Monthly Archives: November 2016

Room by Emma Donoghue #2

At this point in the novel, Jack has been exposed to the true cruelty of Old Nick. While hiding in Wardrobe, Jack turns on his remote-controlled Jeep toy and it falls on top of Old Nick. Old Nick, thinking that it was Ma trying to attack him with a heavy object, retaliated by leaving bruises on her neck. Ma explains to Jack that there is a whole world outside of Room, outside of the sturdy locked door and firm walls that cage them. Jack is amazed but confused, why are some things real and others stuck in TV? Old Nick cuts off all power in the room and so Ma tells Jack about her family: her mother, father, and brother Paul. Ma explains that Old Nick tricked her into his truck and kidnapped her, and that she had been living in Room for seven solemn years. Eventually, the power is turned back on.

I think that Emma Donoghue uses Ma’s rotten tooth (Bad Tooth) for a symbol as well as foreshadowing. Like the tooth, Ma and Jack are barely clinging on to life inside of Room, and it gives them great pain to suffer within the walls. But finally, Bad Tooth gets pulled out, and Ma is relieved. However, she notices her other rotten teeth much more now with the absence of the first. I think this foreshadows an escape for Jack and Ma, but after they find freedom, they because swept up with the problems and difficulties of the outside world as opposed to the terrors of “living” in captivity.

I also found that the author used the mouse in Room as a symbol for Old Nick. Old Nick brings presents and treats for Jack, but in reality, he is abusive and inflicts pain on Ma. The mouse may look cute and harmless, but it could cause serious destruction if you let your guard down.

Emma Donoghue juxtaposes light and dark to give meaning to the two. In the daytime, Jack is free and can play, sing, and have fun. Ma can be care-free without having to worry about Old Nick’s wrath. When night falls, it means that Jack must hide away in Wardrobe and Ma must hope that Old Nick does not get mad at her. Therefore, contrasting light and dark is the same to comparing peace and fear.

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Fahrenheit 451- Ray Bradbury- Second discussion (11/28/2016)

Blog post by Sera Lew:

Over the second quarter that I read, many events took place, and a lot of questions were answered. I do not want to simply summarize what happened over the course of my reading. What I do want to focus on is the main recurring symbol of a lily (or a flower). When Montag talks to an old English Professor named Faber about books and the society they lived in, Faber states, “‘We are living in a time when flowers are trying to live on flowers, instead of growing on good rain and black loam. Even fireworks, for all their prettiness, come from the chemistry of the earth. Yet somehow we think we can grow, feeding on flowers and fireworks, without completing the cycle back to reality’” (Bradbury 79). I was taken aback by this quote not only by what it conveyed but the craftsmanship of the metaphor itself. What Bradbury presents to a reader is a metaphor that gives the reader something to ponder on and analyze. Faber was comparing the flowers growing atop of all the other flowers to the society that they are living in during their current time. The reader learns that the society lived in during the current time does not value education like we do now (the reader’s current time). In their society, books are burned as the government believed that too much controversy and two sided arguments occurred through literature. What the society wanted to accomplish is a biased free zone, only made up of facts, and nothing else. They never regarded or liked any historical characters as they too brought many conflicts and arguments among the people as many argued on what the person really did, or who was better. So, viewing back to this metaphor, I thought that Bradbury did an excellent job explaining the situation in a nutshell. The flowers growing on top of flowers represented that their society built off of the main base of the old society, yet they never looped back around to “cycle back to reality.” The society that they lived in was so high off the ground that the people soon forgot where they came from, and nor did they care what had happened in the past. Faber refers to the earth as some sort of a powerful figure, as it ties the world together, even in fireworks. However, when society is built atop of an old society without revisiting the past, they no longer grow off of the good “rain and black loam.” What is Ray Bradbury trying to convey? Well, the way I took it apart, I thought that the rain and the black loam (soil) represented the main roots to building a society. However, because the flower grew on top of the other flower instead of using the “rain and black loam” there comes a society that becomes unnatural, and something that doesn’t loop back into reality.

