Đề bài: 

Dog and Cat. Coffee and Tea. Great Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye. Everyone knows there are two types of people in the world. What are they?

Inspired by an alumna of the Class of 2006

For a moment, I really thought I knew what two types of people were in the world: People who are going to read the Lord of the Rings and people who have read the Lord of the Rings. People who write for UChicago and people who don't... Sadly, these are not the answers that will satisfy me. In order to be included in “everyone” again, I place my fingers on the keyboard to figure out what two types they are. Dogs bark, and cats meow. Coffee is sold in Starbucks and tea somewhere else. Holden Caulfield gets expelled and Gatsby loves Daisy. This list can go on forever.

This is a broader version of a mathematical induction in which I have to find two types of people. It might fail ultimately because the more I think about this, the more connection I find between these two subjects.

Just now, I googled “Do Chinese people eats dogs?” and I got 391000 results within 0.15 seconds. That is quite alright. I am personally asked numerous times “Do you Chinese people REALLY eat dogs?” and this person might apologize before he or she even asks. That to me is also not offensive, and in reality I answer them with patience “yeah maybe, but not everyone.” When I was still a foreign exchange student in Washington, New Jersey, I overheard this conversation “I will never go to that Chinese restaurant again. Remember the cats around that place the other day? They disappeared! ” She spoke with such an emphatic tone that (forgive me) I could not hold my laughter. Somehow I felt guilty and covered my mouth, because I thought I did not do a good job to remove her confusion, and I laughed at her.

There are people rushing in and out Starbucks every day, taking a cup of espresso, cappuccino or whatever. I wonder whether they really care if one day, the waitress tells them “I am sorry, but we don't have this anymore.” I am not a native English speaker, so when I stare at the menu and try to utter a word, I say “eh” longer than the name of the coffee. I look up the definition and memorize that espresso is concentrated coffee and cappuccino is coffee with milk and foam (I searched again), but still, when I am standing in the line, I change my mind to that mango smoothie. The same applies to the tea. Maybe one day in the future, I can judge with sneaky confidence that my homemade green tea is certainly better than that Royal English black tea. I, however, have no interests in this when I know my parents are working 24-7 to tell me “we will take care of you”. So far, what I care about the most is which drink will keep me awake to finish this writing. I am ambivalent towards my lack of taste.

I happened to read these two mentioned books with considerable attention. Both of them, I felt connected. For sure, it is not the only thing that The Great Gatsby is trying to deliver, yet when Sparknotes.com and Mr. Cook reinforced that Gatsby idealized romance with his forever 19-year-old mentality, I lamented and felt sentimental.  Three years ago, I first encountered Catcher in the Rye and totally victimized myself. Thus I overlooked him dreaming of a catcher in the rye. In my first English class in the States, my classmates’ criticism of Holden Caulfield hurt me. I nearly failed to control my voice crying “Guys! Aren’t you with Holden? Are they all hypocrites?” A couple of months later, I saw a picture of the class that Mrs. Miller had last year. Someone pointed out that a girl who I never met was pregnant, bore a baby and dropped out of school. That second, it all came to me. I understood why Holden was disgusted by the F word painted on the wall of Phoebe’s school. Essentially, I began to possess empathy regarding his laughable “catcher” career. If only love and life were innocent and pure like a child!

I thought I could identify two types of people as a conclusion, which is exactly what I am doing. Unfortunately, this time the answer does not flow as naturally as it used to. Instead, I dug more profoundly into myself. I am reluctant to admit that the question of what two types of people are in the world, which is supposedly known by “everyone”, may exceed my understanding. I would rather not make up something I myself have a hard time believing. No one would be happy if they knew they were generalized so easily in a 2-page essay by an unknown. I can only guarantee that I am distinct from the pile of applicants.