Voices of Free Minds: Nelson Toala on “The Tempest”

I am a chef at a hotel, and until recently my job just felt like a routine, the same thing over and over. Now I find myself paying more attention to the details, the flavors, the presentation of my dishes. I am better at analyzing problems, comparing things.

The critical thinking that we practice in class is really changing my life. It’s not easy working 12-hour days and then studying at night, but I am so motivated. My dream is to get my degree and start my own business in the food industry. Four years ago I didn’t even speak English. I’m really happy that I have come so far.

This is an excerpt from my paper on The Tempest:

The Tempest is the most difficult reading assignment I ever had. When I started reading it, I had a lot of difficulties in understanding the language that Shakespeare uses with his writing … but after reading over and over Act I and II, I started using my imagination to become part of The Tempest by picturing in my mind, every single character’s name and their meaning in Latin or Spanish language and the role they play in The Tempest

I remember noticing that the name of the beast-man, Caliban, is an anagram for cannibal (except for a missing n, I also noticed that the name of Prospero’s servant, Ariel, sounds like aerial, meaning in the air, of the air, high flying, ethereal, all these words describe Ariel). Other characters also have names suggestive of their qualities and lot in life, [such as] Prospero (a name that derives from the Latin prosperare, or the Spanish prosperar, meaning to cause to prosper), who prospers through his magic and intelligence.”

Nelson Toala is a 2011-2012 student of the Free Minds Project–a college course in the humanities for disadvantaged adults. Read more in “Minds on Fire” in the January|February Alcalde, and read more student writing here.


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