After analyzing this quote, this caused me to look back upon my reading to find more hidden messages that I didn’t catch before. It opened my eyes to see the expertise style of writing that Bradbury presented as each and every sentence written had a meaning. I often found that sometimes, when reading a book, I tended to not pay attention to much detail in scenes that seemed unimportant. However, from reading this book, it has opened my mind as a reader, and it has made me more aware of a lot of the small hidden details. So, when I looked back to the part where Montag is on the subway, trying to remember parts of the bible, he recites in fragments over a loud toothpaste commercial, “‘Consider the lilies of the field…They toil not, neither do they…’” (Bradbury 74-75). When I looked back on this scene, I realized the recurring flower/ lily symbol brought up once again. I found myself surprised after finally analyzing what Bradbury was trying to convey. I researched the full quote, and it stated, “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin” (Luke 12:27). Relating the meaning back to the story gave me an “Ah ha!” moment. (which is extremely awesome when the idea finally makes sense). As I slowly began to take apart the meaning of the quote from the bible, it connected to the symbolic meaning of flowers more and more. Here’s how I broke it down. Firstly, I defined that Bradbury uses the symbol of flowers to represent the society that Montag is living in. When taking apart the quote from the bible, I thought that the main message it was trying to convey was the idea that lilies do not need to go through extremely hard labor to turn out beautiful. I then related this quote to what Faber had said to Guy. Faber mentioned that their society that they were living in did not grow and cycle back down to the earth making it almost artificial (in a sense). I made the connection that their society is made up so artificially that it does in fact “toil and spin,” and it does not grow into a beautiful society. Because the community was so far from natural, not letting the good soil or rain help it grow, it grew from hard labor and became unnatural.

Maybe it’s too far of a reach, but let me know future commenters on what you think. I would rate this quarter a solid 9.5/10. This book is developing a well thought out story, and the metaphors that Bradbury uses are phenomenal.

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1984 by George Orwell-Lena Wehn 11/27/16

First I would like to say that the whole concept of the ministry of love is juxtaposition. It is called the ministry of LOVE, which is supposed to be all happy, wonderful, and beautiful things, but really it is the place that sets up the marriages, all carefully arranged so that they are loveless and cold, and tortures those who commit crimes against their set-ups (winston).

Again, history comes up. I was thinking about the book and wondering: how is it possible to overthrow Big Brother and change life as they know it, if they don’t know their history? The best case scenario would be if the government was secretly keeping accurate documentation of history, but really that would not happen in this society.  So how are these people going to remember enough to 1) unite everyone to fight against the current power. 2) know what to do if they can succeed in overthrowing Big Brother. I mean, no one will have any idea what to do. 3) As they say, history repeats itself. And no one will be able to stop any of the horrible things that have already happened from happening, which is extremely scary. Nobody wants another Hitler.

The question I had before, about whether or not the telescreens read minds, has been answered. On page 138, Winston says, “With all their cleverness [Big Brother] had never mastered the secret of finding out what another human being was thinking” (Orwell 138). This means that telescreens only observe people, watching out for their ticks, muttering to themselves, or any shady business at all.

A part of the second section that stood out to me was that Julia (Winston’s new “special friend”) was completely blind to the entire importance of History, to the point of trying to convince Winston it wasn’t important as well. She was completely unbudging on her ideas, like, for instance, that when Winston told Julia that airplanes had existed before the revolution, and the Party (Big Brother) had lied about inventing them, she didn’t care one bit. This strikes me as important because Winston so clearly sees the value of history, and actively seeks it out, while Julia, still a very liberal minded person, does not care one bit, which is most likely her greatest flaw.

It is clear in this novel, like Orwell’s other novels, that he has a point to make, and he makes it, in the most insightful and entertaining ways, yet the point is still blatantly obvious. In this novel, Orwell is communicating the issues of ignorance and compliancy. He, like Animal Farm, is relating his background (communist Russia) to his writing. He does this so much, his novels are nearly public service announcements, simply played up and set to a plot.

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Code Name Verity 11/27/16

Ben Weber         New Rating: 7.5/10

Last post I wrote about this book, a fourth of the way through the novel, and I had nothing but praise. After reading the second fourth I have different opinions. I still think that it is a great book, but there are nit picky items that I am addressing now. These bugged me while reading the first quarter but I did not realise them until now. Though the item that I going to be talking about has positive points there is still some negatives as well. This item is how the author introduces character’s personality or facts creatively in the novel Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. The praise about this topic is that Elizabeth Wein has very creative ways to give the reader an insight into why characters made decisions. The negative side of the creative explanation is that at times the facts, or personalities traits, are very confusingly written. Some of these had to be re-read multiple times before the reader could really understand what is being said.

What I thought was really brilliant about how Wien expanded the character’s personalities is shown in the quote on page 116 and 117. I am not going to write out the full quote. It is a page in a half and no one wants to read that, but I will give the gist of what the quote is saying. Maddie just landed in Deeside and she is choosing between the cold office room floor to sleep on, or taking a train to somewhere where there is actually a place to sleep. The problem is she does not know where to go, or even if there is a place to sleep anywhere nearby.  She still chooses to take the train. Later when Maddie gets to the train station and asks the ticket master when the next train leaves the station. The ticket master just hands her a ticket instead of asking her if she wanted to go on that train or not. Maddie does not turn down the ticket, and she just goes with it.  These two simple decisions really paint a picture to how Maddie’s mind works. Maddie instead of taking the cold floor she knows is there Maddie takes a risk for something better that could have turned out worse. This shows the Maddie has a risk taking personality. Also Maddie can go with the flow showing yet another aspect of her personality through a simple scene. This allows the reader to spend more time in the action of the writing and with what is actually happening then just reading about how a character thinks. This makes me very excited because I usually do not like reading about what goes on in another person’s mind.

