In the essay “A Stranger in Strange Lands,” McCarthy compares the classes Dave attended to a foreign country, emphasizing the need to learn its language in order to succeed. Dave faced challenges in his poetry class because he didn’t grasp the “foreign” language of the subject. Within this academic context, Dave had to comprehend and apply analytical skills to write essays that convey a specific interpretation of a poem (his thesis) and show his growth in understanding and addressing the literary techniques employed by a poet to express their insights (242).
As opposed to his Freshmen Composition or Biology class, this method was unfamiliar to Dave because it differed from what he was used to. Typically, he summarized and demonstrated textual coherence in those classes. However, for this specific class, his focus shifted towards developing innovative thinking and writing techniques. Unfortunately, his grades did not improve in the poetry class. Both social factors and his ability to maintain coherence influenced his writing style. While Dave felt a sense of connection with the writing in his other classes, poetry didn’t evoke the same sentiment.
According to Dave, poetry lacked commonality except for the utilization of similar literary techniques. He also perceived himself as an outsider in comparison to his more knowledgeable instructor. Dave would dedicate numerous hours to crafting essays in an attempt to meet specified standards, only to have his errors pointed out without any accompanying explanations. As stated by Dave, “Poetry is not taught to you because each poem is different.”
In order to succeed in the class, Dive could have analyzed the poem and sought approval from Dry. Forsook. Unfortunately, this hindered Dive’s chance of success. If he recognized his writing was failing, he could have requested a private meeting with the professor to discuss his mistakes. Alternatively, the professor could have provided more explicit guidelines and lectures to help students improve their writing by highlighting specific details in the poem.