured hand holding pearls represents the upper, wealthy class while the top right weathered hand with grape vines wrapped around it represents the poorer, farming class. In the middle, an asphalt road with Gatsby’s yellow car stretches between the two hands, and on the bottom right, blue windowless buildings illustrate the closed off nature of the wealthy.

The mural conveys that the road creates a divide between the poor and wealthy areas and people can only reach the wealthy side by being born there, Chow said. It depicts the disparities between economic classes in the U.S., revealing that the American dream is not always accessible to everyone.

English 10 and English 11 Honors teacher Amy Keys explained that while there are many wealthy communities — especially in places like the Silicon Valley — to whom “the American Dream is very vivid and tangible,” there are also “populations that feel very shut off from accessing and achieving the American goal.”

According to Keys, the mural displays this divide — which is prevalent in American history and current events — in a creative, aesthetically pleasing way.

“It was neat that they showed the proximity and tantalizing closeness of these opportunities for different groups of people,” Keys said.

A green sun with spreading rays concludes the scene. It was inspired by the green light — which represents an individual’s  goals and dreams — at the end of the dock that Gatsby in “The Great Gatsby.” The space between the rays was left unpainted to symbolize the uncertainty of the future.

“I think the mural piques people's curiosity when they walk past,” Keys said. “It’s like a little teaser, like a trailer of a movie.”

The four girls began the process in early May. Jewler said that they considered the main symbols of the books and how to tie them together. They presented different ideas and sketched out designs until they reached a consensus.

After Chow sketched the mural and received approval from principal Paul Robinson, the maintenance staff and the school board, the girls began painting. They worked on it almost every day after school over the span of five weeks as well as 12 hours a day over Memorial Day weekend.

Jewler said that working on the mural was a fun, relaxing break from the academic grind. The girls talked, listened to music, cracked jokes and got to know each other better.

While most projects involve clear set guidelines, the English 11 Honors final project allows students to explore their interests and connect them to literature. Chow combined two of her interests, art and English, in a meaningful way that will last for years.

“I hope the mural inspires other students,” Chow said. “If you love two things, they don’t have to be separate; you can put them together.”

 

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