I know this next example is really not showing the personality of Queenie fully, but there is a reason that it is here. The example is here because it shows that sometimes when Wein tries to be creative it does not work out as planned. I am the first one to say that I like reading graphs. They make sense and they present a bunch of information about the topic in one space. Wein uses these in her writing from time to time and for me it usually helps me understand what is going on. The only problem is when Wein switches between chart and writing every few lines or so. This make the reader have to look back over and over again to get the real gist of what is trying to be said. I know some people are fine with the switching back and forth but it really bugs me. When I am reading a book I want to move on and see what comes next and for me the flow of reading stops when I have to look back. The point that this happens is on page 152. For people that do not have the book the writing goes from a chart saying destinations and dates of Queenie going on missions with Maddie, then to Queenie explaining that the weather was terrible and Maddie was grounded, to one line of charts with the way of return from the mission as “Who Cares?”, and finally two more mission flights in paragraph form. I get that this was supposed to help the reader see all the flights together and to show how Queenie at this point in capture is really scatterbrained, but this bugged me even if there was a reason. Just put it all in chart form or paragraph form for heaven’s sake; it would make it a whole lot easier to read.

I know that I am the only one that this bugged, but I wanted to show what I saw in the novel and how creative Wein can be. So what I am trying to say throughout this whole piece is that Wein is very creative when she introduces topic or personalities, though sometimes it does not work and makes the novel even more confusing. I look forward to reading your comments on the book as well.

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1984 by George Orwell 11/15/16

1984 by George Orwell is truly unlike any other novel or work of literature I have ever read before. The novel was written in 1949, and portrays a nightmarish vision of what the world will be like in the year 1984, just only 35 years in the future. This book highlights the dystopian society that our world has come to, where no one can contain there memories and there is no record of the past. The novel takes place in London, Oceania, a fictitious place that is one of the world’s three main powers, the other two being Eurasia and Eastasia. In Oceania, nobody is very unique, and no one can remember anything about their past or the past of the world. The country is controlled by the government and politics, and also “Big Brother,” who seems to be the face of the government. His face is present almost everywhere, from the money in your pocket to billboards and posters. He appears to be the face of their country, like George Washington or Uncle Sam. In this novel so far, it appears that most people are brainwashed to love their government and country, and do not pose their own opinion. The main character is Winston Smith, a fairly average person who works for the government, like most other people. This first section of the story follows Winston through his daily life, and the many differences from today. A strange ritual that this country performs, that even Winston joins in with, is the Two Minute Hate. This is where everyone stops what they are working on to go to a telescreen, which proceeds to show some of Oceania’s worst enemies, including Eurasia. The crowd then begins to scream at the screen and let out all of the hate trapped inside them loose. Another important detail is that it is strictly prohibited to keep records of anything. Winston foolishly decides to begin his own diary, and write down his day to day thoughts and opinions. If one is to keep a record like this, it is punishable by death.

It is strange instances like this that make this book so interesting. I find it crazy that someone could believe that the world could change so much in 35 years as well. To think that a group of people could erase all memories and history from an empire of people is beyond me. As of right now, I would rate this novel 9/10 stars. It is very sophisticated read that keeps the reader intrigued. In the first chapters of the book, not much is explained about the world of 1984, but instead just drops you into the everyday life of one of it’s people. This quickly becomes confusing, as it starts to use terms and phrases, like “Ingsoc” and “doublethink” that have no meaning to me. Other than that, the book is fantastic, and I look forward to continuing Winston’s story.

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Room by Emma Donoghue

The perspective of this novel is what makes this novel particularly interesting. A five-year-old boy named Jack narrates the story and shares about his happy life with his Ma. Together they live in a 11 by 11 foot space he calls Room and go about their day cooking, playing games, singing songs, and watching TV. However, the glimpse of the outside world they have is the Skylight and TV because they are locked in Room, only a mysterious character named Old Nick knows the password to the door. He brings groceries for them and presents for Jack. But when night falls, Jack is forced to hide in Wardrobe before Old Nick comes into the room, so he never sees his face.

Donoghue uses Jack and Old Nick to juxtapose purity, innocence, and curiosity with mystery and bitterness. Jack has a deep love for his mother and a passion for learning new things within the walls of Room. Old Nick, in contrast, is grouchy and violent towards Ma. This book feels relatable because of the references to everyday things such as oatmeal, Jeep, Dora the Explorer, and singing songs. However, I have never known the feeling of being trapped physically (except during Geometry class) and the restrictions that bind Jack and Ma such as entertainment, food, technology, and freedom from Room. I can not grasp the concept of two people being locked in a small room and living a seemingly “normal” life (in the perspective of Jack) while one person controls them. It does remind me of the book The Giver, because like Jack, protagonist Jonas is blinded by his own oblivion that he leads a regular life, when really, he is trapped in a fake world. Also with the novel The Maze Runner, Thomas is shut in a fully-functioning environment of teenage boys who are working to escape the Maze without memory of their past lives.

Not only is this an interesting and intriguing novel so far, I think it would make a great book to read for class. A young boy learning new things about himself and the world around him relates to the theme of coming of age and growing up. Other themes we have explored this year are innocence and world of children versus adults, and Jack is innocent in his brief exposure to other people and ideas, and we can clearly see this from his narrating. We can also compare his life to the life of Ma and how different they really are despite them living together. I think this book has some very creative pieces to it and I can not wait to read more!

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1984 by George Orwell 11/14/16

Even though  I am not far enough to have a full understanding of the novel, part one of 1984 is clearly meant to set the scene on the world Winston lives in. Orwell goes into great detail when explaining to the reader how life works under Big Brother’s reign. Even though he hasn’t disclosed all of the aspects, many parts of the people of Oceania’s meager existence make complete sense.

Big Brother has instilled the idea of no laws. Nothing stops people from committing crimes or  doing things that are not approved, yet still people are taken away. For example, there is no rule against Winston going into the pub of a prole (the poorest of the poor, I gather, like the untouchables in India, maybe), but if someone suspects him of thoughtcrime, he could be watched or even taken away. These are the sets of unspoken laws. It is not completely illegal, most things aren’t, but it is certainly frowned upon and punishable. It’s a backwards way to hammer fear into the hearts of their people. There is no better way, I imagine, to create compliance than the feeling of impending doom if you even slip up the slightest in front of authorities. No laws plays a large part in setting the scene to how Winston lives his life. It shows the unproveable, unavoidable net that most are trapped under with the reign of Big Brother. It resonates in a powerfully terrifying way with the reader, showing the type of world that is possible.

Thoughtcrime is one of the many concepts that has not been completely explained to the reader. I cannot quite tell how one is convicted of thoughtcrime, if it is mind reading through the television screens, or if one has to share their thoughts to get arrested. Winston has repeatedly noted that Big Brother is always watching, and even the smallest unintentional tic or slightest shady glance could give someone away for committing thoughtcrime. The thoughts that are considered thoughtcrime have also not been clearly laid out, but it is clear that anyone who plans to rebel is guilty, those who attempt to find out the truths about real history are guilty, and those who understand things a little too well and are a little too smart for their own good can be guilty. This leaves the reader with an eerie sense of familiarity. The feeling that there is a golden spot, a perfect way to be a human is reinforced when those who are too radical are literally taken out their beds and away, never to been again.

The history of Oceania is unclear. It is known that the book takes place in 1984, and Big Brother came into power after the sixties. Winston remembers small bits of his childhood, before Big Brother, but is thirsty for more information on the true past. His job, after all, is with the government. He takes told history, sometimes statistics, sometimes articles or novels, and burns them. He then rewrites them to fit what Big Brother wants to prove. Shockingly, the masses gulp these lies up. Everyday they supposedly have more food more clothes, more stability. When the ministry of plenty cannot make boots for a while, they have a lie for the reason why. When the chocolate rations are cut from 25% to 20% a person on a Monday, they give an explanation, for example, the troops in Eurasia need more chocolate to conquer land for their overall gain. When on Tuesday, the chocolate rations are raised from 5% to 15% per person, everyone rejoices with glee and affection for Big Brother. Of course, in this case, the history will say that on Monday the rations were 5%, but really, they were 20%. It makes one think, is this how we are? Are we completely seduced by lies and false information, being controlled by a sole power who has managed to convince everyone that they are for the benefit of everyone?

Forgetfulness and gullibleness is the key aspect of many Orwell novels, including Animal Farm and 1984. Orwell’s dictators rely on the willingness the masses have to believe in improvement, and the changes that are put in front of them, never second guessing the “facts”. It is a true slap in the face to the credibility of history, statistics, and all documents that are taken as truth.

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